Experts have suggested building an integrated public transport system through a coordination between waterways, roads and railways to prevent accidents in Bangladesh.
Their call, along with a set of concerns, came at a discussion on road accidents, deaths and their prevention organized by the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) in Dhaka on Friday.
To reduce the number of accidents and bring back stability in this sector, they said, proper wages to the transport workers and strict monitoring to prevent harassment of the owners were necessary.
Also, extortion free roads and terminals for buses and trucks, and appointment of transport workers through the proper way would have to be ensured, said the NCPSRR.
During Friday's discussion, NCPSRR General Secretary Ashish Kumar Dey also presented the latest data on road accidents from their yearly statistics and observation report, which was published last Monday.
According to the report, at least 4,284 people, including 516 women and 539 children, were killed and 9,112 others injured in 3,472 road accidents across the country in 2017.
It also made 14 recommendations, based on experts' views and statistics, to tackle the situation and curb the number of accidents on the roads.
They include setting SSC exam pass as minimum educational qualification for anyone to obtain a driving licence for any type of transports; conducting mobile courts and raids by BRTA throughout the year against drivers without licenses; bringing drivers, assistants, supervisors and owners to justice for driving faulty vehicles; repairing the roads, highways and regional roads regularly; identifying the major risks and take effective measures; and installing warning signs.
Also Read- NCPSRR: Road accidents killed 4,284 people in 2017
Also, building services roads besides highways, using river way with container facilities, increasing mass transport with railways, introducing new vehicle laws, strict monitoring of government officials, taking immediate safety measures for the roads under constructions, bringing transparency in ministerial works, providing medical treatment free of cost to the victims of accidents, making life insurances for transport workers compulsory.
NCPSRR President Hazi Mohammad Shahid Miah, Sommilito Samajik Andolon Presidium Member Nurur Rahman Selim, environmentalist engineer M Enamul Haque, and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) teacher Prof Dr Mir Tareque Ali, among others, also spoke at the discussion.
According to NCPSRR, Bangladesh had experienced a 45% less road accidents in 2016. However, in 2017, the country saw a 25.56% increase.
Experts said constructions of four-lane highways had contributed much in reducing deaths from such accidents. But it would not be sustainable if the government does not make a holistic approach to tackle the problem.
The national highways and regional roads were badly damaged due to flash floods and additional rainfall last year, making the situations more difficult while the other reasons remain same, they said.
Presenting their report at Friday's discussion, Ashish said reckless driving, increasing number of three-wheel vehicles, locally-made mechanised vehicles and motorbikes on the highway, overloading and overtaking on the roads, defying traffic rules on long routes, long-time driving without break, huge risky turning points and dilapidated roads, lack of implementation of the laws regarding unfit vehicles and employing unskilled drivers were the major reasons behind the uptick in the rate of road accidents last year.
At least five of them were also said to be the main reasons behind road accidents in 2016, he added.
He said lack of proper supervision and people’s awareness were also playing major roles in this.
Shahid said many drivers allow their assistants to drive in the highways. "While a driver receives professional training, their assistants or helpers generally do not. This sort of bad practices increase the risks of accidents."
Prof Ali of BUET also identified lack of trained drivers as one of the core reasons behind road accidents. He said the country had some two million registered vehicles against around 1.4 million drivers.
He also said that it would be impossible to stop light or small vehicles from plying the highways, but if government constructs service roads beside them, then 50% risk of accidents would decrease.
The government should plan a comprehensive transport system, including river-ways and railways, at the soonest to bring order on the roads and tackle the crisis, said the professor. "Otherwise, number of road accidents will never decrease in a sustainable way."