The number of fatalities and injuries in road accidents in Bangladesh raised alarm bells again during the recent Eid holiday, when motorcycle accidents increased by more than 40% compared to 2021. According to a Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) circular, currently, 36 lakh (3.6 million) motorcycles are registered, while the number of driving licenses is 23 lakh (2.3 million) only. This means that a staggering 13 lakh (1.3 million) people ride bicycles without a licence.

In reality, road safety has increasingly become a global concern, caused by ever-increasing road connectivity, motor vehicles and vulnerable road users. Last year, the UN launched its second Decade of Action for Road Safety (2021-30) through its Global Road Safety Action Plan. The United Nations General Assembly will review the progress of the implementation of the action plan on June 30 and July 1 this year in New York, while waiting for all heads of government and ministers concerned to participate and commit to to act. In response to UN action, the Global NGO Alliance for Road Safety, comprising 300 non-governmental organizations around the world, is leading collaborative actions to push country-level action to improve road safety. At home, the government of Bangladesh is finalizing a first-ever stand-alone road safety project for which the World Bank has approved $358 million. Brac, a member of the Global NGO Alliance, officially handed over the UN Global Road Safety Action Plan to the Government of Bangladesh, and BRTA has meanwhile incorporated the plan into the draft Action Plan national strategy for road safety 2021-2024.

The United Nations SDGs, together with the Global Road Safety Action Plan, aim to reduce the number of road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030. Underlining this goal, the Global Road Safety Alliance Road Safety NGO launched a week-long campaign from May 16-22. , 2022, ahead of the UNGA session. The campaign launches a global call: “Safe Mobility is Our Right”.

The alliance is advocating for the implementation of the entire Global Road Safety Plan with particular emphasis on some specific targets during this week’s campaign.

Speed ​​30km/h: A proven solution

The number one contributing factor to road accidents is unregulated speed. Numerous researches, studies and practices have already established that a speed limit of 30 km/h in an urban configuration with a mixed traffic environment can greatly contribute to saving lives.

The World Health Organization concludes that an increase in the average speed of 1 km per hour leads to a 3% higher accident risk and a 4 to 5% increase in the number of deaths. Studies show that when struck by a vehicle traveling over 30 km/h, pedestrians are at a significantly higher risk of death, which puts the young and old at even greater risk. In Tanzania, the 30 km/h speed limit has been shown to reduce road accidents by up to 26% and has now been extended to 50 high-risk school zones. In Toronto, Canada, road accidents dropped by 28% after speed limits were reduced from 40 km/h to 30 km/h in 2015. The Colombian capital, Bogota, also introduced traffic zones. 30 km/h in its speed management plan, reducing the number of road deaths by 32%. percent.

Slowing circulation also has significant health benefits. It helps reduce traffic noise and promotes the transition to active lifestyles through walking and cycling. The social interactions that people have on the street are also important for improving collective well-being.

Road safety requires investment

To establish safe road communications, many issues encompassing both hard and soft aspects, such as development of safe road infrastructure, safe vehicles, effective enforcement of road safety regulations, education and awareness , are necessary. To address these long-term aspects, sustainable investments are essential. But the issue of road safety is underfunded and Bangladesh is no exception. The primary responsibility for financing road safety activities rests with national governments. Sources of sustainable financing include central government allocations, local government allocations, road user charges, private sector insurance levies, government insurance surplus, use of traffic fines and social impact bonds.

Bilateral and multilateral development agencies, banks, multinational corporations and businesses can contribute to road safety efforts by ensuring the integration of road safety into development and corporate social responsibility activities. They also have an obligation to ensure that road safety provisions are guaranteed as part of any development and CSR support provided.

Role of NGOs in promoting road safety

Overall, there is considerable expertise among NGOs that can help fill important gaps in different areas of road safety. NGOs can also work with the government to implement policy measures. NGOs and academics work together to generate evidence in risk analysis and find effective and sustainable solutions. NGOs advocate for road safety, take initiatives to change behaviors, engage deeply in communities and support policy development by increasing evidence and bringing grassroots perspectives to the table.

As more and more non-state actors become active in road safety in Bangladesh and around the world, the scope of collaborations with government is increasing. It is imperative to use this reach to curb the increase in road accidents and the resulting casualties.

Ahmed Najmul Hussain is director of the road safety program in Brac.

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