At least five people were killed when a jeep carrying wedding attendants crashed in Dhanusha on Saturday. Nine other people were seriously injured in the crash. The tragic incident came a day after a schoolgirl was crushed to death by a roller in Dhangadhi. In a similar traffic accident, four police officers were killed on 21 November while returning to their offices after delivering ballot boxes in Patan, Baitadi district. In the Kathmandu Valley, minor traffic accidents in which one or two people die are an almost daily occurrence. Same with the rest of the country. If we consider the number of deaths from all traffic accidents, Nepal has one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world. Government statistics show that on average, more than 2,500 people are killed in traffic accidents each year and thousands more are injured, many of whom end up permanently disabled. Looking at this figure, more than 25,000 people died in traffic accidents in Nepal in the past 10 years. That is far more than the lives we lost in the decade-long armed Maoist insurgency. Often not considered are the social and economic costs of these accidents. These costs are too high, as accidents involving death or serious injury affect not only the family members involved, but also the national economy of the country. This should ring alarm bells for concerned government agencies.
With the exception of Humla, all 77 district headquarters are now connected to the road network. This makes life easier for people living in rural areas. But at the same time, roads, often built with poor engineering, cost us too much in terms of innocent lives lost in these accidents. The main reasons for increasing road accidents in Nepal are poor road conditions, mechanical condition of vehicles and overcrowding of passengers. Experts have called for better road works, especially in hilly areas, to avoid traffic accidents. Despite relatively good road conditions, road accidents are common even in urban areas. Road accidents resulting in one or two fatalities are very common in the Kathmandu Valley and other urban areas. Lack of adequate knowledge of drivers, passengers and pedestrians, as well as serious violations of traffic rules are the reasons behind the alarming increase in road accidents in Nepal. Although traffic police have been taking various measures to curb road traffic accidents, the number of road traffic accident deaths seems to be increasing in recent years. Therefore, it is time for relevant government agencies including traffic police and road departments to take active measures to curb these accidents.
In most cases, road accidents are caused by reckless driving and poor road conditions. The Department of Roads (DoR), which maintains national roads, needs to ensure that road conditions are improved in a timely manner, and roads under construction are not open to public traffic unless they are in good condition. There have been complaints that roads, especially in rural areas, are being opened to the public before actual construction work has been completed. As the responsibility for maintaining roads has been devolved to three levels of government, DoR as part of the federal government needs to ensure effective coordination with provincial and local governments in this regard. There is still a lot of work to be done on the part of the traffic police, they should adopt a zero tolerance policy on drunk driving, maintain lane discipline, provide counseling to drivers and make it mandatory for long distance public vehicles to have at least two drivers as per 58th Annual Report of Auditor General of Nepal 2020 As pointed out, the traffic police also need to strengthen the supervision of driving licenses and prohibit vehicles with unqualified machinery from being on the road. It is also necessary to work on improving road works and regulating traffic pressure before it is too late.