Labor shortage hampers law enforcement

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A severe shortage of manpower in key agencies including the police is hampering the enforcement of road safety measures and leading to a continuous increase in the number of accidents in Bangladesh.

According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the government has set targets to reduce road accidents by 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). . However, a total of 5,088 people were killed in 5,472 road accidents in 2021, 30% more than the previous year, according to a police report.

Road safety organizations put forward much higher figures.

A growing number of vehicles and lack of driver awareness are also contributing to the rise in the number of accidents, experts say.

Amid the rising number of accidents, the country is set to observe National Road Safety Day on Saturday. The theme of the day this year is “Respect the law on the road, return home safely”.

The Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges and Roads has developed various programmes, including souvenir publications, debate days, a parade and a road safety campaign. Various social organizations will also organize road safety awareness events.

“We have taken various programs to observe National Road Safety Day. Our main goal is to raise awareness about road safety as many people often break the rules,” BRTA Chairman Nur Mohammad Mazumder said during a press briefing on Friday.

“While many drivers flout the rules, enforcement has also been weak due to a severe labor shortage,” he added.

Labor shortage

According to the Road Transport Act, the three main functions of the BRTA are issuing certificates of fitness after testing vehicles, issuing driving licenses after appropriate tests, and registering vehicles. These three tasks are directly related to road safety, but the BRTA has been unable to carry them out properly amid an avalanche of demands.

There are currently 125 inspectors in the country who carry out driver’s license tests and they receive approximately 500,000 driver’s license applications each year. Only four inspectors at the BRTA office in Mirpur receive more than 600 inquiries every day.

It takes about 30 minutes to complete a driving test correctly, which is impossible with the number of candidates waiting.

The BRTA also does not have enough staff to check traffic violations. They can only deploy five magistrates to monitor over two million vehicles in Dhaka city.

Drivers at fault

Professor Hadiuzzaman, director of the Accident Research Institute at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, said analysis of data from 1999 to 2021 shows drivers are responsible for 90% of crashes . Most drivers have not received adequate training.

Ilyas Kanchan, Founder and Chairman of Nirapad Sarak Chai, said, “Ensuring drivers are properly trained is most important in preventing road accidents.

He also called for the creation of a database on the number of vehicles in circulation and their state of health.

“The BRTA still cannot enforce the road transport law due to pressure from public transport owners and workers,” he alleged.

The BRTA recently drafted new road transport rules under the Road Transport Act, but the rules have not yet been approved.

Nur Mohammad Mazumder said, “Everyone should be responsible for ensuring road safety. Drivers must follow the rules and passengers must obey the law, otherwise we cannot keep the roads safe because our resources are limited.

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