As per the estimation by the World Health Organization, over 21,000 deaths occurred from road crashes in Bangladesh in 2015 with road traffic crashes equating to an estimated 1.6 per cent loss to the nation's GDP. The number of reported traffic fatalities per 100,000 population was 2.1048 in Bangladesh in 2013 (with 3,296 reported traffic fatalities and a population of 156,594,962). Furthermore, most affected families are driven into poverty from the loss of a family member who was a source of earning. BRAC's road safety programme identified key areas in Bangladesh where communities are exposed to risk of road accidents. These communities live very close to or beside the major highways. As part of engaging the communities, the programme activated several campaigns to raise awareness and help develop a sense of ownership of its own road safety.
Community road safety
In 2000, the government of Bangladesh requested BRAC to complement its efforts to improve road safety in the country. In 2001, BRAC decided to fullfill this request, both for the sake of the country and to protect its staff and programme participants. We chose to build road safety awareness, partly because of the insufficiency of road safety education in the formal education curriculum and the provision of information being passed along via word of mouth. Our approach was to involve the local communities, build their road safety capacity and road safety ownership, because our organisational experience has taught us that local ownership of development initiatives is crucial for achieving the desired outcome. As community road safety education is relatively new in the world - especially in developing countries, BRAC is a pioneer in community road safety initiatives in Bangladesh.
In 2003 BRAC was approached by UK’s Transport research laboratory (TRL) to carry out an action research project in community road safety education. By consulting local communities on their road safety problems, causes, solutions, preferred methods and messages for builing awareness, we designed a community road safety programme. The pilot project was done in partnership with TRLat Betila, and the project was very successful in making pedestrians aware of safe walking and crossing rules. This was the genesis of BRAC's road community road safety initiative and since then, (in consultation with local communities) BRAC has been improving the programme and have created new components while customising it to the needs of the particular communities.
BRAC Driving School
The road safety related skills and attitude of drivers are huge factors determining public safety on roads. BRAC Driving School was started because there was a lack of good training facilities for in-service drivers, driving instructors, and novice drivers.
BRAC Driving School, a modern driving school in Bangladesh, was launched in 2012 by BRAC’s road safety programme. Earlier in 2011, in a meeting of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), a decision was made that BRAC will take up a driving training project to train driving instructors and provide road safety training to in-service drivers considering the dismal state of drivers training in the country. After that, BRAC with the technical support of Hubert Ebner (India) Pvt Ltd prepared training materials and conducted the training of trainers (TOT).
Advocacy: Promoting Safe Road Code project
Together with BRAC's advocacy for social change programme, the road safety programme has also worked on an advocacy project called 'Promoting Safe Road Code’. In this three year project (2013 – 2015) it was proposed that a safe road code would be drafted in consultation with relevant stakeholders and experts to be promoted afterwards. This code would describe important rules and regulations which should be followed by all road users. However, during the project the government of Bangladesh designed and considered new traffic laws (RTA), after which the safe road code was held redundant by BRAC. As a result, instead of the safe road code, the great importance of road safety in general was promoted. BRAC also organised some national level discussions to improve the proposed road traffic act (RTA). Another major activity was conducting a research on road safety carried out by Power and Participation Research Center (PPRC). A higher goal of the project was to create an enabling environment for the road safety programme. As communities, local and national policy makers, other authorities, and service providers such as the BRTA have been sensitised on and mobilised for road safety, future activities of the road safety programme can receive more support.