“The necessity of reforms and proper execution of the law concerning road traffic in Bangladesh: A brief analysis”

- Maruf Islam Chowdhury

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Published On - August 27, 2018 [Vol. 09, Jul - Dec, 2018]

An efficient transportation system is one of the most vital elements for the effective development of a country. Every working citizen of a country rushes towards their workplace in order to earn a living and for leading a pleasant and satisfactory life. Other classes of citizens go outside, irrespective of working days or weekends, for several necessary things such as business, education, medical treatment, litigation, leisure, etc. However, while using transportation, whether public or private, when they have to face excess traffic congestion, several types of pollution along with a haphazard traffic control system, the journey on the road becomes somewhat of a daytime nightmare! On top of that, the number of accidents in Dhaka city and an alarming number of accidents on the highways throughout the country is also a major concern. These are merely drawbacks and difficulties faced relating to transportation, whereas there are several other sectors which the government has to deal with. So, ultimately the question arises “Is it practically possible for the government upon the present infrastructure to deal with and resolve so many problems faced in all sectors of a country?”. The answer would definitely be yes, but the question remains that in what ways these can be resolved most effectively and whether it would take an unbearably long time for these to be resolved or a relatively shorter period of time. In order to find out the possible solutions to such formidable tasks requires an extensive amount of analysis, of which some suggestions include the following-

Traffic congestion

Traffic congestion in Dhaka city, the capital of Bangladesh, consisting of a population of approximately 20 million in just 125 square miles (325 square kilometres), is becoming one of the most troublesome and frustrating things faced everyday by every citizen of this country and is among the most densely populated cities in the world. Day by day the number is increasing and most part of Dhaka is badly affected by huge traffic jam. Due to traffic jam a substantial portion of working hours have to be left on streets which indirectly put adverse impact on the economy. It has become part of everyone’s daily life struggle and a major concern to be dealt with by the government. Due to such over-population, every possible initiative of bringing out a solution taken by the government appears to be turning ineffective from the outlook. Now, the question is how to possibly resolve it. Decentralisation is one of the most vital necessities, but that would require detailed and long-term planning by the government as it may involve several operating bodies and establishment of safer highways and urban areas for factories and branches of concerned bodies to be dispersed throughout the country. Undoubtedly, the initiatives taken by our current government in constructing several flyovers throughout Dhaka City has positively changed the outlook of the entire transportation system. According to newspaper publications and the public response, several low-cost solutions to Dhaka’s traffic congestion such as U-loops and underpasses should be given more attention and priority as these have turned out to be effective and convenient for a majority part of the concerned population.

Increased investment in public transport infrastructure of a sufficiently reasonable standard is vitally important in order to initiate tranquillity in the public transport sector. Robert Gallagher, a transport planner and South Asia specialist, carried out a research and explored that two major factors contribute to Dhaka’s current traffic congestion: lack of planning and preparation over previous decades, and an over-reliance on cars due to a deficient public transportation system. Gallagher examined an alternative scenario that focuses on greater investment in bus systems and infrastructure, which would mitigate the need for so many space-intensive private automobiles, motorcycles, auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws. The scenario assumes the same amount of public spending as under the draft transport plan, but with 9,000 more buses. This would result in just 100,000 additional cars by 2035, which is less than a third of the number expected under the Revised Strategic Transport Plan [RSTP] (commissioned by the government in 2014-15) strategy. The alternative option would occupy considerably less road space, reduce traffic congestion, and lead to an average traffic speed of 14.4 km/h, saving commuters even more time.

Moreover, initiating the desperately-needed and massive Dhaka Metro Rail Project for such a densely-populated capital like ours can be hailed as a milestone for us as it is used in most countries worldwide. In order to deal with such a major problem, further radical steps are required to be taken by the government such as decentralisation by moving certain public offices and industries which are not particularly necessary in Dhaka City, even though this involves several issues including security, expense, increased problems for those involved and may bring extreme political and economic controversy.

