|Volume 6 | Issue 07 | July 2012 ||
Road Safety in Bangladesh:
DR. HASIB MOHAMMED AHSAN points out the principal causes of
frequent road accidents and provides guidelines to make our roads safer
for commuters and pedestrians.
Overview Of Road Traffic Accidents
Road traffic accidents have now become a great social concern in Bangladesh and the situation is deteriorating. The annual economic wastage occasioned by traffic accidents is estimated to be in the order of 2 to 3 percent of the GDP. Each year, there are at least 3,000 fatalities and 3,000 grievous and simple injuries from around 3,500 police reported accidents on Bangladesh roads. Other sources estimated the fatalities as high as from 12,000 to 20,000 per year. Thus, the safety problem is very severe by international standards with some 60 to 150 fatalities per 10,000 motor vehicles in Bangladesh compared to around 25, 16, 2 and 1.4 in India, Srilanka, the US and UK respectively.
Motor vehicle ownership has increased steadily in Bangladesh, at present it is about 2 to 10 vehicles per 1,000 persons. However, despite large growth in the number of motor vehicles, the country's transport demand is still predominantly met by non-motorised modes, particularly by walk and rickshaws, and its level of motorisation is still far below compared to the levels of other countries, such as around 12, 25, 426 and 765 motor vehicles per 1,000 persons for India, Srilanka, UK and the USA respectively. Such growths together with other complementary urban hazards have resulted in substantial road traffic safety problems.
Potential years of life lost: Overseas research has shown that countries lose the most economically active years from road accident victims, approximately 70 percent of the 'years of life' lost due to accidents are 'working years'. It is argued that compared to the other costs of premature death in developing countries, particularly malaria and infectious diseases, deaths from road accidents appear to be increasing. The most vulnerable age group is 21 to 35 years representing the potential economic force group of Bangladesh. The situation is similar for drivers, passengers and pedestrians as well.
Fatality rate and index: The fatality rate, i.e. the number of road traffic accident fatalities per 10,000 motor vehicles, for Bangladesh is very high by international standards. The fatality index which is deaths divided by total casualties expressed as a percentage in Bangladesh is also very high, nearly 50 and one of the highest in developing countries. This signifies probably two important characteristics viz. widespread under-reporting of less serious accidents as well as the lower level of emergency medical services available to the accident victims. It is believed that fatality index depends crucially on medical facilities. In Bangladesh with present level of medical services there is little scope to provide prompt and necessary medical attention to injured people, particularly during the initial hours of an accident.
Predominant collision types: Accident type analysis showed 'hit pedestrian' as the dominant accident type (45%). Other common accident types are rear-end collision (15%), head-on collision (15%) and overturning (9%). These four accident types account for nearly 84 percent of the total accidents.
Pedestrians -- the most vulnerable group: In Bangladesh, with a low level of motorisation, the role of walk mode is quite significant. Indeed walking appears to be a major contributor to sustainable transport strategy. It is the motorists, not pedestrians, who normally receive much attention and a greater share of priority. Pedestrians deserve and need protection in the form of facilities by ensuring their legitimacy, safety and convenience. Pedestrians, being physically unprotected, are thus considered to be the most vulnerable user group and demand a priority consideration in road safety strategies.
Pedestrians accounted for 49 percent of all reported fatalities in the accident database. In urban areas pedestrians represent 62 percent of road accident fatalities. Current statistics revealed a deteriorating situation in metropolitan Dhaka, with pedestrians as a proportion of road crash deaths increasing from 43 percent in 1986-87 to 74 percent in 1998-2010. In urban areas 50 percent pedestrian casualties occur during crossing the road, but in rural areas 52 percent pedestrian casualties occur while walking along the roadside. On the other hand, grievous and simple injuries are the highest for passengers (63%).
