Monday, April 22, 2024

Rash driving puts people’s lives in peril

Nine people are killed daily
Reckless driving by a legion of greenhorn drivers has shot up the number of road accidents in the country, but due to lack of enforcement of rules and no real punishment for killing people on the roads, careless drivers are still at large on the roads, experts observed. Data from the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) show a gradual slump in the rate of road accidents, in the past three years. In 2008, on average, 10 people were killed in road accidents every day, while the numbers were seven and six in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
An investigation (based on media reports), however, found that from January 1, 2012, till May 12, 2012, on average, nine people were killed in road accidents every day.
Aggregating the number of deaths in road accidents reported in the media, The Independent found that a total of 1,238 people had died in 696 accidents, during the period mentioned.
Analysing those media reports, it was found that in most cases accidents had occurred due to reckless driving.
Talking with The Independent, professor of civil engineering at BUET and the founder-director of the ARI, Prof. Dr Mazharul Haq said that the rate of road accidents in the country would never reduce unless the government take some serious measures against reckless drivers.
“When you know that the maximum punishment for killing people in a road accident is a three-year jail term, you don’t have accountability,” he said.
“Sadly, the killer drivers don’t even go through that punishment. During my incumbency at the ARI, I never heard of any incident where a killer driver was awarded a jail term,” he said.
Minister of communications Obaidul Quader, on February 1, 2012, had said in Parliament that the number of road accidents would not decrease till rash and unskilled driving were stopped.
“How can we control road accidents, when drivers consider themselves kings of roads while driving their vehicles?” an apparently disappointed Quader had said.
“Merely upgrading highways to eight or 12 or 16 lanes will not help reduce road accidents, if we fail to identify unfit vehicles and continue to issue fake driving licences,” the minister observed.
Interestingly, in August last year, the government had planned to enact a more stringent new motor vehicles law, with provisions of non-bailable arrest and even capital punishment, to curb reckless driving.
The proposed Motor Vehicles Act was supposed to replace the 70-year-old Motor Vehicle Ordinance, with a provision at section 304(A), which says, “Whoever causes the death of any person by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years to 10 years with fine, or both.”
Unfortunately, almost nine months have passed since then, but the enactment of the law is still stuck in red tape.
Meanwhile, the High Court (HC) had expressed concern over the growing number of road accidents and asked the government to take measures to ensure road safety across the country.
In a report submitted before the HC, on November 13 last year, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) said that a total 2.35 lakh heavy transport vehicle (HTV) driving licences were issued till June last year, of whom, 1.89 lakh did not qualify through the standard procedure.
BRTA chairman Md Ayubur Rahman Khan submitted the report to the HC, wherein, it was mentioned that the below-par drivers had been issued licences on “relaxed conditions”.
In 2009, as many as 10,000 driving licences—most of them for HTVs—were issued under relaxed conditions, in line with the recommendations of Driving Competency Test Board (DCTB), according to the BRTA report.
On August 17 last year, the HC, in an interim order, directed the government to submit a comprehensive report before it, on the measures taken in the past five years, to repair roads and highways, prevent road accidents, and ensure road safety across the country.
The court also asked the government to explain, within six weeks, its failure to conduct proper investigation into road accidents, and why it should not be directed to prosecute and punish people responsible for the accidents.
The HC bench, comprising Justice Mirza Hussain Haider and Justice Md Nuruzzaman, issued the rule, in response to a writ petition filed as a public interest litigation following the death of eminent filmmaker Tareque Masud and broadcast journalist Ashfaque Mishuk Munier, in a road accident.
The HC had said that the report must mention the number of licences issued for heavy and light vehicles, and their drivers, in the past five years, whether fitness of the vehicles and physical fitness of the drivers were checked and the criteria for issuance of the licences, the number of licences renewed in the last two years and the criteria for their renewal.
The HC also wanted to know how many cases were filed regarding road accidents and how many were punished in those cases, in 2010 and 2011.
According to media reports, BRTA had issued licences in 2009 flouting legal procedures under pressure from shipping minister Shahjahan Khan and that he is now pressing for 24,500 more such licences.
In this respect, the BRTA authorities admitted that the Bangladesh Sarak Sramik Federation had submitted, to them, around 24,000 applications for driving licences under relaxed conditions, but no action was taken in this regard by the road division of the communications ministry or the BRTA.

-With The Independent input

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