The Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) carries out work on various aspects of the road management and accidents in the country. ARI provides the government institutions with recommendations regarding ways to lessen the incidence of accidents on the roads and also to make the roads safer. Over Eid, an increasing number of teenagers and youth are dying in road accidents, particularly in motorbike accidents. ARI director and professor of the civil engineering department at BUET, Md Hadiuzzaman, speaks to Prothom Alo senior correspondent Samsur Rahman about the cause of these accidents, how these can be prevented and more.
Almost half of the people who have been killed in road accidents during the Eid holidays this year, have been motorbike riders and their passengers. There are a large number of people injured in these accidents too. Why is this so?
A large number of the motorbike riders and passengers who died in road accidents this time were between the ages 15 and 25. Most of them had no licences. They shouldn't have been riding the bikes on the roads and highways. They didn't give a hoot to the road transport laws and didn't bother to wear helmets, sometimes three riding on a single bike together. These young ones have been riding their bikes recklessly under the noses of the law enforcement, but no action was taken. Also, the roads are empty during the Eid holidays and when vehicles are driven recklessly at high speeds on the empty roads, accidents increase.
According to the Passenger Welfare Association, there were over 2.5 million (25 lakh) motorbikes on the roads this Eid. People have gone from one district to another by motorbike. How suitable is a motorbike as a long distance means of transport?
There have long been discussions about the country's public transport management, all sorts of recommendations and commitments have been made, but the situation is not improving. It is a hassle to book train tickets during Eid, then there is the suffering in the traffic jams on the roads. That is why motorcycles have become an alternative mode of transport for Eid travel. It is unfortunate for motorbikes to become an alternative to public transport. This cannot be an alternative to public transport. It is extremely risky to use motorbikes for long distance travel. This Eid many motorcycles were used commercially to carry passengers a long distance. This is a violation of the prevailing ride sharing regulations.
In the four days from the day before Eid till last Thursday, over 800 persons injured in road accidents were treated at Dhaka's National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (Pangu Hospital). Most of them had come from outside Dhaka. A large number of them were youth injured in motorbike accidents. Why are there more youth and teens among the road accident victims?
Young kids riding motorbikes at reckless speeds during Eid have mostly lost their lives. On Eid day in particular, teenagers and youth were killed in road accidents. During Eid the roads and highways were empty and there were also less members of the law enforcement on the roads. The youth took advantage of this to speed recklessly. They used the highways as racing tracks. Yet these young ones had no skill, experience or competence in riding bikes. Most of these young ones had no idea about riding bikes on the highway.
The number of motorbikes has been increasing over the past few years and accidents have been increasing too. According to the Bangladesh Road Safety Foundation, in 2021 a total of 2078 motorbike accidents took place, killing 2,214, that is, 35 per cent of the road accident deaths. The accidents were 50 per cent more than in the year before 2021 and deaths in these accidents increased by 51 per cent. Are things likely to worsen in the coming days?
Motorbikes are being discouraged in many developed countries. Bangladesh is going in the complete opposite direction. In Bangladesh motorcycles have become easily available. Motorbikes are being encouraged. Motorcycle engine capacity (cc) is also being increased. These are all suicidal decisions. This increased the likelihood of accidents. The roads and highways will become more dangerous.
Most riders don't bother about the rules and regulations when they ride their bikes on the highways, regional roads and rural roads. Neither the riders nor the passengers wear helmets. They don't follow the rule of not more than two to ride a bike. In the district and upazilas, there are innumerable unregistered motorbikes. Many riders don't even have licences.
Studies show that if a proper helmet is used correctly, the risk of getting injured in a motorcycle accident is reduced by 70 per cent and of dying by 40 per cent. The quality of helmets available in the market is not checked. The risk remains in place if poor quality helmets are used. If the risks are to be reduced, the quality of the helmet and wearing helmets must be ensured. This time many people rode bikes without licences. This would not have been possible had the law been applied.
How do you see the role of the government agencies vested with the responsibility to prevent road accidents?
There are around 1.5 million motorcycles with no registration in the district towns and villages. Instead of making motorcycles so easily available, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) should play a role in lessening accidents. It should move away from the decision to increase the bike cc. BRTA can consult with the commerce ministry and impose duty on the import of motorbike spare parts. Highway police have to be strict in implementing the law. Motorbikes cannot be used commercially for long distance trips. The highway police had the scope to take action against such commercial riders, but they failed to do so.
Deaths on the road are increasing every year. Not all the accidents are even reported in the media. Many people are crippled in accidents but this does not always make news. What can be done to reduce the accidents?
The road transport act mentions various matters pertaining to road accidents. But in many cases, no one pays two hoots to the law. Concessions are often made on humanitarian grounds, but there is no scope for these accidents are to be prevented. Despite orders from the Supreme Court, slow-speed vehicles are still moving on the highways. It will not be possible to reduce accidents and to restore order to the roads unless the road transport act is applied fully and properly. Parents must also be conscious. They must consider the safety of their teenage offspring motorbikes to ride on the roads.