A committee headed by former shipping minister Shajahan Khan has prepared a draft report on preventing road accidents and bringing discipline in the road transport sector.
The report contains a 111-point recommendation, including for formation of a road safety authority under the prime minister’s supervision.
The authority would draw up plans in coordination with the agencies concerned, monitor the agencies’ work as well as identify the accident-prone zones and come up with solutions.
The existing laws, guidelines and reports of other committees already cover many of the 111-point recommendations.
The committee also decided on three deadlines and pointed out the authorities for implementation of the recommendations.
Amid growing concern over frequent road accidents, the government formed the body on February 17. But the appointment of Shajahan as its head sparked controversy with many describing the decision as hilarious.
Hours after two college students were killed by a speeding bus in the capital in July last year, Shajahan smirked when reporters sought his reaction as a transport leader. On many occasions in the past, his other comments and actions regarding road safety issue sparked widespread criticism.
Initially, the committee had 15 members. Seven more were co-opted into it later, taking the total number of members to 22.
Eight of them, including Shajahan, are involved in transport organisations that are often blamed for the very indiscipline they will seek to put an end to.
Nirapad Sarak Chai, a platform working to ensure safe roads, said at least 4,439 people were killed in 3,103 road crashes while Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity said 5,514 road crashes claimed 7,221 lives last year.
The committee was asked to submit its report in 14 working days. Later, it got extension.
One of the committee members, Kazi Md Saifun Newaz, an assistant professor of Buet’s Accident Research Institute, said they hoped to submit the report to the road transport and bridges ministry by April 4.
They prepared the report on the basis of the prime minister’s directives, recommendations of a committee formed in 2011 under the leadership of former Jahangirnagar University vice chancellor Prof Anwar Hossain and taking the present situation into consideration.
The body set December 2019 as deadline for taking some immediate steps in this regard while 2019 to 2021 as deadline for short term and 2019 to 2014 as long term initiatives.
It said many of those need to continue for years.
As its first recommendation, the committee called for taking steps for boosting awareness about traffic rules and road uses.
It said different relevant short dramas and advertisements should be made and aired in the media for free. It also stressed taking up awareness programmes at the educational institutions.
The committee said the media must refrain from “spreading negative and confusing information” on road accidents.
Besides, it recommended making all footpaths free of illegal occupation, setting up new ones and ensuring their round-the-clock monitoring.
The body said no structure should stand within 20 metres of highway and all lease of markets in such areas must be cancelled.
One of the major recommendations was formulation of rules of the Road Safety Act.
Besides, drivers of long-haul buses and truck should get rest after every five hours. The drivers should not be at the wheels for more than eight hours at a stretch.
The committee also pushed for preventing illegal three-wheelers from plying highways and bringing them under a mechanism so that they could ply regional highways and local roads.
SHORT TERM INITIATIVES
The short term recommendations include creating 1,000 skilled driving instructors within 2020.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) would take measures to create those instructors with public money. It would give priority to those who retired from police and army services.
The committee said all driving schools must be registered with the authorities concerned and that the drivers without licences should be identified and trained.
One recommendation is that all professional drivers must attend a two-day training before renewal of their licences.
The committee also recommended incorporating traffic laws and road safety issues into the curriculum of students from grades I to X.
The committee said rickshaws should be removed from the main thoroughfares and plans need to be worked out to phase out the vehicles from the capital.
Also, a driver cannot be appointed on daily basis and the owner must give him or her appointment letter mentioning his or her salaries. Besides, nobody should be allowed to buy motorcycle without valid licence, it said.
LONG TERM STEPS
One of such recommendations said that trauma centres and fire service stations have to be established near highways so that rescue operation and medical treatment are properly ensured.
In its report, the committee said no inter-district bus terminal should be allowed inside the city.
A committee has to be formed comprising transport owners and workers and police to stop extortion in the transport sector. It will come up with a comprehensive report on the issue.
The body said a modern database has to be prepared by collecting data on road accidents and conducting scientific research on it. The database will be operated by police.
Besides, the Inland Container Depot at Kamalapur and Central Storage Depot in Tejgaon should be relocated outside Dhaka.
One of the recommendations also called for increasing BRTA manpower.
Another one said all agencies in the sector will deposit 1-2 percent of their annual interests into road safety funds.