Eid road deaths spark safety calls in Bangladesh
Activists blame poor driving, lack of law enforcement for high accident rates
A speeding overcrowded bus crosses a bridge during an Eid holiday in this 2012 file photo. Reckless driving, overcrowding and violation of traffic laws are blamed for thousands of deaths and injuries in Bangladesh every year. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)
ucanews.com reporter, Dhaka
September 20, 2016
Appalled by the number of fatal road accidents during the recent Eid holiday, Bangladeshi activists have called on the government to implement proper road safety measures to prevent deaths and injuries.
Some 157 people died and 347 were inured on roads and highways across the country during Eid al-Adha holidays Sept. 7-16, according to Bangladesh Passengers’ Welfare Association.
The association estimated 212 people died and 945 were injured during the Eid al-Fitr holidays in July.
According to the Accident Research Institute of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, about 35 percent of accidents-involved buses.
"It’s really disheartening to see so many deaths and injuries on roads that could have been be prevented," said Theophil Nokrek, secretary of Catholic bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission.
"During Eid, drivers drive vehicles recklessly to gain more money from more trips and sometimes, they drive for two-three days in a row without rest. Sadly, the government is not serious about tackling this indiscipline," Nokrek said.
"On highways, the maximum speed limit is 80 kilometer per hour, but often buses are doing 100-120 kilometers per hour," he said.
Nokrek blamed a lack of will among police and officials to make drivers and passengers aware about traffic laws, tackling speeding and vehicle overcrowding.
"There are traffic laws but nobody seems to abide by them. The government must enforce these laws and punish those who violate them," Nokrek said.
Millions of people in the Muslim-majority Bangladesh travel to their home villages from cities and towns to celebrate the Eid festivals.
"Reckless driving, bad drivers, faulty road design and poor traffic control are behind the spate of deaths and injuries," said Mahbub Alam, a professor at Accident Research Institute.
Various government departments must work together to bring about an effective traffic management system on roads to avoid accidents and deaths, he said.
According to Dhaka-based Center for Injury Prevention and Research, about 13,000 people die in road accidents in Bangladesh every year. The World Bank puts the figure at around 20,000.
The country has one of highest road accident fatality rates in the world about 100 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.
Supreme Court lawyer Fauzia Karim also pointed to poor law enforcement as a reason behind the high accident rate.
"In case of causing deaths, a driver is supposed to get three years in jail, which is already too low, and rarely enforced," she said.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister, Obaidul Quader, admitted more needs to be done to reduce road accidents.
"I am not claiming I have been successful in improving safety in the transport sector and as a minister I cannot avoid the responsibility for the accidents on the highways," he told reporters on Sept. 19.
The minister said that he is still working to boost safety on the roads and highways with plans for road upgrades, as well as identifying and tackling 142 accident black spots by December.
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