Averting avoidable deaths on roads, highways

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-18
Published : 18 Sep 2016, 22:34:59 | Updated : 18 Sep 2016, 22:35:13

Averting avoidable deaths on roads, highways

The trail of deaths and injuries from vehicular accidents on the country's roads and highways in the past few days is sure to cause widespread concern. What was significant is that such deadly road accidents did not occur during people's mad rush for homes to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha. These occurred immediately after Eid when people threw caution into the wind apparently to celebrate the occasion. There is a clear case of drunk driving by a man, which killed an elderly couple in the city's Sheorapara area.

This time, almost all the road accidents could be attributed to inefficiency and poor skills of persons in the driving seats of ill-fated transports. It is really unfortunate that the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) conducts fitness test of vehicles annually but never cares for examining the fitness of drivers on a regular basis. Thousands of unemployed youths, either educated or illiterate, are getting training in driving from different institutes and only after three to six months of training, they take to driving. There is still no strict monitoring of their fitness as bribe money at the BRTA help them get driving licences. There are reports that even a licence could be made available without the driver going to the BRTA for aptitude, IQ (intelligence quotient) and other tests.      

It is time traffic laws were enforced strictly, roads improved and irregularities in issuance of driving licences and fitness certificates brought to an end. More coordinated efforts by all government bodies concerned are needed in the execution of steps taken to improve road safety. Transport owners can also stop paying their drivers on the basis of the number of trips they make and instead appoint them as regular employees since the trip-based payment encourages drivers to drive fast and, in many cases, recklessly. According to a report, the BRTA issued licences to around 1.5 million drivers when there are 2.2 million registered vehicles. This makes it clear that around 7,00,000 vehicles are being driven by drivers without licences.

There is a need for developing a partnership between the BRTA and private bodies to train drivers. Even the High Court in a verdict ordered that henceforth secondary school certificate (SSC) will have to be the minimum educational qualification for obtaining licences. At least 21,000 lives are lost and thousands of people are injured on the roads every year, according to the latest report of the World Health Organisation (WHO).  In the past, the higher courts had issued orders to prevent road accidents but those were not implemented due to negligence of the authorities concerned. It directed the government to implement 28 guidelines prepared by a seven-member expert committee formed under a court order to reduce road accidents. The expert committee recommended at least five years' experience for drivers before they could get a professional licence to drive passenger vehicles. Awareness and efficiency have to be increased by arranging regular training facilities for drivers. Electronic driving licences have to be issued for them in order to avoid duplication.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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