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There were 26 patients, injured in road accidents, in the corridor in front of the operating theatre of the National Orthopaedic Hospital and Rehabilitation Institute (Pangu Hospital) in the capital city last Saturday. Of these patients, 12 were injured in motorbike accidents. The hospital authorities say that a large percentage of the road injury cases are the victims of motorbike accidents nowadays.

Persons researching on road accidents said that motorbike accidents are mainly caused by reckless speeding, attempts to overtake, repeated lane changes, violation of traffic rules and talking on the mobile phone while on the move. The number of deaths is also increasing due to low quality helmets or not wearing helmets at all.

Pedestrians also fall victim to accidents due to reckless speed of motorbikes. Shamsul Alam, a member of the General Economics Department of the Planning Commission, was such a victim. He had an accident last Saturday evening while walking in the Crescent Lake area next to the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban. He told Prothom Alo that he was hit by a speeding motorcycle while crossing the road. His right leg was broken in the accident.

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At Pangu hospital

The National Orthopaedic Hospital and Rehabilitation Institute, better known as Pangu hospital, is the largest institute in the country for the treatment of fractured bones. Its official name is name is National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedic Rehabilitation (NITOR). Inquiries at the hospital's emergency department revealed that 34 people have received treatment after being injured in road accidents till 1 pm on Saturday. Among them, 16 were the victims of motorcycle accidents. Some were driving the bikes, some were passengers riding pillion and some were pedestrians.

A 2007 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that wearing a good quality helmet reduces the risk of serious injury in a motorcycle accident by 70 per cent. And the risk of death is reduced by 40 percent

According to the five registrar books of the emergency department, 2484 people received treatment at the hospital in the first 16 days of the new year. Of them, 585 were victims of road accidents. There is no mention of how many of them were the victims of motorbike accidents. However, Prof Abdul Gani Mollah, director of NITOR, told Prothom Alo that 35 per cent of the road accidents cases at NITOR are victims of motorcycle accidents. He said most of the patients come from outside the capital. In recent times, the number of people injured in motorcycle accidents while sharing rides is also increasing.

University student Naimul Islam went to NITOR on Sunday with a fractured his arm. He frankly admitted that he had the accident due to over speeding while riding with a friend. He told Prothom Alo that his motorcycle was over-speeding and control on the sand on the road.

Even the general motorcycle drivers are worried about reckless driving. Md Nayeem Hasan, who works for a private firm, returns his home to Mirpur from his office in Banani every night. He said that motorbikes and cars race each other. This has become a major cause of fear for the ordinary motorcyclists.

How many vehicles, how many accidents?

According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the number of registered motorcycles in the country is more than 3.1 million, which is 68 per cent of the total vehicles. There are about 800,000 registered motorcycles in Dhaka alone. Outside of that a large part of the motorcycles are unregistered. According to the marketing companies, about 500,000 new motorcycles are sold in the country every year.

The Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and the organisation for the advocacy of safe roads Nirapad Sarak Chai (Nischa) compile reports of accidents published in the media every year. According to Nishcha, there were 3232 road accidents in the country in 2020, of which 1,127 were motorcycle accidents. Of these, 29 per cent involved truck accidents and 22 per cent bus accidents. According to BUET's ARI, 336 people died in 288 motorcycle accidents in 2016. In 2020, the number of accidents raised to 1,008 and 1,097 people died in these accidents.

A 2007 study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that wearing a good quality helmet reduces the risk of serious injury in a motorcycle accident by 70 per cent. And the risk of death is reduced by 40 percent. Regarding the trend of not wearing a helmets outside the big cities, the Assistant Inspector General of Police (Media and Public Relations), Sohail Rana, said that action is being taken in accordance to the law for not wearing helmets. Various awareness programmes are also being arranged.

Ride sharing has increased

In Dhaka, motorbike ride sharing has increased exponentially in the last few years. Many people who are not even registered with ride-sharing companies, also carry passengers on their motorcycles.

ARI conducted a survey of the riders and passengers of 450 ride sharing motorcycles in 2020. It revealed that 50 per cent of the passengers suffer from insecurity regarding the driving. According to another survey conducted by the same organisation, 30 per cent of the drivers wear very low quality helmets. In only 2 per cent of the cases, riders are given ‘full face’ helmets. According to ARI's observation, the competition of ride-sharing motorcycle riders and the tendency to race ahead are the main causes of accidents.

On Sunday, Prothom Alo sent e-mails to the authorities of three ride sharing apps asking the number of accidents of their vehicles. Uber did not disclose the number of accidents, but answered the question. They said they pay Tk 200,000 for death and permanent disability in an accident and a maximum of Tk 100,000 for hospitalisation. Uber said they encourage the use of the best quality helmets.

Pathao (ride sharing app) did not reply to the e-mail. However, Maliha Malek, the managing director of Shohoj dot com, told Prothom Alo over mobile phone that they did not have any reports of the their ride-sharing app bikes having any accident.

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What are the riders and sellers saying?

A review by a multinational motorbike marketing company has revealed that overtaking is one of the major causes of motorcycle accidents. Apart from this, fatigue and rushing are also the main reasons for the accidents. Reckless driving of buses, trucks, ‘human hauler’ passenger vehicles and cars , sudden lane changes, sudden turning and lane changing of non-motorised vehicles, sudden potholes in the road, high or low covers of manholes, unmarked speed breakers, carelessness of pedestrians and sudden movement of animals on the road are also some big reasons behind road accidents. For example, Akash Iqbal (26) and his wife Maya Hazarika (25) were killed when a bus of Ajmeri Paribahan hit them on Airport Toad in the capital yesterday.

Top two executives of the two companies told Prothom Alo that sales of the motorcycles as personal vehicles are increasing in developing countries. Motorcycle sales will also increase in Bangladesh like Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and India. Public-private initiatives are needed to reduce the number of accidents. They also said that there is no effective system of training the motorcyclists in the country. Awareness and training initiatives should be taken in combination with the private sector. People should be encouraged to buy high-tech motorcycles with a good security systems.

Shah Mohammad Ashiqur Rahman, the chief financial officer of Honda Bangladesh Limited, said the number of accidents had increased in Japan once. Later they reduced it with various measures. He said Honda provides the driving license on behalf of the governments in many countries. They are also providing training in Bangladesh.

Plastic bowls in the name of helmets

Sajjadul Bari, Director (Standards) of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), told Prothom Alo yesterday that BSTI does not have the facility to check the quality of helmets at present.

However, all the helmets sold in the market are supposed to be manufactured and imported as per the standards prescribed by the BSTI. Due to the lack of surveillance by BSTI, one portion of the helmets sold in the market is basically just plastic bowls.

Regarding the overall scenario, ARI’s director Hadiuzzaman told Prothom Alo that ensuring good quality helmets for both the bikers and the riders, reducing the competition among the drivers of ride sharing apps, raising awareness and strictly enforcing traffic laws can reduce motorcycle accidents.

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