Beer and loathingSustained government intervention through MaPaSe has proven to be a worthwhile investment
Lining the streets of Kathmandu around surprise check points every night, breathalyser-wielding officers clad in blue have made their expectation to the Nepali public clear: Drinking and driving will not be tolerated under any circumstances. This was especially clear on New Year’s Eve when the traffic police booked 1,817 motorists for various violations. Officers issued 217 tickets for drunk driving, 189 for violating lane rules, 131 for using pressure horns, 133 for parking haphazardly, 31 to taxi drivers for refusing to use the meter, and the rest to two-wheeler drivers riding without a helmet and those not having their documents in order. On a night that is typically clouded with drunk driving accidents and fatalities, not a single death was reported in the metropolis.
The strict implementation of the traffic police’s anti drunk-driving campaign, popularly known as MaPaSe, has helped significantly to reduce the number of fatal accidents in the Valley. This systematic intervention and the many efforts to sustain the campaign since it began on December 3, 2011 are impressive and have produced tangible differences. In the first year of the campaign, the traffic police booked 39,667 people. Since 2011, the number of critical road injuries has come down 60 percent and the number of fatalities 6 percent
Clearly, the MaPaSe campaign is one of the most successful programmes of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division. The sustained campaign and diligent prosecution of drunk and reckless drivers have made the roadways safer for all. Because of the traffic police’s strong surveillance, the Valley only saw 31 minor accidents on Monday evening, according to the traffic police. Clearly, this shows that government intervention to ensure safer roads is a worthwhile investment.
Over time, auto accidents have become one of the gravest risks to public safety in the country. Reports of road mishaps continue to make headlines at an alarming rate. And it is not only the poor quality of the roads that leads to accidents. Perhaps more important is the behaviour of vehicle owners and drivers. As the MaPaSe rule has shown, people become fearful of the law when the government consistently takes strict action against wayward drivers and those who do not comply with the rules. It has also instilled a sense of responsibility among drivers. With the knowledge of surprise ‘mandatory checks,’ many behind the wheel think twice before ordering alcholic beverages.
But more could be done to support the efforts of the police to sustain their campaign. According to the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, 80 percent of the breathalysers that are currently being used in the metropolis are not working properly. The traffic police have since claimed that many of the breathalysers they carry do not detect alcohol intake. In Sub-Inspector Siddhi Ganesh Shah’s words, ‘They have just become a showpiece.’
To carry out their duties, many traffic police officers have had to resort to the archaic method: Getting (perhaps too) close and smelling the driver’s breath for any stench of alcohol—an undesirable and unhygienic strategy for both officer and rider. To ensure that officers can continue carrying out their valued efforts, the department should be given the financial resources to acquire more equipment.