Fatal road accidents have become very frequent on a 34-kilometre stretch of the Dhaka-Sylhet highway in Brahmanbaria district, turning it into a deathtrap.
At least 123 people died and 144 others got injured in 137 accidents on this part of the highway in the past three years, according to Brahmanbaria highway police.
Commuters and local people attributed such recurring accidents on this particular portion of the highway to reckless driving, unskilled drivers, rampant plying of unauthorised and low-speed three-wheelers, presence of frequent and sharp bends, and illegal structures adjacent to the highway.
Data revealed by the Brahmanbaria highway police say 44 people died and 31 got others injured in 53 accidents on this patch of the highway in 2017.
In 2018, as much as 32 people were killed and 46 got injured in 31 accidents, while in 2019, a total of 47 people were killed and at least 67 others got injured in 53 road accidents.
According to sources, there are eight to 10 risky bends on this portion of the busy road that falls in Ashuganj, Sarail and Bijoynagar upazilas.
Among these, the Ashuganj roundabout, the bend near Titas Bridge at Shahbazpur, and the ones at Bhoishamora, Rampura, Chandura, Birpasha, and Khetabari areas are the riskiest.
The roads department has fixed a speed limit for vehicles while crossing these turns but the drivers do not often abide by the instruction, causing frequent accidents in these areas.
Meanwhile, around 200 structures have been erected illegally on both sides of this part of the highway. Highway police said there is no scope for building any structure on 30-metre area from a highway.
Some passengers who frequently use Dhaka-Sylhet highway said drivers of larger vehicles often start a competition among themselves to overtake each other. As a result, some of them lose control over the steering while crossing the turns at high speed and ultimately face accidents, causing deaths and injuries.
Sadekul Islam, president of Brahmanbaria district unit of Nirapad Sarak Chai movement said that the sharp bends are a major cause of road accidents.
"We, on several occasions, have urged the authorities concerned to simplify the turns to reduce the rate of accidents. We have also recommended designating separate lanes for small and low-speed vehicles on the highway. But those recommendations have not been implemented yet," he said.
"Implementation of these suggestions is urgent for making the Dhaka-Sylhet highway safe," Sadekul Islam argued.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of Brahmanbaria District Bus-Minibus Owners Association Mohammad Hanif said that the risky turns and the movement of three-wheelers are mainly responsible for the recurrence of accidents.
Refuting the allegation of appointing unskilled drivers, he said, "No owner gives his vehicle to an unskilled driver."
He, however, accepted that accidents may sometimes occur due to the negligence of drivers.
Mohammad Moinul Islam, officer-in-charge of Khatihata highway police station said, "Raising awareness among drivers can bring down the rate of accidents."
"We are not allowing three-wheelers to get onto the highways. We have been continuing all-out efforts to establish discipline on the road. To that end, we have been holding regular discussions with transport owners and drivers. We have been advising the drivers to abide by the specific speed limit for a particular area," he noted.
Asked about the faulty design of the highway that led to a number of risky bends, Shamim Al Mamum, executive engineer of Brahmanbaria Roads and Highways Department said, "A project has been taken up to elevate Dhaka-Sylhet highway to a four-lane one.
"The work will start when the acquisition of land is complete. Then the turns will be simplified."
He added that regular drives for removing illegal structures by the highway are also going on.