In any case, in order to deal with the problem of traffic congestion, strict application of traffic rules is vitally important. Certain major factors such as allocating parking zones should be considered in order to effectively enforce the violations of traffic law and at the same time considering the convenience of members of the general public, e.g. by creating bus lanes and enforcing strict rules on buses through the concerned authorities in safely stopping at the allocated bus stops instead of in the middle of the road which causes further traffic disruption. According to section 90 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983 under the heading of ‘Parking Places and Halting Stations’ in Chapter VII- ‘Control of Traffic’, it is stated-

‘The Government or any authority authorised in this behalf by the Government may, in consultation with the local authority having jurisdiction in the area concerned, determine place at which motor vehicles may stand either indefinitely or for a specified period of time, and may determine the places at which public service vehicles may stop for a longer time than is necessary for the taking up and setting down of passengers.’

Therefore, certain allocated parking areas along with necessary parking signs for motor vehicles need to be provided in order to consider the convenience of those using private transportation. Even though it is not possible to allow parking spaces of all the vehicles of the city, providing allocated parking spots where private parking facilities are not available would assist in enforcing the rules concerning violation of parking signs as in that case not all vehicles would be in violation but only specific ones. Although public bus stops or stations of a reasonable standard have and are being established over time, it is necessary for the Dhaka Transport Co-ordination Authority (DTCA) to direct the public buses to stop near the relevant bus station in order to prevent unnecessary traffic congestion while boarding and alighting passengers from buses as well as to ensure their safety.

Pollution in Dhaka City

Even though several initiatives have been taken by the government, including introducing the CNG auto-rickshaws, it is still shameful for us to find that Dhaka is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Air pollution is caused because of several petrol-run public buses which emit dark smoke along with dust on roads. Noise pollution, which includes mainly horns from motor vehicles, is difficult to control where there is over-population and excess traffic congestion. Even though a strict implementation of the rules is possible with an absolute ban on using horns, the use of horns by motor vehicles has become a necessity in the perspective of our country in order to ensure the safety of others and to reduce the risk of accidents caused. Additionally, further air pollution is caused due to the large open garbage bins on the roads which make it even more difficult and unhealthy to walk or pass through many of the roads in Dhaka City. Such pollution is causing seriously adverse health effects to pedestrians and other people who are affected by it.

It is true that the government has an excessive amount of work to do and several initiatives including multiple projects on the installation of better sewerage pipes and the reconstruction of roads and footpaths are underway. There was a proposal to establish a research centre with modern and reliable laboratories for monitoring atmospheric pollutants in Dhaka, which was submitted by the Centre of Advanced Research in Science (CARS) in the University of Dhaka. The proposal received a research grant of about BDT 34.5 million (about US$ 442,000) from the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP). The sub-project was titled: “Establishing an Air Quality Monitoring Centre” which was hosted by Dr. Shahid Akhtar Hossain, a professor of the Department of Soil, Water and Environment.

It is not unusual to find that almost every person expects rapid and visible development. As such, further measures for reducing pollution include strictly enforcing the relevant law on controlling the vehicle authorising body, the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), so that such type of pollution-causing and unfit vehicles are not authorised or permitted to be used as transportation in any public place. Additionally, by means of government policy and support, alternative and eco-friendly public buses can be launched and introduced. The necessity of registration is stated in section 32 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983 as follows-

‘No person shall drive any motor vehicle and no owner of a motor vehicle shall cause or permit the vehicle to be driven in any public place or in any other place for the purpose of carrying passengers or goods unless the vehicle is registered in accordance with this chapter and the certificate of registration of the vehicle has not been suspended or cancelled and the vehicle carries a registration mark displayed in the prescribed manner.’

Therefore, it can be mentioned that with the support of the government in initiating strict policy on the concerned transport authority, it would be viable for the enforcement of the law concerning traffic.

Traffic control system in Dhaka

It may appear from a general standpoint that over-population in Dhaka city is the only reason for which the traffic control system appears to be running in a haphazard manner. That is in fact not the case, as there are various reasons for which several viable solutions can be recommended.

One example may include, taking a strict approach through policy-making regarding driving a motor vehicle in a public place without a valid driving licence in breach of section 3 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983, for which the punishment is up to a maximum imprisonment of 4 months or a maximum fine of Tk.500/- or both, as stated under section 138 of the Ordinance, 1983. Driving a motor vehicle without a valid driving licence is illegal and additionally can cause several problems such as underage or inexperienced persons driving local buses or coaches on the highways can put the lives of several passengers at risk.

