Eid holidays in Bangladesh saw record road accident deaths: Group | News

Dhaka, Bangladesh – Nearly 400 people have been killed and nearly double the number injured in more than 300 road accidents in the two weeks surrounding Eid al-Adha holiday in Bangladesh this month.

This is the highest number of road accident deaths during the Muslim festival since the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association (BPWA) began compiling such data in 2016.

The South Asian country of 165 million people has one of the highest rates of road casualties and accidents in the world. Cases spiked during the Eid holiday as millions returned to their homes in the countryside from the capital Dhaka and other cities.

According to BPWA, at least 398 people were killed and 774 injured in 319 road accidents between July 3 and July 17. Eid al-Adha is celebrated on July 10 in the multi-nation country. Muslim numbers.

The BPWA said the highest number of such deaths occurred this year during the Eid al-Fitr festival alone when 376 people were killed and nearly 1,500 injured in 283 road accidents since May 25. May 4 to 9, BPWA said.

Bangladesh road accident
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of road accidents and casualties in the world [File: Mahmud Hossain Opu/Al Jazeera]

Since nearly half of the deaths during the Eid al-Fitr holiday involved motorbikes, the government banned two-wheelers on key highways for seven days from July 7 to July 13.

But BPWA data shows that about 30% of Eid al-Adha crash deaths involve motorbikes because many people break the law.

Altaf Hossain, 27 years old, died in such an accident in the Madhabdi area of ​​the central Narshingdi district of Bangladesh on July 11.

Hiru Mia, Hossain’s uncle, said the deceased was carrying sacrificial meat to deliver to a relative in another county and had no choice but to use his motorbike.

“On the way, he lost control and fell into the ditch. His head wound was fatal. The doctor couldn’t save him after he was taken to a nearby hospital,” Mia told Al Jazeera.

Bangladesh Road Safety
Students block a road in Dhaka to demand better road safety after a student died in a road accident [File: Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Fatal road accidents in Bangladesh are on the rise despite government pledges to reduce them by 50% by 2030.

According to police, at least 5,088 people have been killed in 5,472 road accidents in 2021 – 30% higher than the previous year.

BPWA data paints a bleak picture – 7,809 people died and 9,039 were injured in 5,629 road crashes last year.

Angered by a speeding bus that killed two high school students in July 2018, tens of thousands of school and university students across Bangladesh took to the streets for a week for a week. unprecedented protest.

The protests forced the government to pass the Road Traffic Act, which introduced a number of measures to check for road accidents, including setting a minimum age and working hours for drivers. professional vehicles and an emergency helpline to report risks.

Although the law is now in place, residents and experts remain skeptical of any real change in practice.

When acclaimed filmmaker Tareq Masud and journalist Mishuk Munir died in a road accident in 2011, a nine-member government committee headed by a minister made several recommendations to do so. make the roads safer.

The panel proposed the creation of a Road Safety Fund from funds allocated to road construction projects. It said funds should be spent on road safety awareness programs and studies.

Currently, more than 350 road construction projects are underway in Bangladesh, with a cumulative value of $5.1 billion.

If only 1 percent of the value of these projects went to the Road Safety Fund, the proceeds could be $56 million. However, no fund has yet been formed.

Plan on paper

Another key recommendation by the high-powered government committee is to provide better driver training and streamline the driver’s license process, as Bangladesh’s highways are flooded with handless drivers. professional and unlicensed.

According to the Bangladesh Road Traffic Authority (BRTA), there are 3.4 million vehicles registered in the country. However, only 1.92 million driver’s licenses were issued by the agency, indicating that there are more than one million unlicensed drivers.

In 2012, the government planned to introduce driving courses into technical schools and colleges under the Vocational Education Council. That plan has yet to materialize.

Meanwhile, several BRTA driving courses over the last few years show that around 80 illegal driving schools across the country are training thousands of young drivers.

BRTA President Noor Mohammad Majumder said there are 41 BRTA-approved driving schools in Bangladesh, of which 26 are in Dhaka.

“Our hands are tied when these numbers [of driving schools] look small in front of hundreds of thousands of applicants,” he told Al Jazeera.

Shamsul Haque, former director of the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said that authorities need to be more resolute in ensuring road traffic safety.

“Accidents in Bangladesh happen almost every day but some accidents create a bigger buzz in the media,” he said.

“Shortly after those accidents, the government announced a number of measures to prevent public outcry, but in the long run, they forgot about their commitment.”

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