Editorial: Risky drive

The e-scooter drivers are permitted to travel on the roads without wearing helmets. What could be riskier than allowing them to do so after partaking of alcohol?

Many vehicle riders are switching to electric-scooters from mechanical scooters. These e-scooters are an alternative to expensive vehicles which run on fuel. They have come in handy particularly when there is scarcity of fossil fuel as fallout of the ‘unofficial’ blockade enforced by our southern neighbour. It is estimated that these days over 5,000 e-scooters are plying on the roads of the Kathmandu Valley. These e-scooters can be taken as a blessing, for it is very convenient to commute in the capital city on them. Furthermore, e-scooters also assist in conserving the environment by lessening the consumption of fuel-run bikes and vehicles. These e-scooters should be taken up seriously for they are contributing significantly to reducing the pollution in the valley. The e-scooters must be publicized and more people encouraged use them. Furthermore, they are less expensive as compared to the mechanical vehicles.

However,   it appears odd that the e-scooters are allowed to ply in the streets without registration and therefore without number plates that other vehicles need. Moreover, even if the e-scooters’ drivers violate the traffic rules they are often let off leniently, something the way bicycle-riders are. What harm is there if the registration of such vehicles is made necessary? Again it seems strange that people do not need a license in order to drive these vehicles. This can be dangerous because the riders may not possess the necessary skill to drive them safely and negotiate the heavy traffic with full knowledge of the traffic signs and rules. In fact, all the traffic rules required to be observed by drivers of fuel-run vehicles should apply to the e-scooter drivers. Since the e-scooters can run at a speed as high as 40 kmph they may be involved in major traffic accidents. The vehicles need to be registered with the police so that they can be recovered if stolen. Without registered number plates the e-scooters drivers can be hazardous to commuting because they could evade action even when they do not follow the traffic rules. It would also be an arduous task to nab their drivers as they are not registered. Moreover, the e-scooter drivers are permitted to travel on the roads without wearing helmets. What could be riskier than allowing them to do so after partaking of alcohol?

Officials believe that the existing Motor Vehicle and Transport Management Act needs to be amended. The e-scooters should also come under the ambit of such laws for the proper management of traffic effectively and make it safer. As of now, no serious accidents have taken place involving them but we could just be lucky. It should be essential to have driving licenses to drive these vehicles too for which they would have to pass the necessary tests as required by drivers of other two-wheelers and four-wheelers. However, perhaps, the restrictions and rules for e-scooter driving could be made somewhat less stringent than those for mechanical scooters and motorcycles. At the same time, as the e-scooters are eco-friendly, more people should be encouraged to drive them. They should also be made cheaper and more affordable by cutting taxes that are presently being imposed on them.

Uplift for jails

It is welcome news though a belated step in upgrading the prisons across the country. Prison reform includes several things, including the way prisoners are treated there and the facilities they have there, including a programme of correcting them and of imparting some kind of saleable skill to them so that they may start normal life afresh when free.

One long-felt want that the government has started fulfilling has been to build separate prisons for women; such a one was built a month ago in Jhumka, Saptari district. A women’s block is also under way in the Lalitpur-based Nakhhu Jail. Prisons in several places are being upgraded, while the 54 prisons damaged by the earthquakes are being repaired. Regarding the correction of prisoners, an Open Door Policy is in the process of being put into action. Indeed, such reforms will go a long way in easing the pressure of convicted people on the capacity of the existing prisons and providing basic conditions of living for inmates. It would also be an apt move for the government to ensure that accused people have separate women’s cells and men’s cells in police stations.