Reform in traffic control system
Around 56 people died in only 4 days by road accident before and after the Eid-ul-Adha. Every day hundreds of commuters are losing their lives on the road all over the world. In Bangladesh, the mortality rate has reached such a peak that, we become baffled at not seeing any news of the accident in the daily news.
From January to June 2018, only half of the year has been passed and according to National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways, at least 2,471 people already passed away due to road accident leaving nearly 6,000 others critically injured.
After every accident, we readily blame the driver and the helper of the vehicles falling into the accident. Definitely, they are responsible for the accident but not solely, rather there are some other factors which cause the fatality.
There are hundreds of thousands of buses, minibuses, cars, trucks etc plying all over the country which are owned by a number of owners. Usually, they give their vehicles to the drivers on rent and fix an amount (known as 'Joma') to be paid to them at the end of the day. So the only thing that drives their (driver's) mind whole the day is to pick off such amount which will be sufficient for them after paying that amount fixed by vehicle-owners and for this they drive recklessly regardless of paying any heed to the traffic rules. Because, the more the trips, the more they earn. Consequently, they lose their control over the vehicle that costs the life of commuters on the road. Moreover, owners of the vehicle do not bother to rent out their vehicles to drivers who do not possess a driving license. They run those vehicles which do not meet the fitness requirement. In this sense, the vicarious liability of owners in a particular accident cannot be ignored in any way.
Besides, there is a strong association between owners and drivers-helpers and they both maintain a formidable syndicate by virtue of which they can easily run away from liability after committing an accident. Such associations are formed with leaders from every political party so that they can protect each other during the ruling of any party. It is almost inviolable and the government, irrespective of the party which is in power, is also stranded to their power. They have a far-reaching relationship with government high officials and powerful leaders.
There is another factor which is aggravating the situation and that is the haphazard growth of transport companies and worse competition between these companies. The former Mayor of the Dhaka north city corporation (Late) Mr Anisul Haq proposed to reduce companies from 149 to only 5, but unfortunately his desired plan could not come into light yet due to his early demise, although a feasibility study is carried out in this regard and direction to carry out this plan is issued. His attempt to prevent illegal parking in different bus stations also goes in vain after his death due to lack of responsibility of traffic police and concerned authorities.
Last but not the least the poor and corrupted traffic control system as well as unconsciousness of day to day commuters on the road igniting the road fatalities more. The accused drivers can easily retreat from the place of the accident by giving some money into the 'fisted hand' of traffic police or any other police officer. The unawareness of people cannot be denied anyway. They give little care to traffic rule and pass over the road while the vehicles are still plying. There is a reluctance to use the foot-over bridge and often they use to wait for a bus standing in the middle of the road.
The state enacted the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983 to regulate transport system, licensing etc and proposed a new Road Transport Act which got approval in cabinet this month with few changes to the previous law as to licensing, punishments etc.
But the effectiveness of these laws is quite uncertain, while the problem is deep-rooted. We cannot expect anything good from these laws without scrapping anomalies that are discussed above. In addition to this, giving moral education to unruly transport staffs, frequent workshops on smooth driving, rigorous process of giving driving license, repairing miserable conditions of highways, removal of unfit traffics from road, carrying out awareness programs for commuters etc would be of immense fruitful to put an end to these deplorable and unwanted casualties on the road. We do not want the early demise of any priceless life like Dia Khanom Mim or Abdul Karim.
A life cannot be compensated by pecuniary compensation and such compensation cannot soothe the ache of that family which lost their beloved ones.
Muhammad Zubair is a Research Assistant at Bangladesh Institute of Law and International Affairs (BILIA)