According to section 92 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983, the relevant law concerning the duty to obey traffic signs is laid down as-

‘(1) Every driver of a motor vehicle shall drive the vehicle in conformity with any indication given by a mandatory traffic sign and in conformity with the driving regulations set forth in the Tenth Schedule, and shall comply with all directions given to him by any police officer for the time being engaged in the regulation of traffic in any public place.

(2) In this section “mandatory traffic sign” means a traffic sign included in part A of the Ninth Schedule, or any traffic sign of similar form, that is to say, consisting of or including a circular disc displaying a device, word or figure and having a red ground or border erected for the purpose of regulating motor vehicle traffic under sub section (1) of section 90.

(3) Every driver of a motor vehicle shall stop on the appropriate line near every pedestrian crossing so marked where there is a pedestrian on the crossing.’

The relevant traffic law of Bangladesh concerning the duty to obey traffic signs has been laid down in a rather generalised context. In order to properly enforce the law concerning traffic, the necessity of specific legal provisions, including exemplary punishment for violation of those provisions, is paramount. For example, specific provisions concerning violation of traffic police signals by public buses, private cars, auto-rickshaws, rickshaws, motorcycles and other vehicles along with the specific punishment for violation of those provisions is necessary to be specifically categorised under the traffic law. In case of violation of the traffic rules, the procedure to be followed by the concerned traffic police officer must be laid down in a separate set of rules, e.g. in a ‘Code for Traffic Regulation’ which is unfortunately rather non-existent in our country, breach of which strict procedural action needs to be taken.

Since in our country, there is the customary malpractice of bribery, the concerned traffic authority, the BRTA should be given the responsibility to govern the activities of the traffic police by virtue of a Regulation issued by the governing authorities so that monitoring through CCTV can be feasible. In order to materialise such a concept, strict rules need to be set following particular instructions to the traffic police in stopping vehicles violating traffic signals only on specific zones where CCTV surveillance is available. In order to ensure that such procedure is followed by the traffic police, a senior member of the monitoring team of the particular area should, in random visits, take record in a diary which is to be submitted to the traffic controlling authority. Such monitoring may be viable if traffic regulating offices are built in each police station throughout Dhaka City so that all the traffic police activities for each signal can be monitored by the relevant authority within the ambit of that particular police station.

Road accidents throughout the country

The number of serious or fatal road accidents in Dhaka city and throughout the country has been numerous and reached an unfortunately extreme level such that those incidents had to and are still continuously hitting the headlines of newspapers.

According to a newspaper publication of ‘The Daily Star’ on 2 July, 2018, the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways prepared the report claiming that nearly 6,000 others were injured in 2,353 road crashes during the January-June 2017 period. Among the victims, 643 are women and children, they said. In rally of the dead, 773 were pedestrians who were run over and 548 motorcyclists. The organisation said 248 people were killed and 717 were injured in 211 road mishaps in 13 days (June 12 to 24) during the Eid journey this year.

In the ‘Dhaka Tribune’ on 2 January, 2018, it was published that at least 4,284 people, including 516 women and 539 children, were killed and 9,112 others injured in 3,472 road accidents across Bangladesh in 2017. The fatal accidents took place on several highways and national, inter-district and regional roads across the country between the 1st of January and the 31st of December. The National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR), a non-government organisation, revealed the information in its yearly survey and observation report. The report was prepared on the basis of news published in 22 national dailies, 10 regional newspapers and eight online news portals and agencies, said a press release.

According to the report, the number of road accidents and casualties increased in 2017 compared to 2016. A total of 3,412 people, including 470 women and 453 children, died and 8,572 others injured in 2,998 road accidents in 2016.

Additionally, it was published in the ‘Dhaka Tribune’ that the NCPSRR mentioned nine primary reasons behind the increased number of accidents and casualties. The reasons are reckless driving, plying of three-wheeler vehicles and motorbikes, carrying passengers and goods in locally-made mechanised vehicles, overloading and overtaking-violating laws, not following traffic rules and regulation properly on long routes, long-time driving without break, huge risky turning points and dilapidated roads, non-enforcement of law to stop plying of unfit vehicles and employing unskilled drivers. Ashis Kumar Dey, General Secretary of NCPSRR, said that lack of proper supervision and people’s awareness were the major reasons behind the high number of road crashes.

