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Published: 12 August 2018

Deplorable state of traffic system and

the way out
M S Siddiqui

It is very difficult for researchers and others to obtain statistical data of registered motor vehicles and
driving licences, number of accidents and casualties etc.

A newspaper report says: there are some 35.36 lakh registered vehicles in the country. More than 2 lakh
heavy vehicles -- bus, truck and minibus -- ply streets across the country. A driver needs at least six
years' experience before he could get one such licence.

It is understood that around 20 lakh unregistered vehicles that hit the road across the country.It is more
alarming that these vehicles are also playing the highways despite an order of honourable High Court.

So far, the BRTA has issued some 1.38 lakh driving licenses for such vehicles, meaning 70,000 heavy
vehicles drivers do not have driving licenses.
For driving public service vehicles (PSV) like bus and minibus, a person has to take a special permission.
So far, some 11,000 people have received such permit, as revealed by an official of BRTA told to a
newspaper. There are about 80,000 PSVs in the country.

So far, the BRTA has issued 26.39 lakh driving licences of all kinds. This means, around 9 lakh registered
vehicles are driven by persons without licences.

Moreover, the minor children of aged between 14 and 18 are driving vehicles in rural and mufossil area
and there is no data or survey on the traffic system. The unregistered are usually are not suitable on
engineering point of view and are slow-moving.

As for skills training, there are only 123 driving schools registered under the BRTA with only 176
registered driving instructors across the country. It is impossible for them to train required number of
drivers for the growing transport sector, leaving plenty of room for untrained and unprofessional drivers to
fill in the gap.

The Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) has 23 training centers for drivers, but only 14 of
them are functional. The real scenario is more dangerous as helpers use to get training by driving the
vehicle during rest of drivers or in absence of drivers.

Road accidents, including fatal head-on collisions, are common in Bangladesh. There are four elements
in transport sector -- roads, vehicles, road users and roadway environment -- each of them responsible for
road crashes. Roadway environment is also responsible for accidents. There is few foot over bridges in
Dhaka city but none in highways.

The local roads use to cross the highways in each and every village and town. Any cross road with
highway is dangerous and not permitted anywhere in modern countries. There are bazars in few miles of
highways. Vehicles use to load and unload passengers on the road. Passengers use to wait on the road
in search for transport.

Now-a-days, the owners of commercial vehicles don't employ drivers but let then drive to earn money and
pay a fixed amount to the owners of vehicle. Drivers are responsible for fuel cost and to pay the law
enforcers and mastans in different location of the road, as demanded. The drivers use to drive hurriedly to
earn money for all expenses and also their survival and causing accidents.

The road safety issue may not have been considered while building those roads. Also, the sector is under
multiple authorities with little coordination between them to ensure road safety. Accident rates are high in
Bangladesh. Police data show some 3,000 people die in road crashes across the country every year.
However, according to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, at least 7,397 people were killed and more than
16,000 injured in nearly 5,000 road accidents last year.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the regulatory body was constituted under the Ministry of
Communication in 1987 to formulate rules and regulations for control of motorized transport as and when
required. BRTA is also responsible to render its services efficiently to achieve a sustainable road safety
mechanism beside an efficient, responsive, economic, less time consuming, comfortable and eco-friendly
road transport system in the country.

BRTA is mandated to perform the following activities: (a) Formulation of rules and regulations for control
of motor transport as and when required; (b) Registration of motor vehicles and ownership transfer; (c)
Issuance of motor vehicle driving licenses; (d) Issuance of fitness certificates for motor vehicles; (e)
Issuance of route permits for transport vehicles; (f) Inspection of vehicles involved in road accidents; (g)
Ensuring road safety and enforcement; (h) Registration of driver training schools; (i) Maintaining accident
records and statistics; (j) Collection of Motor Vehicle Tax, fees and other related charges.

BRTA already overburdened with huge job as BRTA use to check 61 mater before issuing annual fitness
certificate as per manual. But BRTA officials said it would take one hour to inspect a single vehicle if they
did so.

Currently, the BRTA has to provide fitness clearance to 2,000 vehicles daily, which would not be possible
if they are to look into all the aspects. The irregularities and corruption in BRTA is a widely discussed
issue among the vehicle owners and brokers available at BRTA office to 'help' vehicle owners to the get
the job done.

In many countries such fitness test is mandatory after 15 years of first registration and thereafter in every
5 years. They only check the fitness not the documents. Government had a plan to privatize the
responsibility of fitness test to private sector motor workshops but there is no head way to implement it.
But the authorities will not let the private sector to do the 'lucrative' job.

People involved in transport sector highlighted a host of problems that contribute to the traffic chaos and
accidents -- shortage of skilled drivers and training facilities, extortion by traffic police and ruling party
men, over-speeding and faulty road designs.

It is said that the duty of owners to check the driving license before appointing drivers. What will happen if
the drivers without license stopped driving vehicle since the drivers with valid license is much lower than
register vehicle? It is presumed that the transport system will instantly collapse and economic activities
will slow down.

Following a series of road accidents, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on June 25 issued several directives,
including driving time limitations on drivers and keeping reserved drivers of long-route vehicles to prevent
accidents but there is no visible step from BRTA to follow the instruction of honorable PM.

In a recent program, Mashiur Rahman Ranga, state Minister for Rural Development and Co-operatives,
accused police and transport federation workers of extorting money from drivers and owners."How would
a transport owner survive if he has to pay Tk 7,000 to Tk 8,000 for a trip from Dhaka to Panchagarh,"
Ranga, also president of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners' Association, said.

One of the most serious point of concern that if a driver hits a pedestrian or an animal, crowds quickly
gather and the behaviour of the crowd is often unpredictable.
In these cases, some members of the crowd may try to assist injured parties, while other individuals may
seek to impose their own sense of justice on responsible parties. The vehicle and its occupants may be at
risk of being attacked in such circumstances depending on who the crowd believes is at fault and what
damage occurred.

Such attacks may pose significant risk of injury or death to the vehicle's occupants or at least of
incineration of the vehicle. It is unsafe to remain at the scene of an accident of this nature, and drivers try
to hurriedly try to go away with the vehicle causing more fatal accident or they run away leaving the
vehicle on spot.

Another aspect of the after accident were hardly discussed in the media that a major occurrence of
accidents, even with death of victims are settled by negotiation and mediation of law enforcers. It
happens mostly while the victims are common persons.

The owners of vehicles use to pay agreed compensation to the victim or relatives of victim and sign a
compromise agreement. The good side of the mediation is not to go to court for long litigation and the bad
part is the 'fee' for law enforcers for the mediation services.

The government should take a drastic stepimprove supervisory activities and drastic step to implement
the law and training the drivers and also educate the citizen to use the roads. The faulty road should be
modified and gradually withdraw the mechanics made vehicles (Nasimon, Karimon type) and also
privatize some of the responsibility of BRTA such as approval of fitness etc.

The extortion of law enforcers, mastans and trade unions should eliminate with strong hands. Attention
should be given to the wellbeing of the drivers and their reasonable wages and other facilities. The drivers
are mostly blamed for all accident and there is none to listen to their problems.

The writer is a legal economist. Email: mssiddiqui2035@gmail.com