At least five people were killed in Dhanusha when a jeep carrying attendants of a wedding ceremony met with an accident on Saturday. Nine others were critically injured in the accident. This tragic incident comes a day after a school girl was killed by a roller in Dhangadhi. In a similar case of road accident, four policemen were killed while returning to their office after delivering ballot boxes in Patan of Baitadi district on November 21. Minor road accidents involving fatality of one or two persons are an almost daily occurrence in Kathmandu Valley as well as other parts of the country. If we take into account all the deaths caused by road accidents, Nepal has one of the highest death rates caused by road accidents in the world. Government statistics show that on an average more than 2,500 people are killed in road accidents every year and thousands of others are injured, many of them ending up as permanently disabled. To put this number in perspective, more than 25,000 people have died in road accidents in Nepal in the past 10 years. This is far more than the lives we lost in the decade-long Maoist armed insurgency. What is often not taken into account is the social and economic cost of these accidents. These costs are too high as the accidents involving death or serious injuries do not only impact the family members concerned, but also the country’s national economy. This should raise an alarm bell to the government bodies concerned.
Headquarters of all 77 districts except Humla are now connected to the road network. This has made life much easier for those living in the rural districts. But at the same time, the road built often with poor engineering is costing us too much in terms of innocent lives lost in these accidents. The main reasons behind the growing number of road accidents in Nepal are attributed to the poor condition of roads, mechanical condition of vehicles and overcrowding of passengers. Experts have called for improving road engineering, especially in hilly regions to avoid road accidents. Despite relatively better road conditions, road accidents are common even in urban areas. Road mishaps that involve death of one or two persons are very common in Kathmandu Valley and other urban areas. Lack of adequate knowledge on the part of the drivers, passengers and pedestrians, and rampant violation of traffic rules are attributed to the alarming rate of increase in road accidents in Nepal. Although traffic police have been introducing various measures to curb road accidents, the number of road fatalities seems to be growing in recent years. Thus, it is high time the government bodies concerned including traffic police and the Department of Roads took proactive measures to curb these accidents.
In most cases, road accidents are caused due to reckless driving and poor condition of roads. The Department of Roads (DoR), which is responsible for the maintenance of national roads, needs to make sure that the condition of roads is improved well on time and the roads under construction are not open for public vehicles unless they are in proper condition. There are complaints that roads, especially in rural areas, are open to the public even without completing the actual construction works. As the responsibility to maintain roads has been delegated to three tiers of government, the DoR, which is part of the federal government, needs to ensure effective coordination with the provincial and local governments in this regard. Much needs to be done on the part of traffic police, who should adopt a policy of zero tolerance towards driving under influence, maintain lane discipline, provide counseling to drivers and make it mandatory for long-distance public vehicles to have a minimum of two drivers as pointed out by the 58th annual report of the Auditor General of Nepal in 2020. Traffic police also need to step up regulation of driving licenses and prohibit mechanically unfit vehicles on the road. It is equally necessary to work towards improving road engineering and regulating the traffic pressure before it is too late.