Unruly roadsThe govt and public both need to work together to reduce accidents
A lot fewer public vehicles have been plying the roads across the country due to the ongoing fuel shortage. Millions of commuters have thus been forced to adjust to the dire circumstances by traveling in overcrowded public vehicles. Many are even opting to sit on the roofs of buses, a now common sight in the Capital and outside. Although this constitutes a severe violation of traffic rules and is extremely dangerous, because of the fuel crisis the police have decided to ignore safety issues such as this for a while.
Still, the issue of road safety is not one to be taken lightly.
According to a government report, the Nepal Road Safety Action Plan (2013-2020), Nepal has one of the highest road-fatality rates. The country sees 17 accidents per 10,000 vehicles, which is a higher rate than, for instance, China’s and most of South-east Asia’s.
And although it would not be wise to compare Nepal’s record with that of developed countries, we can at least learn from them that when a country puts its mind to it, it is possible to make the streets safer. Sweden, for example, adopted a ‘Vision Zero’ plan in 1997 to eliminate road accidents and injuries completely. With proper planning and implementation of traffic rules, low urban speed-limits, separate designated lanes, additional pedestrian bridges and zebra-stripes bordered with flashlights, the Nordic country was able to drastically reduce its road accidents. Since 2000, the country has reduced its road fatalities by half.
To be fair, the Nepal government does have some traffic rules in place. But it is the implementation that has been a problem, as has been starkly evident during these trying times.
Even in times of normalcy, the traffic in the cities around Nepal seems a world of chaos. Vehicles drive above the prescribed speed limit, overtake others from the wrong side and cross lanes without first signalling their intent. The pedestrians too have come to accept this almost rule-free environment and their jaywalking has one too many times led to accidents. Thus, both drivers and pedestrians alike must be taught to follow traffic rules.
The government has in recent years come up with measures such as the Ma Pa Se protocol, the widely hailed anti-drinking campaign, which has helped to curb drunk driving. If the authorities can carry out initiatives such as the drunk-driving ban so successfully, then they can obviously make improvements to traffic conditions in the country.
Besides beefing up the infrastructure from the bare-bones one we have in place right now, the government must also make a push to inculcate road manners among the greater population. We can start with the minor proscriptions—disallowing drivers from talking on the phone, forcing the pedestrians to use the zebra crossings and overhead bridges, and enforcing the speed limit.
Simple things like that should get the ball rolling.