We are happy that activists of six social organizations have publicly undertaken to uphold traffic rules. At the Jatiya Press Club on Saturday, it was announced that the programme was aimed at raising public awareness about the need to observe the rules of the road. The chairman of Nischa, a body geared to sensitizing citizens to road traffic rules, maintained and quite rightly too that the principal cause behind deaths in road accidents had to do with the impunity with which traffic rules are violated by people.
These remarks can well be justified through an observation of the record. Indeed, the jaywalking that people resort to on the roads is perhaps nowhere more acute than in Bangladesh. Overbridges to help people cross roads have been set up at a number of places in the capital and also elsewhere in the country. However, they convey a picture of desolation as no one seems to be prepared to use them. That is a shame and it is made worse when one spots the stealthy and unembarrassed ways in which people simply run across the road to go over to the other side. Even where there are barriers between the two sides of a road, people are always prepared to squeeze themselves physically through them to reach the other side.
It is a depressing hint of a bad psychology that has overtaken us. At many places, even as vehicles are on the move, pedestrians have no worries as they cross the road, having put up their hands as a sign that drivers should heed them and stop. Perhaps what is even more worrying is that the police, whose presence on the roads is somewhat ubiquitous, look the other way when all this wrong behavior happens. It is their job to instruct citizens on the rules of the road, first by persuasion and then by punitive action if the message is ignored. But when they do nothing and before their very eyes people engage in what is truly nauseating behavior, it is we who are outraged. When does image of social misbehavior get replaced by a healthier one?
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