Dhaka,  Sunday
19 May 2024

Deaths on highways continue unabated

Sanjay Adhikari Rony, Dhaka with Kumar Shuvo Roy, Pirojpur

Published: 07:56, 18 April 2024

Deaths on highways continue unabated

Photo: Messenger

The country’s highways have become death traps, with the procession of death due to road accidents showing no signs of stopping; rather, it is increasing day by day. The death toll rises particularly during the Eid holidays compared to other times of the year. In the last two days alone, 40 people have died in road accidents across different parts of the country.

According to Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, 565 people were killed and 1228 injured in 552 road accidents in March. During this period, 203 people lost their lives and 166 sustained injuries in 181 motorcycle accidents, which accounts for 32.78 percent of the total accidents, 35.92 percent of the fatalities, and 13.51 percent of the injuries.

Similarly, in the same timeframe, 31 people were killed and 86 injured in 38 railway accidents, while 16 people lost their lives and 17 were injured in seven accidents on waterways. In total, 612 fatalities and 1331 injuries were reported across roads, railways, and waterways in 597 accidents. There is fear that this rate may escalate in April.

Furthermore, on Wednesday, 14 people lost their lives in an accident in Jhalakathi. Around 2pm, a cement-laden truck lost control and veered into a ditch, colliding with a private car and an auto-rickshaw at the toll plaza of the fifth China-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge at Gabkhan on the west side of the municipal area.

Jhalkathi Superintendent of Police (SP) Afruzul Haque Tutul confirmed the death of 14 individuals. The police arrested the truck driver and his assistant in connection with the incident, and the damaged vehicles were recovered and seized. Additionally, a four-member investigation committee has been formed by the district administration to probe the cause of the accident. Deputy Commissioner Farah Gul Nijhum has instructed the committee to submit its findings within the next five days.

According to local eyewitnesses, fire service, and police sources, a cement-laden truck was traveling from Rajapur to Barisal around 2pm. While descending from Gabkhan Bridge, the truck lost control and plunged into the ditch, colliding with a private car and an auto-rickshaw stationed at the toll plaza. Though the truck sustained minimal damage, the private car and auto-rickshaw were extensively damaged. Subsequently, locals and fire service personnel initiated a rescue operation, recovering several bodies in the process.

Upon transporting the injured to Sadar Hospital, 11 individuals were pronounced dead, while an additional 20 injured individuals received first aid. Among the seriously injured, several were transferred to Barisal Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital for advanced treatment, where three more individuals succumbed to their injuries.

Superintendent of Police Afruzul Haque Tutul said that a truck lost control at Gabkhan Bridge toll plaza, resulting in a collision with a private car and an auto-rickshaw. Numerous individuals, including toll plaza staff, sustained injuries in the incident, with 14 individuals, including children, confirmed dead so far.

Earlier, 15 people were killed in a bus-pickup collision in Faridpur on Tuesday. The accident occurred at Dignagar Tentultala area of Kanaipur Union on the Dhaka-Khulna highway around 8 am on Tuesday. The casualties resulted from a head-on collision between a bus belonging to Unique Paribahan and a pickup heading towards Faridpur.

Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, the Secretary General of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, told The Daily Messenger that the majority of road accidents in March occurred in Dhaka Division. A total of 165 people lost their lives and 306 were injured in 162 road accidents in this division. Barisal Division recorded the lowest number of road accidents, with 32 fatalities and 92 injuries reported in 23 incidents.

Expanding on the information provided by the organization's report, he further mentioned that the published data does not accurately depict the true extent of road accidents in the country. The figures are merely based on media reports, and a significant portion of road accidents, around 60 to 70 percent, go unreported by the media. Therefore, the organisation is unable to include these incidents in its report. He emphasised that a visit to hospitals across the country, which serve as the primary source of information on road accidents, would reveal the alarming reality of the situation.

Meanwhile, Dhaka National Orthopedic Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre (NITOR) admitted 1369 patients who were seriously injured in road accidents in March. According to researchers, one out of every ten individuals injured in a crash sustains serious injuries or becomes disabled. Bangladesh has over 10,000 government and 6,000 private hospitals, with more than 300,000 road accident victims admitted annually for treatment.

The Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity's observations highlight significant factors contributing to road accidents in March, including the misapplication of traffic laws, weak enforcement, a surge in irregularities and corruption within regulatory bodies, and the increasing presence of motorcycles, battery-powered rickshaws, and three-wheelers on highways, often disregarding traffic signs or markings.

Additionally, factors such as inadequate street lighting, unrestricted use of fog lights at night, poor road and highway construction, a rise in unfit vehicles and unskilled drivers, encroachment on footpaths, vehicle defects, non-compliance with traffic laws, wrong-way driving, road extortion, and reckless driving contribute to the prevalence of accidents.

The organisation has proposed several recommendations to prevent accidents, including the establishment of a comprehensive database of road accidents sourced directly from primary sources, the development of a smart public transportation system, halting the import and registration of small vehicles like motorcycles and easy bikes, initiatives to train skilled drivers, and implementing digital vehicle fitness assessments.

Furthermore, the organisation suggests mandating the use of reflective vests for bicyclists and motorcyclists at night, prohibiting street vending, regulating drivers' salaries and working hours, ensuring adequate lighting on national and regional highways for nighttime travel, identifying and addressing black spots, conducting road safety audits, constructing high-quality road corridors, and urgently reforming institutional inefficiencies through audits of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority's ongoing operations.