Not a day goes by when we don’t hear of road accidents in Nepal. According to The World Bank report; every year more than 1.17 million people die and another 50 million are injured in road accidents around the world. Although road accidents are happening all over the world, the rate of death in Nepal is very high i.e. 7 to 8 deaths every day on an average. In the last one month, more than 100 people lost their lives in road accidents, which is quite incomprehensible. The responsible factors of accidents are vehicle design, speed, road structure, road environment, drivers’ skills or lack of it and the behaviour of the drivers. According to Lum and Reagan 57 per cent of road accidents are due solely to driver factors, 27 per cent to combined roadway and driver factors, 6 per cent to combined vehicle and driver factors, 3 per cent solely to roadway factors, 3 per cent to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2 per cent solely to vehicle factors and 1 per cent to combined roadway and vehicle factors.
Immediate safety measures are to be developed and implemented to bring down the rate of accidents. The most important method to bring down accidents is strict enforcement of the speed limit. Speed limit violators are to be imposed with heavy penalty acting as an important and effective deterrent factor. More than 90 per cent of accidents are caused by high speed driving. Similarly, severe punishment is to be given to those who cause accidents.
Accidents in Nepal occur because of the deficit in road infrastructure and negligence of the driver. Negligence of drivers could be corrected by imposing strict penalty on safety rules violation, and this could also be done through motivation and safety education. Major accident areas like Krishnabhir on Prithivi Highway should be scientifically analyzed and infrastructure improvement should be brought immediately. Krishnabhir has been one of the major accidents areas since years, but it is surprising that not sufficient improvements have been made to improve the safety situations. Roads should be straightened/widened wherever required and visibility of road is to be improved. In hilly roads, visibility is very poor. Medians should be constructed in roads with two way traffic to avoid collision between opposite moving stream and side bars should be constructed (as on Bhaktatpur road) to prevent vehicles from skidding off the roads. Roads should be equipped with proper signs and traffic signals. Roads need to be properly maintained. Cracks and potholes on roads should not exist, because many accidents are caused when the driver tries to avoid such potholes and cracks. There are chances of vehicles skidding-off when avoiding cracks and potholes.
Obtaining a driver license is not a big deal in Nepal as well as the method of testing for obtaining license which is not scientific. Two wheeler licenses are obtained after successfully crossing five erected poles and for four wheelers license is obtained after a successful crossing of a T-shaped structure. Does this test ensure sufficient skill of driving on roads (urban and highways)? Certainly not, this test needs to be upgraded and also be tested on the roads. The driving test should be more stringent and foolproof.
The drivers need to be tested on traffic regulations too, which is still missing. For instance, observation on roads clearly reveals that more than 70 per cent of the drivers don’t use sidelights while turning and changing lanes. Most of them do not use this because they are not aware of usefulness of side lights and some because of negligence.
Helmet should me made mandatory for two wheelers drivers as well as pillion riders and drivers should be taught to maintain safety distance while driving. Safety awareness is another important tool to reduce road accidents. Safety awareness should begin from childhood because it is difficult to impose awareness to grown up people but if such awareness is provided at childhood, then safety becomes a habit.
Condition of vehicles should be strictly checked periodically to ensure that the vehicle is in a good condition to be driven. Eyesight should be tested periodically and use of spectacles should be enforced when required. Driving under influence (DUI) is another major cause of road accidents in Nepal, and, therefore, license should be cancelled immediately for such violations. Another major cause of road accident is vehicles exceeding their load capacity. If passengers are found traveling on the roof of the vehicles, then the drivers as well as such passengers should be strictly punished. In such condition, the license of the driver should be cancelled immediately.
The government of Nepal should bring safety programmes and implement them and improve the road infrastructure in major accident prone areas. There is a popular traffic slogan “Road safety is no accident”, so if all road stakeholders act responsibly and follow road safety instructions, road accidents will fall dramatically.
Gajurel is Transport and Traffic Consultant