ROAD ACCIDENT DEATHS
1.8 million licensed drivers
for 3.3 million vehicles!
Given that unassailable inescapability of eternal rest is preordained therefore no sane person questions a natural death; but when discernibly avoidable and not inevitable death befalls absolutely innocent people—consequent on driving in rowdily unrestrained manner— it is, to say the least, outrageously unacceptable.
While we were writing this commentary yesterday on the never-ending gloomy scenarios of fatal motor-vehicle accidents in this country, deaths of no less than 16 people were reported in two mishaps on a single day. At least eight people were killed and several persons injured as a Relax Paribahan bus hurtled down a microbus at Chunati on Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar highway at Lohagara upazila on Thursday (March 28), while at least seven people were confirmed dead after a bus swerve and fell into a ditch in Madaripur Sadar.
Untrained and unskilled drivers and reckless driving are mainly responsible for the road accidents, findings that do not require much research. Some 1.5 million vehicles are being run by drivers who do not have licenses. There are only 1.8 million licensed drivers for 3.3 million vehicles registered with the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.
Notwithstanding the fact that over the years the frequency and numbers of road accidents and their concomitant casualties have appallingly swelled to an epidemic proportion, the death at the same time in a single incident in 2010 of as many as 10 police personnel was an addition to the growing statistics of fatal mishaps. The tragic incident took place when a truck rammed the police van they were travelling in on the Dhaka-Sylhet highway, but the truck driver managed to flee the spot. As the bodies lay motionless, near and dear ones of the dead rushed to the spot, and their heartrending wails engulfed the scene with grief.
The verity of profoundly poignant bereavement of the parents and near and dear ones of the deceased teenager students Dia Khanam Meem, a first-year Science student at Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment School and College and Abdul Karim Rajib, a second-year student of Humanities group at the same college in needs no elaboration. With their eyes clouded with tears, the grieving parents’ psyche is still crammed with maudlin nostalgia—sundry memories of sights and sounds flashback adding to their unremitting heartache. More so because given the due resolve and intent such deaths are certainly avoidable.
They died on the spot as the reckless drivers of two buses were racing on 28 July with each other near the Airport Road flyover. Nine passersby were also critically injured when the bus ploughed through the crowd. We wish their speedy recovery. This happened when an Uttara-bound bus of “Jabal-e-Noor Paribahan” rammed into a group of students who had been waiting on the road for vehicles to return home. The bus from Mirpur hit the students right after they had crossed the flyover, witnesses said. Agitated students and locals blocked the road for about an hour after the accident.
Never ever before in the chronicles of the world have thousands of high school students comprising children and teenager juveniles began protesting in streets demanding remedy and rose to the occasion to press just the right buttons for a public good of saving people’s lives from preventable deaths— on an average of 64 people every day in traffic accidents— owing to reckless driving of buses and other automobiles for most of which the vested quarters are responsible. The Bangladesh Health Injury Survey 2016 finds that on average, 300 people are killed due to different forms of injuries, 660 more become disabled, and 55,000 others suffer from non-fatal injuries every day in Bangladesh.
Unique, unprecedented unheard of and only one of its kind in Bangladesh and elsewhere, the spontaneous remonstrance by colossal number of enraged school and college-going children and teenager campaigners took to the streets across Bangladesh in August 2018. Two deaths of college students sparked their anger. The teenager students’ protests were dignified, polite and fully justified.
But—alas, the mysterious Helmet-wearing gang of youths armed with sticks swooped on the innocent children and went on a rampage in full presence of policemen!
Statistics, too, prove many of the road accidents are avoidable. In a report, the Accident Research Institute at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said that in 90 per cent of the cases, reckless driving is responsible for road accidents. That simply means an effective drive against reckless driving may prevent 90 per cent of the road accidents. [Prothom alo.com, Road-accidents -nothing-less- than-murder, dated March 03, 2018]
Here it is quite relevant to recall that the former Shipping Minister’s job was to look after national waterways, ports etc. But it is apparent that Shahjahan Khan was often seen busy with sundry other irrelevant assignments like threatening to stop supply of food to Opposition BNP chief Khaleda’s office and urging Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to immediately arrest the BNP Chairperson in 2015. Some years ago Shahjahan Khan was reported to have applied pressure on the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority to get 10 thousand driving licenses WITHOUT mandatory driving test! After that too Khan was reported to have demanded 24,000 thousand more driving licenses without test, ignoring the very fact that every holder of such license could be a potential killer.
After the recent tragic death of Abrar Ahmed, a student of Bangladesh University of Professionals, on 21 March at Pragati Sarani near Bashundhara Residential Area formulation of a massive 111 draft recommendations of Road Safety Committee has been reported. As regards size it seems rather impressive—but a huge volume of instruction book containining 111 [one hudred and eleven] guidelines is immaterial if accidents cannot be prevented.
It is a fact that an overwhelming number of the so-called “drivers”are untrained and unskilled. What is more, sometimes conductors too are found in the driving seat. The bottom line is plain and simple:— drivers found responsible for killing because of their reckless driving have to face punishment harsh and deterrent enough, such as life imprisonment.