Sunday, 19 August 2018

Traffic fatalities: No end in sight

Md. Shamsul Islam

Md. Shamsul Islam, Executive Editor, Our Time : With yet another death from road accident in Dhaka on Thursday, our streets are gradually turning into the most lethal ones in the world. People are now sacrificing their organs or their lives almost regularly due to the reckless and whimsical driving on our roads. By now, road crashes have become one of the major causes of death and injury in Bangladesh, with more than 2,000 deaths and almost 5,000 cases of injury reported in the first four months of the year. Following a World Life Expectancy report, road traffic casualty is now among the top 10 causes of death in Bangladesh.

Not only in Bangladesh, according to another report by the World Health Organization, road accidents are still the leading cause of death among young people in the world, costing the governments 3% of GDP every year. For instance, in this part of the world, Thailand is rated as the second-most lethal in terms of road traffic death rate. Surprisingly, death incidents due to accidents go sky-high during Songkran holiday – a period which is now dubbed as ‘Seven Deadly Days’ because most accidents occur during this time.

Statistics apart, while the commuters are worried about their safety on the streets, it is a paradox that no one in Bangladesh is now willing to bear responsibility to reduce the number of traffic causalities. Unlike other countries, where road crashes occur due to alcohol intake or speeding, our accidents take place for a number of reasons – ranging from overtaking to reckless driving, from outdated fitness certificates of vehicles to the attitudes of unscrupulous drivers and their mentors.

I gathered some horrible experience when I desired to have a car of my own. First, I went to a driving school to learn driving after buying the car. In addition to their driving lessons, they showed me some slippery ways to own a driving license in the shortest possible time. I was horrified as I was not the least confident about my driving ability. Then I withdrew myself and hired several drivers one after another, some of them were incompetent, some were dishonest – found to be taking commissions from the service centers. Moreover, there were problems of accidents, excessive use of oil etc. Highly disappointed seeing the dishonesty of the drivers, I finally sold the car at a much lower price from its original market value. Since then, I never attempted to buy a car again.

In fact, given the multiple actors at work in the transport sector – politicians, trade unionists, drivers, owners service providers etc. it is unlikely that the irregularities in the transport sector will be subsidized soon and the number of traffic fatalities would decrease. But again, still there are many sensible persons in the society who are raising their voices, trying to create a middle-ground so that instead of blaming and counter-blaming, a truly win-win situation develops among the commuters, vehicle drivers and owners. We have no way other than being optimistic at this moment.



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