This gives an account of the huge losses caused by road accidents at the national level. But it is difficult to calculate how much an accident can ruin a family.

On the way home after the funeral of their father at Chakaria in Cox's Bazar on 8 February, all the members of a family were run over by a pickup. Five brothers of that family died on the spot. Another seriously injured brother, Raktim Sushil, was undergoing treatment at a hospital. He also died last Tuesday. Raktim was the youngest among the brothers. He was only 29. The eldest brother, Anupam Sushil was 47. They were all married and have children as well.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Md Hadiuzzaman, director of ARI, said even if the number of casualties in road accidents this year is the same as the previous year, the financial loss will increase due to the increase in per capita income. Accidents and subsequent casualties are increasing in the country every year. So the amount of loss cannot be determined right now.

He said that assessing the financial loss due to the road accidents, it has been seen that if the casualties on the road could be reduced by 70 per cent, it would be possible to build a Padma bridge every year with the additional revenue that would be added to the economy.

Loss on national level

Officially the primary source of information regarding road accidents in Bangladesh is Bangladesh police. BUET's ARI assesses the loss caused by the road accident based on the figures provided by the police.

According to ARI, the number of road accidents last year was 3,204. Some 3,776 people were killed in these accidents and some 4,108 people were injured. Considering the number of casualties, socio-economic loss of the victim’s family and the medical expenditure, the total amount of loss was Tk 380.44 billion, which is equivalent to 1.44 per cent of the total GDP of the country.

The number of accidents in 2020 was 3,064. Some 3,558 died and 4,450 people were injured in these accidents. The loss incurred that year due to road accidents was Tk 328.78 billion which was equivalent to 1.20 per cent of the country’s GDP.

According to the researchers of ARI and police sources, in the last two years, public transport in the country was closed for 150 days due to the pandemic. In addition, there were restrictions. The number of road accidents and the amount of losses in these two years would have increased even more if things had been normal.

The total number of road accidents in the country in 2019 was 3,937. That year, 4,358 people died and 7,240 were injured in accidents. The country's economy had lost about Tk 380.96 billion which is equivalent to 1.48 per cent of GDP.

There is a big difference between the number of road accidents and the official data of deaths according to different non-governmental organisations. According to the Road Safety Foundation, as many 6,284 people died in road accidents in 2021. Some 5,431 people died in 2020. Experts believe that if the additional casualties are taken into account, the amount of loss in road accidents will increase further.

Loss on individual level

According to a 2017 report of Roads and Highways Department (RHD), when a road accident kills a working person it causes losses worth Tk 2.46 million (2,464,106). The report, however, did not assess the economic hardship, job losses and other issues faced the by the family losing a member in a road crash.

A 2017 survey, conducted by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh (CIPRB) jointly show that road accidents injure about over 9,000 people a day and about 350,000 people a year in Bangladesh. More than 80,000 people, including over 12,000 people aged below 17, become disabled every year. Road accident turns 220 people disabled a day, according to the report.

Those responsible for killing in road accidents are rarely punished under the laws in Bangladesh. Since there is no insurance system, a road accident is enough to destroy a family. The previous motor vehicle law had a provision on a compensation of Tk 20,000 for a family losing a member in road crash. The government enacted the new road transport law in 2019 incorporating provisions on formation of a fund to help road accident victims. But no fund has been formed as yet.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) formulated the draft of the road transport act in 2020, outlining details of the fund. The government has not approved the draft as yet. The draft law states a person sustaining injury in a road accident will receive Tk 300,000 in compensation and a family losing a member in road accident will get Tk 500,000. Money for the fund will come from the government, fees of vehicle owners, various fines realised under the road transport law, from vehicle owners’ and transport workers’ associations, in addition to money from any legal sources.

BRTA chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder told Prothom Alo a trustee board has been formed to provide the compensation and a fund of Tk 1 billion (100 crore) has been sought to the government. Once the guidelines are issued, other activities will follow, he added.

Regarding the loss of lives in road crashes, the BRTA chairman said everyone, including transport owners, drivers and pedestrians, has responsibility to reduce road accidents. Law enforcement agencies, too, have an important role. If all stakeholders do not work together, it would not be possible for the BRTA alone to reduce road accidents.

According to various research findings and expert opinions, there are several main reasons for road accidents in the country. These include, recklessness of drivers, excessive speed and faulty vehicles and roads. Other than these, no specific salary and working hours for drivers, movement of low-speed vehicle on the highways, tendency to ride motorcycles recklessly, tendency to not learn about and abide by traffic laws, weak traffic management and extortion in public transport sector, are other reasons for road accidents.

Allocation for road communication development has increased in the national budget over the past 12 years. New roads have been built and old roads have widened. The government passed a new road transport act in a wake of student protest for road safety. But, the reality is that deaths on the road are not decreasing.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu Hasanul Banna