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Sufferings of car owners bearing driver offenses

By Taslim Ahammad:


In Bangladesh, once accidents occur, it is a common practice for the authority to file a case against the private car owner rather than the driver who involved with it. This raises an important question: Should the blame be assigned to the car owner or the driver who is responsible for their offense/s? In all instances, the driver’s actions, such as over-speeding, lead to accidents, however, the car owners, who may be innocent housewives, mothers, or children, end up facing legal consequences. This practice raises concerns about fairness and encourages a lack of responsibility among drivers. As a holder of both British and Bangladeshi driving licenses, I have firsthand experience with the contrasting approaches to accountability in the two countries. This piece of writing explores the prevalent system in Bangladesh and compares it to the practices followed in developed or Western countries, where the driver is typically held accountable for their misconduct while driving. Hence, we can draw insights on how to establish a more just and effective system in Bangladesh.

The Current Situation in Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, traffic laws place the responsibility for accidents and traffic offenses on the car owner rather than the driver. This approach assumes that the private car owner should be held responsible for any mishaps by the driver that occur while their car is on the road. While this may appear to be a straightforward way to enforce accountability, it mostly leads to unjust penalties for innocent car owners.

Unfair Burden on Car Owners: The current system places an unfair burden on car owners, including housewives, mothers, or even children, who might not have been driving the vehicle at all when the offense occurred. It is unjust to hold them accountable for the actions of others, especially when they definitely have no control over the driver’s behavior.

Lack of Accountability Among Drivers: Knowing that the car owner will be held responsible for their driving offenses, some drivers in Bangladesh become less cautious and more reckless on the roads. This lack of accountability can lead to an increase in traffic violations and accidents, as drivers may not fear the consequences of their actions.

Impact on Road Safety: The practice of blaming car owners rather than the actual drivers can have significant implications for road safety. When drivers know that their mistakes will not affect their records or driving privileges, they certainly less interested to follow traffic rules, leading to a very higher risk of accidents.

Learning from Developed Countries: In the developed or Western countries, the principle of holding the driver accountable for their actions while operating a vehicle is very much widely adopted. This approach raises a sense of responsibility and encourages safer driving practices.

Assigning Responsibility to the Driver: A more just and effective approach to handling traffic offenses is to place responsibility on the driver. In developed or Western countries, the driver is typically held accountable for their actions while operating a vehicle. This approach encourages individuals to be more cautious and responsible while driving, as they know that they will bear the consequences of their behavior.

Implementing a Point-Based System: To establish a more equitable system in Bangladesh, a necessary approach is essential. Over-speeding and reckless driving are common faults committed by drivers, and thus, it is the driver who should be held accountable for such actions, definitely not the car owner. One effective method must encourage responsible driving is the implementation of a point-based system. Instead of penalizing the car owner financially, the driver must receive points on their driving license for each offense committed. If a driver got a specific number of points within a designated timeframe, it must lead to the suspension of their driving license and necessitate their participation in additional driving lessons or education courses, or in more severe cases, essentially result in the revocation of their license altogether.This system necessity not only promotes individual responsibility but also helps identify habitual offenders who may require stricter penalties.

The Need for Safety-Focused Enforcement: To ensure road safety and a fair system, it is essential to enforce traffic rules and regulations consistently across all vehicles, including public transportation in particular. If private car owners face penalties for minor speeding violations, the same standards should apply to public transport operators who sometimes frighteninglydrives 120/130 kilometers per hour even.

Benefits of Holding Drivers Accountable: (i) Fairness and Justice: Assigning responsibility to the driver ensures that those directly responsible for the offenses bear the consequences, promoting a fair and just system. (ii) Encouraging Responsible Driving: When drivers know they are liable for their actions, they are more likely to obey traffic rules and drive very cautiously. (iii) Reduction in Accidents: Holding drivers accountable must lead to a decrease in accidents and traffic violations as individuals become more cautious while driving. (iv) Preserving Family Mobility: By not penalizing car owners for others’ actions, families can freely share vehicles without fear of undue repercussions. (v) Identification of Habitual Offenders: The point-based system allows authorities to identify reckless drivers who consistently break traffic rules and impose appropriate penalties.

The current practice of holding car owners accountable for the actions of drivers in Bangladesh raises significant concerns about fairness, responsibility, safety and justice. Time has come, to promote responsible driving and reduce accidents, it is essential to shift the responsibility to the driver’soffence/s by themselves. Implementing a penalties or points on their driving license, similar to what is used in developed countries, must lead to a more equitable and effective approach in handling traffic offenses. Hence, shifting the burden from innocent private car owners to the actual drivers responsible for traffic offenses will not only ensure fairness but also lead to safer roads and a much more responsible driving culture in Bangladesh.

Taslim Ahammad

Assistant Professor, Department of Management Studies

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University, Gopalganj, Bangladesh