Driving recklessly or dangerously is illegal and contrary to section 143 of the Motor Vehicles Ordinance, 1983, which states-

‘Whoever drives a motor vehicle at a speed or in a manner which is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the nature, condition and use of the place where the vehicle is driven and the amount of traffic which actually is at the time or which might reasonably be expected to be in the place, shall be punishable on a first conviction for the offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 1 [six months], or with fine which may extend to 2 [five hundred] Taka, and his driving licence shall be suspended for a specified period, and for a subsequent offence if committed within three years of the commission of a previous similar offence with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 [six months], or with fine which may extend to 4 [one thousand] Taka, or with both, and his driving licence shall be 5 [suspended for a period not exceeding one month].’

Bus driver Jamil Hossain was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Manikganj court as per section 304 of the Penal Code, 1860 for the death of filmmaker Tareque Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier in a road accident. However, the victim’s family wanted the charge to be framed under section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860 which allows the provision of death penalty or life imprisonment. Unfortunately, for years now, debates have been going on about what punishment should be fixed for deaths by road accidents. The verdict of Tareque and Mishuk death case should be set as an example for similar trails in the future.

We often get the news of particular road accidents where the victim is either seriously injured or dies as a result of reckless driving by another. Out of several such recent incidents, some specific road accidents include the death of Rajib Hossain, a 22-year old college student, who lost his right arm when a bus of Sajan Paribahan hit a BRTC double-decker bus parked at SAARC circle on 3 April 2018 and later on died at Dhaka Medical College Hospital on 17 April 2018. Just a week after Rajib’s accident, a bus smashed the right leg of Runi Akhter, an MBA student, against the pavement on the same Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue. More recently, following a fatal accident of Syed Md. Masud Rana, a BUBT student, where he was run over by a bus, the father of the deceased, apart from a criminal case being initiated against the reckless bus driver, claimed compensation through a court of law for the death of his son from the concerned authority involving the incident, Dishari Paribahan. The High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh on 23 July 2018 issued a Rule regarding compensation and a direction towards the concerned authorities including the Home Ministry, the Ministry of Road Transport, the Inspector General of Police, Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner, BRTA and the owner of Dishari Paribahan to reply to the Rule within 4 weeks as to the formation of an investigation committee for the particular incident and for any other incident in future.

Regarding a latest incident, on 29 July 2018, during an absolutely unacceptable race for passengers between two buses, reckless driving by an unskilled bus driver resulted in one of the buses ploughing into the crowd near the ramp of the Airport Road flyover killing two students, Dia Khanam Mim and Abdul Karim Rajib who were students of Shaheed Ramiz Uddin Cantonment College, and injuring at least nine others after being hit or run over. Following protests regarding the incident by students of several colleges, agitated students blocked roads leading to disruption of traffic and unrest causing further several incidents.

The recent incident taking two young lives may be an issue for protest but such agitation from students is the reflection of the entire nation’s frustration over the traffic control system regarding ensuring proper checking of original and valid driving licenses following attaining appropriate driving training and skills, for all types of vehicles, preventing unfit vehicles from being used on the road along with strict implementation of the traffic rules in case of violation. Such accidents following reckless driving, in Dhaka city and throughout the country on the highways mostly during overtaking, make it risky for people to move everyday as, in such circumstances, there remains an increased possibility of another tragedy at any moment!

The applicability of Tort Law in Bangladesh in Road Accident Cases

It is vital for victims of roads accidents to be aware of their legal rights. A criminal suit for a wrongful act mainly focuses on the punishment of the guilty, where such punishment might not be of benefit to the injured, other than mental satisfaction of bringing the culprit within justice and is ultimately of benefit to the society. However, where pecuniary compensation, including those for pain and suffering, medical bills, loss of past and future wages, and some other equitable remedies are sought the applicability of the law of tort arises. In Bangladesh, road accidents as a result of reckless driving has increased at an alarming rate and disappointingly people suffer the most because of non-application or a lack of proper application of tort law in road accident cases. In order to widen the application of the law of tort, contributory negligence on the part of the injured party is also an important factor to be considered.

