Driving on wrong side yet to be stopped

Tanim Asjad | Saturday, 27 May 2023

One of the main reasons for traffic chaos in Dhaka is wrong-side driving by a section of motor bikers, rickshaw pullers and drivers of CNG-driven auto-rickshaws and battery-run three-wheelers. Day by day the erratic behaviour of the drivers of these vehicles is growing. They are driving on wrong sides of the roads, rushing from the opposite directions and driving on footpaths. All these have already reached a sickening proportion.
The wrong-side drivers, mostly the motor bikers and rickshaw pullers, don't care anyone and some even turn violent if others make any protest. Their attitude is that they are not breaking any societal or safety rule by driving on the wrong side or in the opposite direction on the roads. As an increasing number of people are now trying to find shortcuts even for problems with easier solutions, it is reflected in the wrong-side driving on roads and streets. In this process, many are also compromising not only on their own safety and security, but also putting others at risks. So, the problem of wrong side driving seems incurable.
On the busy main roads, the traffic police sometime try to book a few of the offenders. Most of them, however, enjoy free ride under the very nose of law enforcers. Due to a lack of effective implementation of traffic law, the bad attitude is gaining currency with impunity. To address the problem properly, it is necessary to understand the reason behind the wrong side driving. Most of them do this to save a few minutes while some, especially the youths, take it as a demonstration of bravery. So, the law enforcer needs to catch the offenders randomly and confiscate their keys first. Instead of imposing fine, the keys may be kept for a few hours before returning to the drivers. Or the police may lock the vehicle's wheel for a few hours. If applied strictly for a couple of weeks, the trend of wrong side driving will witness a drastic fall. The traffic police are used to take away the seats of rickshaws driving on wrong side. It is an old practice which is effective to a large extent.
The problem with such measures is that it will enhance the workload of the traffic police especially during the rush hours. It will also require an increased number of police staff. Moreover, discriminatory application of the steps will make things less effective and create public disappointment. Thus, the measures may be temporary.
Another effective way maybe the use of camera technology. As it is not feasible to install CCTV to cover entire road and street networks, some innovative approach may work. Dashcam may be encouraged on all four-wheelers. These cameras will help catch the video picture of wrong-side and reckless drivers. Moreover, people may also be encouraged to install specially designed mini-camera in their mobile phones. The camera should be able to capture the photo of number plates, faces and vehicles clearly from a long-distance. Anyone can now capture the photos of offenders and send it to the police online. There will be no identification of the senders to protect their privacy and security.
Though the above measures may be applicable for motor vehicles, what about the non-motorised of semi-motorised ones? Deployment of additional manpower to check these vehicles is not a solution. Conducive walking atmosphere along with free walkways should be ensured so that people can reduce the use of these vehicles at a short distance.
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