Bangladesh counts highest death rates from bike accidents

Riding a motorcycle, a BGB member Md Yusuf Jamil, 26, was returning to his home in Halgara Chakbaraigacchi village under Sherpur Sadar upazila from Sherpur district town.

Upon arriving on the Amtali bridge on the way, Yusuf lost control and fell, hitting his head severely. He died on the spot. The accident occurred on Thursday afternoon.

A research of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) says, against every 10,000 motorcycles in the country, 28.4 persons are dying in accidents each year. Almost 40 per cent of them are aged between 24 and 30 years.

This death rate in motorcycle accidents is the highest in the world whereas, Bangladesh ranks last in connection to per capita motorcycle users.

BUET’s Accident Research Institute (ARI) did the research related to road-safety with the support of World Bank. The research that ended last year highlighted the picture of 16 countries where motorcycles are used the most.

Of those countries, people of Vietnam use motorcycle the most. There are 358 motorcycles against every 1,000 people there. However, accident rates are comparatively lower at 4.1 (against every 10,000 motorcycles).

Meanwhile, there are only seven motorcycles for every 1,000 persons in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is followed by Cambodia in death rates. However, death rate in the country is less than half of that in Bangladesh (11.9 persons).

In India, nine people lose their lives against every 10,000 motorcycles. The accident rate of this vehicle, popular among youth, is the lowest in Bhutan. Only two people die against every 10,000 motorcycles in this south Asian country.

Asif Raihan, an assistant professor at ARI and one of the notable researchers of the study carried out by BUET, dubbed motorcycles as risky vehicles. Many don’t take safety measures to avert accidents, and the propensity of not using quality helmets is higher as well.

There are no rules and regulations as to what type of vehicles and how many in number can ply on the roads. This creates chaos on the road and accidents occur, he added.

Increased 48-fold in 49 years

Rifat Ahmed, a resident of capital’s Mohammadpur area and a private job holder has bought a motorcycle recently. He said to Prothom Alo, he had to face intolerable hassle in commuting to and from his office in Motijheel.

It took him at least 30 to 40 minutes to cross a10-minute way. So, he bought the motorcycle to save his time and to gain freedom of transportation, he added.

Like Rifat, many people are buying motorcycles to reach their destinations timely. People of different ages including youth are engaging in motorcycle ride sharing services through mobile apps too. As a result, the demand of motorcycles is increasing.

Any motor vehicle in the country has to be registered by Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA). According to the data of the agency, a little more than 3.7 million (3,701,786) motorcycles have been registered since liberation till May of the current year.

However, it is not that all of the registered motorcycles are active as they become unusable after being used for a certain period of time. Usually, the average lifespan of a motorcycle is considered to be 25 to 30 years.

The BUET-research says the number of registered motorcycles has multiplied by 48 times in 49 years since the liberation of the country.

Hadiuzzaman, director of BUET’s ARI and the professor who led the research, believes it is tough to curb the use of motorcycles without a developed public transport system. But, the number of motorcycles has to be controlled.

One in every three people met with accidents

According to the records of a non-government organisation Road Safety Foundation, in total 2,078 motorcycle accidents occurred across the country in 2021.

A total of 2,214 people died in them, which is 35 per cent of the total road-accident deaths. And, almost 39 per cent of all the road accidents of 2021 were motorcycle accidents.

Compared to the previous year, motorcycle accidents rose by 50 per cent and death rose by 51 per cent in 2021.

The research of BUET states, about one-third (30 per cent) of the motorcycle accidents happen due to head on collision. In fact, half of the people who die in motorcycle accidents actually die to head on collision.

As part of this research, motorcycle users were asked about their experience of accidents. As much as one-third of them said, they met with accidents at least once in last one year.

When asked, Ilias Kanchan, founding chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai (Nischa) said to Prothom Alo, “In our country, if you have money, you can easily buy a motorcycle and bring it onto the road. Those who can ride bicycles believe there’s no need for experience."

“They don’t know the consequences of more than two people riding a single motorcycle. They lack ideas about traffic rules and other regulations as well. Even, this risky vehicle is driven on highways too whereas, this vehicle was not made to ply on highways,” he added.

He also said, “When political leaders visit their hometowns, they are trailed by 100 to 150 motorcycles, this too encourages the flouting of law.”

‘Motorcycles with more CC pose more risk’

Once, most of the motorcycles of the country were of 80 to 100 CC. Now there are motorcycles of 165 CC too. While presenting the proposed budget of FY 2022-23, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said, factories are being set in the country to produce motorcycles with engine capacity of more than 250 CC.

Apart from that, it was recommended to lift the limit of CC in a report of Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission. Claiming that there is no connection of speed with CC it was said in the report that increasing of speed is not related to CC.

However, professor Hadiuzzaman believes the decision of lifting CC limit would be suicidal. He said that high speed can be gained within a very short time on motorcycles with extra CC. And, excessive speed increases the risk of motorcycle accidents.

Inspection of helmet-quality begins

According to World Health Organization’s data, death risks in motorcycle accidents decreases by 40 per cent if helmets are worn properly.

The information of the BUET-research says, as much as 88 per cent of the people who died in motorcycle accidents were not wearing helmets at the time of the accidents. Besides, 66 per cent of the motorcyclists do not use helmets on a regular basis.

It was found in the research that the rate of helmet-use is comparatively higher in Dhaka. As much as 99.8 per cent of the motorcycle drivers and 96.3 per cent of the pillions in this metropolitan wear helmets. In Barishal, these rates decrease to 78.6 per cent and 8.1 per cent respectively.

However, there are questions regarding the quality of the helmets. There are four types of helmets available in the markets and they are, full-face, half-open-face, open-face and others. Full-face helmets are relatively safer, but, only 11 per cent of the motorcycle drivers use this type of helmets.

Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI) is responsible for supervising the quality of helmets. However, this government agency didn’t even have a lab to test helmets till last April.

Khalid Reza Chowdhury, assistant director of BSTI said to Prothom Alo, "They have started testing the quality of helmets last month. Shipments of imported helmets are being allowed to enter the country only after they have passed the quality control test."

He added, soon there will be drives against the substandard helmets that are available in the markets.

Safety rules have to be followed

According to the researchers of BUET, death risks in motorcycle accidents are 26 times higher than that of other vehicles. More than half of the accidents in the country happen because of high speed. After that, 37 per cent of accidents occur due to careless driving of motorcycles.

Professor Hadiuzzaman said, Bangladeshi roads are not suitable for motorcycles. There are separate lanes for motorcycles and cycles in developed countries. So, the accidents rates are less there.

"But, in our country all type of vehicles ply on the same road. Meanwhile, users are not conscious either," he added.

In response to the question, how accidents can be reduced, the professor said, besides using quality helmets, discipline in public transport has to be maintained. Drivers have to be aware too. And, everyone has to follow the rules related to road safety, he added.