EDITORIAL: Deaths on roads

Despite sharp rise in number of accidents and deaths, we are still too slow to recognise road safety as an issue

Road accidents are a major cause of death among all age groups and the leading cause of death among people aged 15 and 29, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The number of people dying on the world’s roads is about 1.3 million, with the highest road traffic fatality rates in low-income countries, says the UN body, which calls road traffic injuries “an important public health problem”. Nepal in recent years has seen a sharp rise in number of road crashes. At least 29,258 cases

of road accident were reported in the last three years, according to Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) statistics. As many as 497 people lost their lives in the road accidents and as many 258 youths died over the period on the Valley roads. According to traffic police data, people aged 17-35 are more vulnerable to road fatalities. These are some frightening figures from the roads which are of grave concern.

The top three causes of road accidents in Nepal are negligence on the part of drivers, speeding and drunk-driving. Poor and congested roads, haphazard overtaking and old vehicles are other causes of road accidents. On Friday morning, 13 people were killed and 10 injured when a bus met with an accident at Humin of Rambha Rural Municipality in Palpa district. In Nepal, road safety has not received as much attention as it should, despite the number of road accidents, fatalities and injuries rising by the year. It’s not that the country lacks regulations. Traffic police’s drive against drunk-driving has been hugely successful, which, along with helmet use, a WHO status report says are the two areas where Nepal has made significant progress. That said, road fatalities are yet to come down significantly. There is a rule for helmet for two-wheeler drivers in place, but the pillion riders do not wear one. In case of accidents, pillion riders are the victims on most of the cases. The country also has seat belt rule, but it is applicable only to the drivers.

As Nepal continues to motorise, road safety needs even more attention to prevent road crashes and save lives. Concerns have already been expressed over the ongoing expansion of the Ring Road in the Capital, which many say can easily become the road to early grave. The plan to develop the road as the “expressway” has already met with criticism. With no proper safety measures and lack of zebra crossings and overhead bridges for pedestrians, this expanded road could become a cause for more deaths and injuries. There is a need to adopt a holistic framework to ensure safe transport system for all road users. One of the targets of the UN sustainable development goals is halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020. But we are still too slow to recognise road safety as an issue. Members of the public must be educated and made aware of road safety issues. Concerted and sustained campaigns must be carried out to drive home the message that better discipline and awareness can significantly help in reducing road crashes and saving lives. We must recognise road safety as a major issue and awareness of it has to grow fast.

Selecting the needs

Local level units are now busy selecting development programmes for the fiscal year 2018-19 as the deadline to hold rural and municipal assemblies is fast approaching. While presenting fiscal budget estimates of the federal government in Parliament on May 29, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada outlined principles of disbursing budget to the local levels considering the distribution of population, human development index, condition of infrastructure and local needs, among others. Based on these criteria, a local level unit is entitled to get minimum Rs 100 million in terms of financial equalisation and conditional grants and other revenue sharing.

Narphu Rural Municipality in Manang, for example, is entitled to minimum Rs 79.2 million in terms of equalisation and conditional grants. It will also get additional fund in the form of value added tax which will be determined later. All the local level units should identify the suitable programmes that cover maximum population and help in uplifting the condition of living and create conducive environment for income generation activities locally. They also need to select programmes limiting to the directives recently issued by the federal government.