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Traffic system in Dhaka back to square one

  • Published at 08:03 am October 2nd, 2018
File photo: Traffic congestion in Dhaka Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Road transport and safety experts blame the absence of the strict enforcement of law for a comeback of the situation

The traffic system in the capital has gone back to its previous condition with the presence of illegal and unfit vehicles, picking and dropping passengers in the middle of road, buses stopping beyond the designated bus stops, and continuous jaywalking.

All these are taking place while the special traffic month of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) scheduled to end today is still in progress.

Road transport and safety experts blame the absence of the strict enforcement of law for years on, lack of public awareness and integrated efforts for a comeback of the situation.

The experts also think that although the situation saw some improvement, the chaos is back to square one as the special traffic program is about to end. 

The metropolitan police, against the backdrop of countrywide student protests demanding road safety, on August 5 began the ‘traffic week’ to bring order back to the city traffic system.

Students, mostly teenagers, took to the streets in the capital demanding road safety after two students were killed and 12 others injured by a speeding bus at Kurmitola in the capital on July 29.The student demonstrations spread across the country and continued for nine days. 

People appreciated the move, and expected that the situation would improve further in the future.

DMP’s effort for discipline

Riding on the campaign, Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) later launched a week-long special traffic drive, and later extended it to one month to bring discipline in the sector.

With two months running now for the drives, there seems to be no change in the situation.

Our correspondent made a random visit to different parts of Dhaka, and found mad race of public buses, tendency to violate signals by motorcyclists, buses stopping anywhere but the designated stops and jaywalking as common forms of violations.

The only change noticed was that most motorcyclists and pillion riders now wear helmets.   

Traffic inspector Anowar Kabir, deployed at Karwan Bazar said: “Awareness has risen among people, motorcyclists are wearing helmets.”

The special traffic program was launched from September 5-30, to bring discipline to city’s traffic system, reduce accidents and make roads free of congestion, punish those who would breach traffic rules and encourage people to abide by the law.

Decisions were made to stop human haulers from plying the main streets, city service buses from stopping beyond the designated stops, to make bus-drivers display their mobile phone numbers and photographs and keep the doors of running buses closed.

But buses still stop at any spot where they can collect passengers or drop them off, posing serious threats to road safety and causing traffic congestion.

Although some buses have started to shut the doors, the unholy competition between city buses and minibuses is very much a common scene. Human haulers still can be seen operating on main roads and commuters using these vehicles argue that there is no alternative transport in many areas. 

Bans ignored – chaos persists

In past few years, the DMP had given several directives like banning talking on the mobile phone while driving, making mandatory the use of seat belt by the drivers, banning motorcycles on footpaths and wrong-lane driving to ensure road safety, but none of them were implemented so far, and the chaotic situation persists.

When asked, DMP joint commissioner (Traffic South) Mofiz Uddin Ahmed told Dhaka Tribune:“About 7,000 buses of 250 companies are plying the Dhaka streets. There is also an acute crisis of driving licences as the country needs 50 lakh licenses, but we have only 18 lakh.”

Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BTRC) is planning to launch 600 buses including 300 double-deckers from November to help reduce over-crowding in buses and on roads.

“Scouts are working with the police for a certain time to create awareness among people,” he added.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) data says there are around 3.6 million registered vehicles in the country while road safety advocates say there are around 1.5 million illegal vehicles plying the roads and along with the registered vehicles. 

The large number of unqualified drivers put their own lives and the lives of a many people at risk on a regular basis, they said.

The road safety movement did win a concession from the government in the shape of the draft Road Transport Act 2018, which is currently awaiting approval by the parliament. 

However, road safety campaigners says the new act will serve the interest of transport workers and labourers, not the general public as it was approved without consulting any passenger representative.

On average, 3,000 road accidents occur in Bangladesh each year with around 2,700 deaths, 2,400 injuries incurring an estimated loss of around Tk40,000 crore annually, 2 to 3% of Bangladesh’s GDP.

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