A safe city need not be Utopia

Abu Naser Md Ahsanul Haque | Update:

Let’s imagine a typical week day in Dhaka when you wake up in the morning, half finish your breakfast and rush through the streets, and manage to reach office in time.

You didn’t have to wait too long at the bus stop. Passengers were all in line and there were no quarrels. The bus arrived at the spot bus within a few minutes. There was no pushing or elbow nudging among the passengers, no helper to drag you up into the bus and deafen you with the loud blows on the side of the bus.

While you wonder if this is all an illusion, the person in the driver’s seat gives you a nice smile and greets you, “Good morning! It’s a lovely day!” You are taken aback a bit, but smile back and take your seat. The bus starts after everybody settles in and you are on your way looking through the windows.

There was lot of traffics on the road, but you do not see any traffic police! You are just about to worry where they had all gone, but suddenly you notice something much more interesting. There were no horns blasting around you. What was that? Did you hear any horn this morning!

Maybe it’s time for you to stop imagining. It might be just an illusion, but luckily this author found it all very real on the very next day of arriving in Australia. I was surprised and highly curious to figure out how it works!

I found that every vehicle strictly obeys the traffic signals, whether it is a midnight or early morning. But why do they do so? Who is watching them? I wondered how they cross the intersections of four roads where there are no signal lights, without any traffic police on the road and without blowing any horn!

I got my answers shortly.

There are cameras scattered all around at different points. As most of the vehicles adhere to the signals, proceeding at high speed when the signal is green, there would be a high chance of accidents if another one failed to obey the red signal. So it is simply safe to obey traffic rules to avoid any crash. There are specific rules where there are no signals at a crossing of three or four roads.

Everyone knows who needs to give way first and so the pass through these points smoothly. Everyone sticks to their respective lanes, and use their indicator lights early on before changing lanes. There are also lanes for cyclists, footpaths and crossing points for pedestrians. Other than the main signal lights, there are also lights for pedestrians to pass.

So everyone is safe when maintaining the rules. Why won’t they?

I can’t say that there are no law breakers. But they might be billed with a big penalty sent to their address in 2-3 days after the law is violated. The penalties are really big and no one can afford that. For instance, if someone is involved in a crash, but does not assist the victim in the spot and flees away the way some do in Bangladesh, he may be fined more than 140,000 Australian dollars or Tk 8.9 million! All the vehicle owners and their addresses are registered with the road authority so that no one can remain unidentified if he is a victim on any spot or just runs away after an occurrence. It is compulsory to update one’s address promptly after any changes, otherwise that can cause more troubles.

I will not say I have not heard any horn in Australia. To be honest, there is a little exception - all for betterment. If you break a traffic rule here, the person sitting in the next vehicle may honk just to let you know that you are making a mistake!

We often fantasize about a safe road environment back home in Bangladesh. Now in Australia, I dream quite often of certain improvements in road rules in Bangladesh that are doable. Of course, the rules are not to bind the drivers, but to ensure safety for all including themselves.

Every morning, when I go through the news of Bangladesh, I want to read and hear about fewer accidents and less injuries. But unfortunately, that hardly is ever so. We all wish for a great day, many great days when there are no accidents on the roads of Bangladesh.

* The author is a PhD researcher at Deakin University, Victoria, Australia, and a teacher at Daffodil International University, Bangladesh. He can be reached at <anmahaque@gmail.com>.

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