Road to nowhereMajor road accidents occur in Nepal on a somewhat regular basis. Every time there is a fatal accident, the media sits up and takes notice.
Major road accidents occur in Nepal on a somewhat regular basis. Every time there is a fatal accident, the media sits up and takes notice.
Political leaders issue perfunctory condolences on Facebook and Twitter. Demands emerge for various reforms that would help reduce fatalities. But soon all this is forgotten. The next big accident takes place and the ritual is repeated all over again.
Yet another major accident took place in Dhading on Saturday. At least 31 people lost their lives and numerous others were injured when a bus fell into the Trishuli river. The large number of fatalities has meant that the accident has received very wide attention, including in the international media. A sense of shock has reverberated across the country.
Before the shock dies out, it is worth repeating what has been said many times before about what needs to be done to improve road safety in our country.
First of all, Nepal’s treacherous and mountainous terrain means that it will be extremely difficult to completely put an end to road accidents. However, there are numerous ways in which they can be minimised. Upgradation of road infrastructure is one crucial way through which safety can be ensured. The Department of Roads will have to make steady efforts towards this end in the days ahead. Nonetheless, this will be a gradual process.
To be fair, it is not only the poor quality of roads that leads to accidents. Perhaps more important is the behaviour of vehicle owners and drivers. Many drivers are reckless and impatient. In the latest major accident, the driver in question is said to have consumed alcohol during his dinner at Lalbandi; survivors say he started speeding up and driving very carelessly thereafter. He fled from the accident and is still to be located.
Moreover, the owners of commercial vehicles such as buses and trucks do not invest in the maintenance of their vehicles. Many commercial vehicles are old and of very poor quality. This problem is exacerbated by transport syndicates which work to keep out new entrants from their industry. They actively collude to prevent people from buying and using better quality vehicles so as to prevent competition. Syndicates also use various methods to resist government regulation, ranging from protests to pressuring political leaders.
It would be of great service to the population if the government’s regulatory agencies ensure that drivers are well vetted before being given licences, that reckless driving is punished, and that transport businesses follow certain guidelines in ensuring the quality and maintenance of vehicles.
There should be steps to create a dedicated body to oversee transport businesses at the Department of Transport Management. Only if the government takes active steps to identify the key reasons as to why there are so many accidents in Nepal, and then implements strong regulations to address them, will it be possible to improve road safety in Nepal.