In January 2024, road safety advocates in Bangladesh celebrated the government’s call for the development of a new and comprehensive Road Safety Act. The milestone came on the heels of a recent national election. Both the ruling and opposition parties had included the development of new road safety legislation in their manifestos.

For several years Bangladesh has reported a continued increase in total traffic crash deaths and injuries, particularly among youth and young adults. The official data from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority reports there were 4,636 road traffic deaths in 2022. However, an estimate by the World Health Organization is several times higher, with 31,578 deaths in 2021. In 2018, parliament passed the Road Transport Act, following a student-led protest for safer roads after two students were run over and killed in Dhaka. Although the law was implemented in November 2019, it failed to incorporate leading road safety best practices. The new Road Safety Act is meant to include the missing safety provisions.

Shariful Alam, PhD, Bangladesh coordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator’s (GHAI’s) Road Safety program, tells us more about how the Bangladesh Road Safety Coalition’s advocacy led to this milestone.  

1. What led to the need for a new Road Safety Act in Bangladesh?

    The 2018 Road Transport Act was a first step toward addressing road safety issues, however, it was missing several key safety issues, including safety of the vulnerable road users, infrastructure considerations, vehicle safety, and post-crash management, along with a lack of focus on the safe system approach. The new comprehensive law will focus on the safe system approach and include all safety measures that will lead to saving lives on the road. The Bangladesh Road Safety Coalition was instrumental, directing evidence-based advocacy efforts toward policymakers to foster understanding and support for a comprehensive Road Safety Act. During the past three years, members of the Coalition have persistently seized every available opportunity, both collectively and individually, to mobilize decision-makers and policymakers in support of this legislation, with the aim of enhancing the road safety landscape. Moreover, the recent escalation in road crashes, injuries and fatalities, along with the associated economic costs and strain on the healthcare sector, has empowered road safety advocates to gain momentum and exert influence on decision-makers.

    2. What is the Safe System approach in the context of road safety

      The philosophy of the Safe System approach in road safety encompasses several key principles. One crucial aspect is ensuring that road infrastructure and its surroundings are forgiving of human error. This means that while humans may make mistakes, the road environment or system should be designed to protect them from fatalities and serious injuries. A Safe System includes having safe road users, safe vehicles, safe speeds, safe roads and post-crash care—in an integrated manner. Another essential principle is recognizing that humans have a limited capacity for absorbing shocks. This concept comprises various components, including the design of vehicles, road layout, speed limits and enforcement measures.

      3. Which of the coalition’s advocacy efforts were key to engaging decision-makers and the public in support of a new Road Safety Act?

        The Coalition skillfully developed relationships with the ruling and opposition parties by leveraging its members' personal and professional connections. They organized several meetings with key political leaders and government officials to share recent data and make the case for a comprehensive road safety law. These efforts resulted in the inclusion of the enactment of a new road safety law in the recent election manifestos of both the ruling and opposition parties. Subsequently, upon the formation of the new government, the Government of Bangladesh promptly issued an official order to establish a drafting committee for the comprehensive Road Safety Act.

        4. What are the next steps for the development of a new Road Safety Act?

          The Coalition formed an internal drafting committee tasked with providing input to the government drafting committee appointed by the Road Transport and Highways Division.

          I represent GHAI alongside the organizations BRAC, Accident Research Institute and NiSCha as part of the government-formed drafting committee, offering technical support and guidance. Drafting of the law began in February and is expected to be completed by June 2024.

          Moreover, Coalition members continue to engage with policy and decision-makers at all levels to sustain momentum, while also facilitating the exchange of evidence from global standards and contexts. This collaborative effort ensures that the proposed legislation aligns effectively with efforts to enhance the road safety landscape.

          5. What challenges does the Coalition foresee in connection to the new Road Safety Act?

            While coalition members are optimistic about progress, they remain mindful of potential challenges that may arise from various vested interest groups, including transport owners, laborers and importers associations. The owners' associations may argue that stringent road safety laws will increase their operational costs significantly. For example, implementing safety measures in vehicles, such as installing speed governors or safety belts, requires a significant amount of financial investment. On the other hand, the laborers' associations express concerns about potential job losses if the implementation of road safety laws leads to a decrease in the number of vehicles on the road or stricter regulations on vehicle maintenance. For example, if older vehicles are banned due to safety concerns, this could impact drivers and workers involved in the transportation sector. These groups could pose obstacles to the coalition's efforts to achieve its goals.

            6. Are there additional issues that the Coalition will prioritize in the coming year?

              In addition to advocating for the enactment of a new road safety law, the Road Safety Coalition is strategically planning to prioritize speed management and helmet use guidelines, along with their effective enforcement. A crucial aspect of our agenda involves advocating for the establishment of an independent road safety authority or board. This entity would play a vital role in implementing the road safety law and fostering coordination among relevant stakeholders.


              Representatives from the Bangladesh Road Safety Coalition, led by the National Heart Foundation, convened a meeting with the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Following discussions, DGHS consented to send a letter urging the Road Transport and Highways Division to proceed with the enactment of a new Road Safety Law.

              Following the national election held on January 7, 2024, representatives from the Road Safety Coalition Bangladesh convened a meeting with Mr. A B M Amin Ullah Nuri, Secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division. Coalition members emphasized the urgent need for the Secretary to expedite the enactment of a comprehensive road safety law.

              Bangladesh DGHA Meeting Jan 2024
              Representatives from the Bangladesh Road Safety Coalition, led by the National Heart Foundation, convened a meeting with the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Following discussions, DGHS consented to send a letter urging the Road Transport and Highways Division to proceed with the enactment of a new Road Safety Law.

              Bangladesh Coalition with Secretary of Road Transport and Highways
              Following the national election held on January 7, 2024, representatives from the Road Safety Coalition Bangladesh convened a meeting with Mr. A B M Amin Ullah Nuri, Secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division. Coalition members emphasized the urgent need for the Secretary to expedite the enactment of a comprehensive road safety law.

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