Even though the law of tort has not yet had an established platform in the legal practice due to the lack of a core statute concerning this area, certain judicial precedents have been laid down in order to recognise and widen the scope of seeking compensation as a result of road accidents. According to information provided in the Bangladesh Institute of Legal Development (BiLD) Law Magazine by Dr. Md. Nayem Alimul Hyder, the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, on 3 December 2017, after a money suit was filed under the Fatal Accidents Act 1855, ordered the concerned authorities to pay Tk.4.61 crore as compensation to the family of the renowned filmmaker Tareque Masud, who died in a fatal car crash in 2011. According to the Supreme Court order, based on the principles of the law of tort, driver Jamil Uddin was ordered to pay Tk.30 lacs, the company which insured the bus had to pay Tk.80,000 and owners of the vehicle had to pay the rest of the money in three months after receiving the full judgment of the High Court.

Furthermore, in road accident cases, claimants may have a cause of action under a colonial era statute named the Fatal Accidents Act 1855, which has successfully been used in the past by secondary victims of road accidents in order to impose vicarious liability on a company for the reckless driving of its employee, a precedent concerning this area involves a recent case of Bangladesh Beverage v Rowsan Aktar and Others (69 DLR 129), where Tk.1.7 crore was awarded as compensation by the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

The recent tragic air crash of the US-Bangla Flight BS211 in Kathmandu, where more than 50 passengers died and more than 20 passengers were injured, is rife with potential liabilities in tort law. Therefore, this incident can be considered as yet another major necessity of having an effective legal framework for the law of tort in our country.

The necessity of reforms and execution of the road traffic law

The entire road traffic control system appears from the outlook to be unsystematic and disorganised. In order to regulate and bring to uniform the road traffic control system, specific legal provisions regarding the type of offences along with the relevant punishment for violation of those legal provisions is necessary. Over-population is definitely a major drawback in properly executing the road traffic law but if the law can strictly be implemented, possibly with the use of modern technology, then it would be feasible to control the entire road traffic system throughout the city and then throughout the country.

As stated in ‘Bd Law News’, since 2010 the government has been trying to upgrade the law as the existing legal framework is not able to bring discipline to the road transport sector. Although a draft was ready in 2011, it was cancelled under pressure from transport owners and workers. Four years later, the draft law on road transportation has been completed by the Road Transport and Highways Division.

However, the draft of the Road Transport Act did not suggest any separate punishment for death through road accident by negligence of driver or reckless driving. The draft mentioned that punishment for death through road accident will be imposed as per the Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860. Section 304 of the Penal Code says-

“Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder shall be punished with life imprisonment or imprisonment of the either description for a term which may be extended to ten years.”

Sections 304 (A) and 304 (B) states that maximum punishment shall be five years and three years in jail for road accident cases.

For years now, debates have been going on about what punishment should be fixed for deaths by road accidents. Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, assistant professor of Accident Research Institute (ARI) at BUET, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The verdict of Tareque and Mishuk death case should be set as an example for similar trails in the future. The draft of the Road Transport Act should consider suggestions in line with the case’s verdict to work in the prevention of similar accidents.” However, Ilias Kanchan, chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Demand Safe Road), said: “We have been suggesting to the government a ten-year imprisonment instead of three years as per section 4 (B) of the Penal Code in this regard.” On the issue of punishment, Khandakar Enayetulla, Secretary General of Bangladesh Sarak Paribahan Malik Samity, said: “We will only agree to charge framing under section 304, if any investigation officer concerned can prove without any doubt that the alleged driver caused the accident intentionally.”

Since the road traffic situation and the number of road accidents everyday has risen to an intolerable level, the recent incident, as aforementioned, of 2 schoolchildren being run over and killed by a bus in Dhaka due to reckless driving left the students no other choice but to stand up for their rights of safety on the roads. It first triggered widespread anger on social media and then led to a wave of student protests. Tens of thousands of students took to the streets of Dhaka, blocking roads and intersections, leading to deadlock in the city. The protesters stopped trucks, buses and cars, demanding to see the licenses of drivers and checked if vehicles were in roadworthy conditions. At one stage, students were also observed in being capable of controlling traffic in a systematic and disciplined manner! Even though there have been certain incidents concerning unauthorised checking, most people were pleased to co-operate with the youths.