Involvement of children in road accidents: Road accident statistics of Bangladesh revealed a serious threat to children. The incidence of child involvement in road accident casualties and fatalities are around 16 percent and 20 percent respectively. Of this fatality 78 percent represent as child pedestrians. This involvement of children up to15 years of age in road accident fatalities in Bangladesh is much higher than those in other developing countries. Worldwide, road traffic injuries are the second leading cause of death for 5 to 14 years of children. It is important to note that compared with industrialised countries, the proportion of fatalities to under 15 years of age in developing countries is approximately two and a half times higher.
Over-involvement of trucks and buses: Heavy vehicles (trucks and buses) are major contributors to road traffic accidents accounting for about 58% of vehicular involvement in accidents. Some striking features of heavy vehicles accidents are as follows:
* Involvement in all accidents 71%
Accident Locations: A large proportion of fatalities occur on rural sections of the main highways. Within urban areas, accident frequency is the highest on main road networks. There is evidence of 'clustering' of accidents at a few sites, indicating that the road safety problem may be partially addressed by site-specific treatment. Frequent accident occurring road locations on highways and hazardous intersections under Dhaka City Corporation are to be found respectively at http// www.buet.ac.bd/ari/downloads/Blackspot%20in%20National%20Highways%20of%20
Banglad sh.pdf and http//www.buet.ac.bd /ari/downloads /Hazardous%20Intersection % 20of%20DMP.pdf
Accident contributory factors
In Bangladesh pedestrian-vehicle conflicts are clearly the greatest problem with significant involvement of trucks and buses. There is a severe lack of priority and even attention given to vulnerable road user movements, despite this group of road users dominating travel patterns as well as casualty types. Vulnerable road users are much more susceptible to accidents when vehicle speeds are high and can even suffer fatal injuries in accidents with motor vehicles at moderate speeds.
Typically, the principal contributory factors of accidents are as follows: Mix of traffic with a variety of vehicle characteristics and speeds. Failure to obey mandatory traffic regulations, illegal and inconsiderate driving practices. Pedestrian/vehicle conflicts. Failure to provide and maintain road signs and markings. Failure to enforce traffic law. Lack of education of road users. Poor detailed design of junctions and road sections. Failure to provide way. Lack of lane discipline. Counter-clockwise travel at roundabouts. Non-wearing of motorcycle helmets. Failure to slow down when approaching an intersection.
Road safety countermeasures
There is specific need and much scope for road environment improvements aimed at correcting the most common deficiencies through wider application of traffic engineering approaches. It is argued that priorities be placed on the principles like traffic segregation to provide facilities and road space for the most vulnerable users particularly pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles, and to force correct road user behavior (self enforcing measures) via channelization, speed reduction measures, etc. To promote enhanced road safety, there should be programs to implement well-known engineering measures, leading to larger and longer lasting effects at less expense, widely and systematically. Measures that would achieve greater road safety (likely to also improve traffic flow) and would also offer cost-effective results are listed below.
Road and road environment improvement measures
Vehicle and traffic operation improvement measures
* Use of seatbelts and helmets
Research, Education and Awareness Development Measures
Post-Crash Care Measures
Accident Research Institute
In addition to this, ARI conducts in-depth investigations on some major accidents on different national highways. ARI organises various training programs based on database analyses, researches and investigations. For example, Heavy Vehicle Drivers' Training Program on Road Safety and Good Driving Practice (1 day Program, approximately 1,000 drivers), Training Program for Police Officers on Accident Event Recording and Reporting (1 day program, approximately 800 police officers) and Driving Instructors' Training Program (2 weeks program, approximately 80 instructors). Recently, ARI with collaboration of Dhaka Transport Coordination Board (DTCB) has arranged a five-day professional training program on Traffic Safety. ARI has taken the initiatives to upgrade its training manual for drivers, driving instructors and related professionals to Safe Driving Manual and publish it as early as possible. ARI will continue its endeavors regarding trainings and investigations depending on demand and availability of funds.
Dr. Hasib Mohammed Ahsan is Director, Accident Research Institute (ARI) and Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
© thedailystar.net, 2012. All Rights Reserved