EDITORIAL: Road safety

It is high time govt recognised road safety as an issue and implemented strong regulations to curb road accidents and save lives

Two major road accidents have occurred in a span of less than two weeks — one in Nuwakot and another in Dang — with death toll crossing 40. On December 14 a mini-truck carrying over 40 persons fell some 400 metres below the road in Dupcheshwor Rural Municipality in Nuwakot. Twenty people died. On December 21, a bus carrying students and teachers veered off a road in Dang, killing 23 people, most of them were aged between 16 and 20. Road accidents along the mountainous roads have become common in Nepal — in majority of cases vehicles falling off the roads — and fatalities are very high. Every time a major road accident occurs, the stakeholders express concern and talk about measures to be taken to curb road crashes. Then talks slowly die down only to emerge after another major road accident.

There are some frightening figures that come from roads in Nepal. 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. The major causes of road accidents in Nepal are negligence on the part of drivers, speeding, poor and congested roads, haphazard overtaking, overload and old vehicles. Driving along the treacherous mountainous roads is a challenge and a poorly maintained vehicle carrying passengers more than capacity simply increases the chances of a fatal crash. In the name of development, new roads are also being built rapidly and haphazardly, at times without carrying out proper studies. In some areas, passenger vehicles are allowed to ply the tracks which are not suitable for them.

That said, it will be wrong to say only the poor condition of the roads leads to accidents. Owners of the vehicles, especially the commercial buses and trucks, rarely invest in proper repair and maintenance. Then there is carelessness/negligence on the part of drivers. Reckless driving — speeding and haphazard overtaking — is common, while drivers often tend to drive overloaded vehicles, carrying more passengers than capacity. And this is not possible without the support of law enforcers. Traffic cops deployed along the highways to keep tabs on vehicles and drivers often tend to ignore the condition of the vehicles or whether they care to carry more people than capacity in return for a few hundred rupees. There certainly are traffic rules and regulations, but their implementation has been poor, due largely to corruption. All in all, the major causes of road accidents in Nepal have already been identified. It may be impossible to completely end road accidents, but fatalities can be drastically reduced if the government and its agencies work in tandem and adopt a holistic framework to ensure safe transport system. Roads play an important role in a country’s development, but failure to maintain them and the vehicles plying them can be costly. The government must recognise road safety as an issue and implement strong regulations to curb road accidents and save lives.

Take legal actions

As per the rules of the Department of Transport Management, all taxi drivers should run their taxis on fare-meter. But very few of them follow the rules. Whenever it comes to providing taxi services to a few kilometres from a city centre, taxi drivers often demand three times the fare-meter or fare of both ways. Most of the cabbies are found to have run without the mandatory computer billing system. This is a perennial problem faced by commuters in the Valley.

One of the best ways to control this problem is that the customers must immediately lodge complaints with traffic police if a taxi driver refuses to provide service on fare-meter or tries to fleece them. On the other hand, the government should also provide enough parking spaces to the cabbies so that they do not bear the loss of fuel and time just for finding a parking lot. There are more than 10,000 taxis registered in the Valley, where there are only 400 taxi stands. Whatsoever the reason, the cabbies cannot fleece the customers. The traffic police must take legal actions against those who cheat the passengers. Rule of law must prevail to build a civilised society.