Published:  09:50 AM, 17 May 2022

Traffic rules should be equally applied to everyone

Recent data from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has laid bare, once again, just how unsafe our roads are. As stated in a report by this daily, a staggering 508,000 registered vehicles, which are eligible for fitness tests, have not renewed their documents as of last month. Meanwhile, at least a million registered vehicles are being driven by unlicensed drivers—an equally major cause for concern. It seems to have become a ghastly tradition for us to demand safer roads in this column, and it all seems in vain. Over the years, as the situation has worsened, the authorities have not even done the bare minimum—such as properly enforcing the Road Transport Act, 2018—to make our roads safe.

These are the observations the World Bank made in an appraisal report prepared for financing a road safety project in Bangladesh, when an increasing number of people are being killed in crashes in the country.

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD), which will lead the multi-sectoral project worth around $360 million (Tk 3,086.54 crore), sent the Development Project Proposal to the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges yesterday.

According to police data, at least 5,088 people were killed in 5,472 road crashes in 2021; these figures rose by 29.86 percent and 30.34 percent, respectively, from what they were in 2020. Of course, data from road safety organizations show these numbers to be much higher. While the closure of BRTA offices during the Covid lockdown may justify a lower number of registered vehicles, it's also true that irresponsibility exists on the parts of BRTA as well as the drivers. For one, though the BRTA issued more than 3.76 million driving licenses against nearly 4.78 million registered vehicles till June last year—indicating that more than a million vehicles are being driven by unlicensed drivers—it is also true that many drivers acquire multiple licenses for light and heavy vehicles. Many also operate using fake licenses, and this has been motivated by the BRTA extending the time for delivering license cards several times over the past two years.

The BRTA chairman resorting to shifting responsibility on the police, when asked if actions were being taken against unfit vehicles and unlicensed drivers by its mobile courts, further concerns us as to whether the organization is truly working towards fixing these issues on its own.

If the relevant government bodies are skirting around their responsibilities, it certainly paints a bleak picture for the future of road safety in Bangladesh. All we can do—once again—is urge the government and those tasked with making our roads safer to work together and bring down these morbid numbers, instead of shifting blames while lives are prematurely lost daily.

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