A cause worth fighting for

October 2, 2014

Reading Time: 2 minutes

According to a WHO global status report, more than 1.24 million deaths occur globally, every year because of road accidents. It has been identified as the eighth leading cause of death. However, road accidents are more  common  in low and middle-income countries.

According to a WHO global status report, more than 1.24 million deaths occur globally, every year because of road accidents. It has been identified as the eighth leading cause of death. However, road accidents are more  common  in low and middle-income countries.

In Bangladesh the situation is unfathomable as the exact number of deaths caused by road accidents is not available. We only know about the cases that are being reported to the police. According to official reports, 3,137 deaths from road accidents occurred during 2012-13. However, based on the data from four newspapers, activist organisation Nirapod Sharak Chai recorded 5,162 deaths by road accidents in 2013 only. Half of the cases of deaths go unreported since the victim dies on the way to the hospital or after being released from the hospital. These incidents do not just cost lives or cause families to suffer, but also affects our economy.

Why have we failed to address this? Who should be blamed for these deaths? The blame will continue to shift depending on whose side of the story we are listening to. But the truth is that we all share the blame for ignoring our part of the responsibility.

Attendees at the launching of a research report titled ‘Road Safety in Bangladesh: Realities and Challenges’ conducted by Power and Participation Research Centre and BRAC.

Attendees at the launching of a research report titled ‘Road Safety in Bangladesh: Realities and Challenges’ conducted by Power and Participation Research Centre and BRAC.

Recent research by Power Participation Research Centre (PPRC) and BRAC revealed eye-opening facts; a bulk of the accidents during 2012 and 2013 occurred within 54.7 km of a highway. The research also discovered that the accidents are happening mostly around bus stands (41 per cent), road intersections (17.8 per cent) and marketplaces (28 per cent). This gives us a contradictory picture compared to the popular perception that accidents happen in crowd-free highways. Experts have also identified better road signs as an effective measure to stop accidents from happening.  Can we stop the accidents by focusing on fixing the ‘54.7 km route?’ Probably not, but this can surely provide an immediate, short-term solution.

Quick fixes may change a scenario temporarily, but unless we take long-term strategic action, such efforts will be futile. We need to take definitive steps to improve the capacity of Bangladesh Road Transport Authority in producing increased number of licensed drivers, strengthen our laws against traffic violations, and minimise scope of corruption by monitoring authorities and promoting transparency. All in all, long-term commitment from the government, NGOs, activists and the general population is crucial if we really want to make a change, because road safety is an issue worth fighting for.

Nadia Afrin Shams is a senior policy analyst for BRAC Advocacy for Social Change.

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[…] findings among those who mould public opinion. Recently, BRAC’s road safety programme conducted research and presented it to the Ministry of Communications. “This is just one of the instances where BRAC […]