Now, the question obviously arises that if the youths can demonstrate a proper way to bring discipline to the traffic system, why can’t the traffic police do so? This is because the traffic police fall within the framework of traffic rules, but when the law concerning traffic itself remains uncertain and vague, there comes the scope for corruption leading to chaos and indiscipline within the traffic control system. When the law concerning road transport and safety on the roads fail to take into account the contemporary situations and circumstances, the effective enforcement or proper execution of the law becomes somewhat unrealistic. Although over-population and poverty are major drawbacks in enforcement of the traffic law, it would only be viable to take control and bring discipline in the traffic control system by taking harsh measures.

On 6 August 2018, the Cabinet Division approved the draft of the new proposed Road Traffic Act 2018 with an increase in the maximum penalty to 5 years and a maximum fine of Tk.500,000 for reckless driving leading to fatal road accidents. However, if a driver is found to have voluntarily, or more specifically, intentionally killed someone in a road accident, he or she will be tried under section 302 of the Penal Code, 1860, where the maximum penalty is death sentence. Under section 304 of the Penal Code, 1860, if the causing of the death does not amount to murder due to having fallen within one of the five exceptions, it will be considered as culpable homicide, for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment along with a fine. Causing death by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide is punishable under section 304A of the Penal Code, 1860 for a maximum of imprisonment for 5 years or with fine, or with both.

Furthermore, according to the new proposed Road Traffic Act 2018, which will eventually replace the current Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983, the maximum punishment for driving without licence is to be increased from 4 months’ imprisonment to 6 months’ imprisonment and the maximum fine is to increase from Tk.500 to Tk.25,000. The penalty for using vehicles on the road without registration is to be increased from a maximum imprisonment of 3 months to 6 months and the maximum fine is to be increased from Tk.2,000 to Tk.50,000. The maximum penalty for vehicles without any fitness certificate is to be increased from 3 months’ imprisonment to 6 months’ imprisonment and the maximum fine is to increase from Tk.2,000 to Tk.25,000.

When asked about the absence of capital punishment provision, Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary Md. Nazrul Islam, who was also present at the briefing, said death sentence was not a punishment for road accidents anywhere in the world. When the new law was being formulated, it was proposed that the maximum punishment for reckless driving causing fatal accidents be raised to seven years in jail, but it fell through due to vehement protest by transport owners and workers.

Under the new law, certain new provisions have also been inserted. Unlike the existing ordinance, the new law has fixed the minimum age and academic qualification for a driving licence – one must pass Class 8 to be a driver, and Class 5 to be a driver’s assistant. One must also be 18 years of age for normal driving licence, and 21 for professional driving licence.

The new law will also introduce a 12-point system for each driving licence – a system that many countries have. For each violation of traffic rules – i.e. not using seat belts, talking on mobile phones while driving, driving on the wrong side of the road, ignoring traffic signals, racing, reckless driving, parking in the wrong place, bad behaviour with passengers, etc. – in any such incident, a driver will lose one point. Upon losing all 12 points, the licence will be cancelled.

There are also certain steps which the concerned authorities can take in order to control the number of vehicles being used on the roads. For example, fixing the maximum number of vehicles a family or organization can use, or fixing the number or type of vehicles that can run on a particular road or zone, aiming to control traffic jam.

A vital issue in order to reduce road accidents is to set fixed number of driving hours for bus drivers, especially on long routes, where tiredness or lack of concentration on the highways put the lives of all the passengers at serious risk. The authorities concerned can fix the working hours of drivers and helpers of buses, trucks, covered vans and other vehicles, which must be followed by the transport owners.

