Let’s get the basics right. Follow the traffic rules and improve our road behaviors. Road safety is everyone’s responsibility
The other day, I was punished for breaking the traffic rule for the first time in my six years of riding. The traffic at Singhadurbar-Bhadrakali road section was stagnant and kept stretching toward Bhadrakali temple when I reached there on a hot afternoon. As others were waiting in the queue, I impatiently moved toward the junction driving in the opposite lane. By the time I reached in front of Nepal Telecom building, the traffic police in the sky-blue shirt at the gazebo had already signaled a ‘go’ toward the Supreme Court. Hurriedly, I returned to my lane preventing myself from getting too close to the sight of traffic police. As I was about to pass the crossing, a traffic police came out of nowhere and stopped me.
Trying to save a few minutes I ended up losing the entire day going through all the procedures before I was cleared to retrieve my driving license.
One hour class
Along with minimum of five hundred rupees fine, those not adhering to their respective lanes are given a one-hour class on the need to follow traffic lanes as per the rule. And I had to sit for this too. After paying the fine I came to join the long queue at the registration window beside the main entrance. Unlike on the roads, everyone was waiting for their turns and seemed quite patient there. “What’s your father’s name sir?” asked a cop from inside the window. “Ramesh”, I reached close to the grill and replied quietly. I was engulfed with guilt and felt ashamed to give out my father’s name. Not a good thing to get him involved.
The class started at 3.15. The room was almost full. Before the video was played, I quickly counted the heads; there were sixty-two offenders. From old to young, offenders from different age and profession came under one roof to be reminded and warned of something that they have known for long but not taken seriously. Later, I found that majority of motorists were repeat offenders. I wondered how someone can repeat unforced offenses such as lane rule violation, drink-driving—disregard for traffic signals.
This one hour class was a rude reminder of how impatience and negligence to follow traffic rules could lead to serious consequences. They showed a 32 minutes long video that had clips of scary accidents of Kathmandu roads and heart-sinking interviews of crash victims. The class for me was an eye-opener and it helped me develop a sense of responsibility inside.
Safer road users
There are several underlying causes that make our roads lethal. Rapid motorization, rash driving, mix of road users, drink-driving, faulty vehicles, bad road conditions, lack of human resources are some of the factors behind alarming number of road accidents and fatalities in the country. However, importantly, responsibility for preventing traffic accidents and injuries lay with road users and ‘being careful’ is the best way to predict and prevent road accidents. Disciplined and educated road users can help make our roads safer thus ensuring healthy lives, promoting well-being and making city inclusive, safe and sustainable.
The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, officially proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2010, seeks to save millions of lives by focusing on five major subjects also known as ‘pillars’. ‘Enhancing the behavior of road users’ is one of the five pillars of the action plan. Activities under this category focus on developing comprehensive programs to improve road user behavior. Sustained enforcement of laws and standards, combined with public awareness and road safety education will help improving the behavior of road users, pedestrians, cyclists and others.
Road accidents have been labeled as ‘hidden global epidemic’ and are leading cause of mortality and disability in less developed countries. Road crashes, the ninth leading cause of death globally, claim about 1.3 million people around the world every year. Scores of people are dying every month in road accidents in Nepal. According to a police report, Nepali roads on average are taking five precious lives daily.
The violation of traffic rules is rampant on our roads. As many as 1600 motorists are caught violating traffic rules daily as per the police record. Be it public buses or private vehicles, at many instances, the drivers behind the wheels are found to be the main culprits for causing accidents in Nepal. Sheer violation of road safety rules in the highways continues to take many innocent lives across the country.
Time to intervene
Effective interventions are required to address issues related with road system. From policy making to educating road users through campaign, awareness programs and public discourses the government and concerned authorities must take urgent actions to reduce the accidents. However, responsibility lies with each and every one of us. As individuals the best we can do to prevent road accidents and mitigate the road risks simply by following the traffic rules and being responsible and respectful toward fellow road users. We often blame poor road conditions, ineffective and inadequate surveillance system for causing frequent road accidents. We also accuse the government of being complacent about road safety but we are equally culpable. When it comes to making a little effort from our side, we seem to be doing very little. We should get the basics right: Follow the traffic rules and improve our road behaviors. Road safety is everyone’s responsibility.