Road accidents: Why is the law not implemented?

On 22 July, a tragic accident occurred in Jhalakathi, Bangladesh, resulting in the loss of 17 lives as a passenger bus plunged into a pond. Subsequent investigations by an inquiry committee revealed several contributing factors to the accident, including the driver’s rashness, unprofessional behaviour, driving heavy vehicles with light vehicle driving licence and such.

The inquiry committee further noted that the road between Jhalkathi and Pirojpur or Mathbaria, Patharghata, was in a severely deteriorated condition, lacking essential safety measures on its sides. The body of water where the bus tragically fell was termed a “death well,” drawing attention to the presence of similar dangerous spots scattered across roads throughout Bangladesh.

Last Saturday in Sitakunda, Chattogram, a tragic incident occurred where a lorry carrying a heavy container weighing 35 tons fell onto a moving private car. This cannot be merely categorised as an accident anymore. Such incidents have become alarmingly frequent. In May of last year, two passengers lost their lives when a goods-laden container fell on a rickshaw after the lorry’s rope broke in the Patenga Steel Mill Bazar area of Chattogram city. These occurrences raise serious concerns about road safety and the risk people face while traveling.

Recently, journalist Manjur Hossain Milon’s death shocked everyone. He was hit by a truck on the Kapasia-Vakuadi road in Kotbajalia village of Kapasia upazila, Gazipur. According to a report by Prothom Alo, the journalist was riding a motorcycle when the truck struck him, causing him to fall on the side of the road.

Subsequently, he confronted the truck driver about the incident, leading to a heated argument between them. Shockingly, the driver deliberately drove the truck over the journalist, resulting in his untimely death. The family strongly believes it was a premeditated murder.

We urgently call for a fair investigation into this tragic incident and demand exemplary punishment for the person responsible.

According to data from Jatri Kalyan Samity, last July saw a significant toll of 576 fatalities in 505 road accidents across the country, with an additional 1,055 people injured. Notably, the highest number of road accidents occurred in Dhaka Division, resulting in the deaths of 173 individuals and injuries to 271 others in 157 incidents. On the other hand, Barisal Division recorded the lowest casualties, with 38 fatalities and 138 injuries in 23 road accidents.

It’s essential to mention that the reported casualty count might not be final since Jatri Kalyan Samity compiles data from accident reports published in daily newspapers. Many accidents go unreported in newspapers, and not all incidents are documented in police station diaries.

Disturbingly, various international organisations estimate that Bangladesh experiences a much higher number of road accident fatalities annually, ranging from 25,000 to 30,000 deaths. In contrast, the official figure stands at 2,000 to 2,500 deaths.

Numerous efforts have been made to prevent road accidents, and laws have been put in place, yet the roads remain hazardous. Regrettably, the government’s initiatives to ensure safety have been insufficient. Experts believe that significant reductions in road accidents and casualties are possible through the implementation of preventive measures.

The question arises as to why the government is not taking these crucial steps. In 2018, the Road Transport Act was passed amid protests by students and youth, but its full enforcement has been hindered due to objections from transport owners and workers. Despite this, data from Jatri Kalyan Samity shows that 45 drivers lost their lives in accidents in July alone. Ensuring safe roads is essential for the well-being of drivers, passengers, and all road users. Simply enacting laws is not enough; their proper implementation must also be guaranteed.