VIOLATING traffic rules has become a common practice for many in Dhaka due to lax of traffic law enforcement. This is not making the roads unsafe and also worsening the traffic congestion. An online survey was conducted where people were asked about what they felt were the most common traffic rules that were violated and the common traffic offenses that were committed for which the roads in the city are becoming unsafe.
Traveling in the wrong-way or opposite direction was identified as the main traffic offense committed in Dhaka by the respondents. A report on this was also published in The Daily Star on September 2nd. Research shows that head-on collisions due to wrong-way accidents are more likely to result in fatal or serious injuries than other types of road accidents. This is why in many countries driving or riding in the wrong-way is considered as a serious traffic violation and offenders are penalized heavily to. Other than posing a serious safety threat, wrong-way traveling also results in serious traffic congestion.
To prevent vehicles from traveling in the wrong direction a few months ago the traffic police department installed a device near Kakrail. During the installation the traffic police department informed the public that gradually the device would be installed in other parts of the city as well but the device became dysfunctional within a few days after installation. Now nothing is known about the status of this traffic device such as whether the device would be repaired, modified and then installed again or whether the police have abandoned the idea of using the device.
The second most common traffic offense that is committed in Dhaka according to the respondents was illegal on street parking. Illegal on street parking reduces the capacity of a roadway. During peak hours illegal on street parking may not only create bottle-neck but also grid lock in the nearby area resulting in serious traffic congestion.
According to the demand of roadways, the capacity of the road network in Dhaka is insufficient. Hence, during most of the day the roads in most part of the city remains clogged. The illegal on street parking worsens the situation even more.
To prevent illegal parking traffic police in cities around the world generally provide parking tickets, tow vehicles and put clamps on wheels. To prevent illegal parking traffic police in Dhaka do provide parking tickets and tow vehicles but compared to the number of violations the number of offenders that are penalized are too little.
The third most common traffic offense identified by the respondents was violating traffic signal. Violating a traffic signal or running a red light is also considered as a serious traffic offense in many countries as the consequences of this offense may result in fatal collisions. Offenders are penalized heavily in many countries. To catch motorists running red light many cities around the world have installed red light cameras.
Most often motorists violating the traffic signal get away with it in Dhaka. This results in collisions and also traffic congestion. Lack of manpower, lack of proper vehicle, tools and technology are a prime reason why the traffic police are not able to catch traffic signal violators.
Speeding and driving recklessly is the fourth traffic offense that is committed in Dhaka identified by the respondents. Speeding and reckless driving is an issue in many countries as it is the main reason for traffic fatalities. Tools such as speed guns and cameras are used in many countries to catch motorists speeding and driving recklessly.
Speeding and driving recklessly can be blamed for many of the road accidents in the capital but the traffic police department here lacks the necessary tools and technology to prevent this traffic offense.
The other traffic offenses that are committed very often according to the respondents are public transports loading and unloading passengers in the middle of the road, driving unfit vehicles, driving without a valid license and minors driving illegally. From various news reports it is apparent that these traffic offenses are also a major reason for road accident in Dhaka. These traffic violations can be very easily prevented if the traffic police department becomes stricter in enforcing the traffic laws.
The traffic police department has always cited that lack of manpower is the main reason why they are not able to penalize traffic offenders. The unemployment rate among the youth is increasing in the country. The traffic police department may consider increasing their manpower by hiring more youths into their force. This will make it easier for them to enforce the traffic rules which will make the roads safer and reduce congestion. In addition, it may also help to lower the unemployment rate. The government may also consider providing more financial support to the traffic police department to acquire tools and technology to catch traffic offenders.
The writer is Transportation Engineer working in Thailand.