Road transport: Speed limit not the only problem

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The guidelines on the speed limit of motor vehicles given from the road transport and highways division of the road transport and bridges ministry last Sunday apparently seems to be a good initiative. However, there are doubts whether this will restore order on the streets or not.  

According to the guidelines, the maximum speed limit for motor car, jeep, microbus, lightweight bus-minibus and heavyweight motor vehicles will be 80 kilometres on expressways, 80 kilometres on national highways (category-A), 70 kilometres on national (category-B) and regional highways, 60 kilometres on district roads, 40 kilometres in city corporation, municipality and in district town, 40 kilometres on upazila highways and on primary urban roads in cities and 30 kilometres on shared and other roads including rural roads.

Meanwhile, bikes can run on expressways at a maximum speed of 60 kilometres and at the speed limit of 50 kilometres on highways.

These guidelines from the road transport and highways division have generated mixed reactions among people. Road Safety Coalition, an organisation working on road safety welcomed the guidelines saying that it will play a significant role in preventing road accidents. On the other hand, experts have raised questions about its rationality and implementation.

Such guidelines have been issued from the road transport and highways division in the past as well. In the face of students’ movement, the government passed the Road Transport Act in 2018. And, prime minister Sheikh Hasina had given a five-point direction to prevent road accidents. But the reality is that those have not been implemented.

Who are the ones creating obstacles to bring order back on the streets or who are the ones thumbing their nose at the law, is not unknown to the road transport and highways division. The Road Transport Act from 2018 has been reduced to such a state through amendment that it will rather encourage the ones violating order.

When the modern roads including the expressways were constructed in the country, high speed of vehicles was used for justification then. It was stated that high speed road transport system is necessary for economic development. The examples of different countries have also been cited in this case. Now the experts question, if the speed limits of the vehicles are to be set low only, why did we build high speed roads with billions?

We are not denying the necessity of setting up a maximum speed limit for vehicles to bring back order on the streets. Nor are we denying the need of installing plaques on the side of the roads. In addition to that, we also have to raise the question why the government that is so determined on building a digital Bangladesh couldn’t modernise the road transport system?

In many countries, there are digital signs and the speed limit is adjusted based on the number of vehicles. But in our country, the speed limit remains the same throughout every season, whether it’s summer, winter or monsoon.

If accidents are to be reduced in numbers, it is vital to establish rule of law on the streets. And the issues the road transport and highways division has to ensure for this include providing drivers with advanced training, not making them work extra hours, having resting facilities beside the highways and preventing date-expired or unfit vehicles from getting down on the street. The drivers must also be given the assurance that they won’t have to face hassles in getting new driving license or having old ones renewed.

There’s the need for setting up speed limit to stop reckless driving, but that has to be realistic. The authorities must keep this in mind that speed limit is not the only problem on the road. Attempt to implement the guidelines on speed limit by keeping other issues unresolved, won’t bring order back on the streets. Rather, there is a concern of extortion by a section of police in the name of speed control and increased amount of hassles for the drivers and the passengers.

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