TOPICS: Rising road deaths demand urgent measures

Jeevan Karki

Nepal ranks amongst one of the high-risk countries in terms of road safety. Not surprisingl, then, Nepal has a high fatality rate from road accidents. A study reveals that road mishaps have taken a toll of about 5,000 lives between 2000 and 2005. In addition, the costs of road accidents amount to a loss of almost 0.4 per cent of the annual GDP, according to a recent study. Unfortunately, many accidents often go unreported. Only those accidents which cause significant property damage, serious injuries or those leading to disputes are recorded. If we had a precise record of all road mishaps, the damage they cause would definitely have been estimated to be much higher.

Road accidents do not just affect the victims, as is normally considered, but have a significant social, psychological and economic impact on the victims’ families. If the bread-owner of a family is killed or sustains severe injuries, then it is likely to invite huge financial crisis to the family. Other members of the family might be forced to look for employment, and even children may have to abandon their studies to support the family.

In order to reduce the number of road accidents and the losses associated with such accidents, a number of steps can be taken.

Awareness programmes, especially targeting schoolchildren and roadside inhabitants, should be conducted at regular intervals. The media should not only report the damage caused by road accidents but also enlighten the public about how to avoid them. The traffic authorities must make it mandatory for those applying for driving licences to present relevant, scientific and standardised medical reports. In fact, in view of the increasing number of road accidents, the need to standardise driving tests appears more urgent than ever.

It is also learnt that some unscrupulous traffic personnel are involved in distributing driving licenses for a bribe. Such practices must stop immediately. The responsibility of the traffic authorities does not end after erecting signposts. Many signposts, especially those alongside the highways, are in desperate need of repairs. The traffic authorities should erect signposts, warning signs and traffic lights at all places where the traffic movement is heavy. Also, the government should devise a body that regularly tests the efficiency of vehicles. Highway safety patrols should enforce traffic rules and take strict measures against drivers who flout traffic rules and regulations.

Not unlike pedestrian needs, separate lanes for cycles are also required in the capital and other urban areas of the country. Inculcating better and safer attitudes, especially amongst unruly pedestrians, might take some time, but is not impossible.

The government is responsible for effecting changes, but we also need to change our habits and take on our own responsibilities to act and drive safely. This would definitely bring down the number of road accidents that amount to huge losses, both in terms of property and lives.