The Jatri Kalyan Samity (Passenger Welfare Association, popularly known by the acronym JKS) certainly helped to greet the New Year with some cheerful news, didn't they? Most people probably hadn't flipped their calendars yet, when along came the news that JKS had released their 8th annual report on Road Safety in Bangladesh, and this year's numbers are worse than anything they have ever reported before.
According to the annual accident observation report of the JKS accident monitoring cell, that was released on the second day of the year - an eye-watering 9,951 people were killed in road accidents in Bangladesh in 2022. If you include the rail and waterways, the number does cross 5-figures, clocking in at a whopping 10,858 killed. A further 12,875 suffered injuries. While JKS already stated that the numbers in this year's report are the worst they've dealt with since entering the field in 2014/15, it is notable that this is, in point of fact, the highest casualty figure ever reported by any domestic watchdog at a single event for annual casualties in accidents. And believe me, we are just getting started.
International agencies paint a worse picture of the road safety situation in Bangladesh.
With only 0.5% of the world's vehicles, Bangladesh had around 25,000 lives lost on roads in 2019, according to a report by the World Bank. The information was revealed in a 2019 World Bank report, titled "Guide for Road Safety Opportunities and Challenges: Low- and Middle-Income Countries Country Profiles".
Based on the information from 2016, the country accounted for 24,954 deaths that resulted from road accidents. This goes on to say that around 15 deaths occur in every 1 lakh population in the country due to road crashes and related accidents.
Besides, deaths from road accidents are the seventh top cause of death for Bangladeshis.
The World Bank report also added that 15-64-year-olds make up 67% of road crash fatalities and injuries. Moreover, the ratio of male to female fatalities is 5:1 and the 15-49-year age group is the most vulnerable to fatalities. Our domestic advocacy groups, interestingly, steer clear of this data, concentrating instead on incidence of road crashes. While that does tell us something for sure, in order to really tackle the problem we probably need richer, more penetrating data sets at our fingertips, that only the likes of JKS, or the Road Safety Foundation (RSF), or Elias Kanchan's Nirapad Sarak Chai (We Want Safe Roads) can provide.
To produce positive road safety outcomes, strong management in all aspects of road safety is key. The World Bank recommends the presence of a funded lead agency to guide the national road safety effort and implement a Safe Systems approach. Bangladesh has a lead agency present, National Road Safety Council (NRSC), under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, which isn't funded in the national budget but has a road safety strategy which is partially funded. The functions of the agency include coordination, legislation and monitoring and evaluation of road safety strategies. The country previously only had a fatal road safety target, to reduce fatalities by 50% with a timeline of 2011 - 2020. Needless to say, the target was never met.
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