Are we responsible and sensitive citizens? Do we feel an emotional attachment to our fellow countrymen? Well, this introspection is nothing about being judgmental. These are questions that graze the mind whenever a new road accident is reported by the media with all its gruesome details.
While the above may sound very dramatic, a little bit of sedate contemplation would help to comprehend the situation better. It would provide the mental framework to empathize with the hapless souls who perished in road rages for no fault of their own. The disabilities caused by unfortunate accidents, causing life-altering consequences to such people and their families.
Accidents on the road are not only about them, about those who are on the road, driving the car, bus, jeep or truck, but it is also about us, about our family, loved ones, and acquaintances, as accidents don’t differentiate between us and them. It is not the government, the police, the enforcement authority who can make the roads of Bangladesh safer for travel; it is us, individuals who can do it.
In around August 2018, the death of two schoolchildren by a speeding bus in Dhaka caused widespread anguish in the country and the protests resonated as far as London where college and university students from the Bangladeshi community came out in protest and demanded greater regulation and stringent punishment against careless driving. It is this feeling of oneness that can cause change to happen.
Admitted, it is the responsibility of the government to provide safe roads, good street lighting, and other infrastructural support to the people of Bangladesh. At the same time it is the responsibility of the people of this country to show the world that despite being a low-middle-income group country, the people of Bangladesh abide by rules, regulations and are compliant with road safety needs, at-par with high-income European countries.
As per statistics recorded by WHO, Bangladesh registers 13.6 deaths per 100000 population and this is way above that of European countries, where deaths are below 5. If people remain committed to their roles in the road-transportation cycle, the figures are bound to improve.
The police need to enforce the law, drivers must show the maturity to wear seat-belts, helmets and abide by traffic signals. Over-speeding and drunken driving must be strongly discouraged by family members and loved-ones of people sitting behind the wheel. Failure to curb instincts of over speeding and drunk driving by drivers must be dealt with firmly by the enforcement authorities. Awareness campaigns on a regular basis can help people appreciate the dangers of road accidents.
One of the prime grievances of the agitating students in London, (in the incident mentioned above), was about the attitude of the government, the general apathy towards the wellbeing of the people. It hurt sentiments and caused a rift in the trust level of the younger generation. It is here that the Government can reach out to the youth.
In fact, just after that particular accident, the youth movement for road safety took wings. The youth took to the streets with catchy slogans and vociferous protests. This is the right time for the government to reach out and build a relationship of trust with the youth brigade, seeking their help in addressing the issue of road safety. In this context a very apt quotation from veteran English cricketer, Ian Botham acmes to mind. He said, “You will attract the younger generation and they might well prove tougher than the older generation. What we are trying to do is to look at the future and see what we can do to bring some stability back to people’s lives.”