The bus owners in Dhaka have decided to put drivers on a monthly payroll instead of the current contractual payment system. The Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association on 8 August 2018 decided to execute the decision, taken at its head office in Dhaka. Secretary General of Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, Khandakar Enayetullah, speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, said: “The drivers move recklessly so that they can earn extra on an additional trip when they can. If they get a monthly salary, their mentality of rash driving will change. The payroll system has been fixed for Dhaka drivers only. The decision will be put to work from September 1 or as early as possible.” He further added “We agree with the draft of the Road Transport Act. However, it is tougher than the existing Motor Vehicles Ordinance”. The association will also monitor the new system strictly. If any owner is found violating the decision, they will face stern action from the association. “If anyone runs buses on contractual agreement from tomorrow (9 August 2018), we’ll recommend cancellation of the registration of their buses. We’ll also revoke their memberships from our association”, Enayetullah said.

With the enactment of the new law, we expect that positive changes will come in the transportation sector in light of the public interest, so that discipline and safety on the roads of Dhaka and throughout the country can be brought. However, even after the new Road Traffic Act is enacted, without a strict implementation of the road traffic law all the efforts in reducing traffic problems would go in vain.

Following an excessive number of traffic rule violation and strong protest, active measures have been initiated by the government. Assistant Inspector General of Police Headquarters, Mohammad Sohel Rana, on 9 August 2018, the 5th day of the Traffic Week which started from 5 August 2018, told The Daily Star “We fined a total of Tk. 3,11,31,698 to different vehicles for various violations of traffic rules including not having driving licenses and proper fitness certificates till today”. He further added “The traffic policemen lodged cases against 97,046 vehicles till the fifth day of the Traffic Week for violating traffic rules in six metropolitan police areas and eight ranges and highway ranges.”

“Besides, legal actions have been taken against 34, 321 drivers for traffic rule violations like driving vehicles on the wrong-side, using hydraulic horns and for not carrying proper documents with them at the time of plying on the roads. The law enforcers also seized nearly 3,255 vehicles till today,” said AIG Sohel Rana. “Traffic rule violation is an old problem in the country. Police are trying their best to improve the situation,” he added.

In addition to controlling road traffic, there are several other matters which are necessary for a safer and disciplined way of travelling through the city, e.g. making bus stops, bus lanes, establishing and enforcing rules for buses to stop on those bus lanes, launching buses of better quality and services by privatising through specific companies, taking strict legal action against vehicles which emit black smoke, taking measures for better waste management to reduce polluted and unhygienic air from garbage, introducing covered garbage trucks- separating plastic and general waste along with several other issues.

Alongside the major projects, including construction of the Metro Rail, certain initiatives regarding an early solution to the current traffic situation are being taken by the government, such as it has been announced that the Mayor Annis transport model, a plan which was made by Late Mayor of Dhaka North Annisul Huq that all private bus operators would be merged to six conglomerates, is to be launched soon, new road cleaning machines are to be launched soon along with other initiatives.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that there have been several major ongoing projects and activities carried out by the government, it always appears that the actions needed to be taken by the government through the concerned authorities isn’t sufficient enough. The main reason behind this is that our country, Bangladesh, during the comparatively short duration since independence had to and is still having to endure several political conflict and unrest, which ultimately leads to countless economic backlash. Although it is definitely upon the government to deal with all the problems by enacting new laws and enforcing those, it is also our duty, as citizens, to not only stand up for our rights but to co-operate with the government. Enforcing particular laws, especially the road traffic law, would require very strict implementation as there are many people who lack the basic understanding that risky road crossing where foot over-bridges are available, driving on the wrong side of the road, reckless driving, ignoring traffic rules, etc., but this implementation would become simpler and more effective if we utilise our self-consciousness from our part in following traffic rules and spread such understanding of necessity for compliance instead of violation along with challenging any failure by the government with constructive criticism and suggested actions required so that the opportunity to rectify such failures can properly and efficiently be dealt with.

About The Writer

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Maruf Islam Chowdhury

Barrister-at-Law (Lincoln's Inn).

Advocate
BPTC (PgDL), Northumbria University, UK
LL.M., Northumbria University, UK
LL.B.(Hons.), University of London, UK
Cell: +8801731426427, +8801974026427
E-mail: michowdhury28@gmail.com

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Barrister Md. Mahfuzur Rahman (Milon)

Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh

Editor, “Law Journal BD”