Friday, 3 December, 2021

Road Discipline


Anish Ghimire

A regular traveller, driver, or any pedestrian walking on the roads of Nepal will hang their heads back in disgust at least once a day. The crowd, the traffic, and the rush of this bustling city will get on the nerves of many people. There is little doubt that the flow of vehicles has been increasing every single year. The roads will only get crowded and the traffic will only increase from this point.
In the chaos of swift-moving vehicles and people who are always in a rush, maintaining road discipline can be tough. But such is the urgency of this discipline that we must sustain it to sustain our lives and the lives of others.

So, what is road discipline? The meaning is in the term itself. It is to be disciplined while walking or while driving on the road. Sound simple enough? I don't think so. In the Parsa district of Nepal, according to The Rising Nepal, six people died in 60 road accidents in the first four months of the fiscal year 2021/22. In those accidents, a total of 93 vehicles, including 39 motorcycles were involved. In light of such incidents, the police inspector stressed organising various awareness programmes about road safety to somehow minimise the casualties. Nepal has one of the highest rates of road traffic fatalities in the world. According to government figures, 2,500 people are killed in road accidents every year on average, while thousands more are injured, with some of them suffering severe disabilities. What could be the reason for such embarrassing numbers? Well, there are several reasons.

In my view, the two main reasons are a violation of traffic rules and an attitude of no patience. People rarely follow the rules of traffic. They do not drive under the speed limit. They forget to switch on or off the sidelight. A large number of people park in no parking regions. They honk the horn unnecessarily, overtake from whichever side they prefer, and as I mentioned earlier, they have no patience. Drivers try to squeeze their way through every opening without letting pedestrians or other vehicles pass. Everyone wants to reach out first. No one wants to leave the way for other vehicles. The patience on the road is zero. Especially the local vehicles, their bus stop is called "wherever I'd like to stop" There is no bus stop for local vehicles. Passengers can wait for the bus wherever they like and the bus driver will stop the bus wherever he/she thinks is right. Whom to blame here? Also, the local vehicle drivers drive in a rush. Such haphazard driving puts everyone on the road at grave risk. Such a risk is better not taken. And if any grave consequences occur, we can only regret it later thinking it could have been avoided so easily.

It’s not only the driver’s fault when we look at the overall situation of our roads other factors come to light. Like I said earlier every passing year the roads are getting more crowded. What that means is more traffic, more accidents. The rate of accidents is increasing rapidly as the flow of vehicles has also been increasing annually. The alarming rate of increase in road accidents can be attributed to the poor state of roads, traffic congestion, vehicle mechanical condition, overcrowding of passengers, lack of adequate information on the part of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, and widespread violations of traffic rules. With each passing year, not only the number of victims, but also the number of road accidents has increased, owing mostly to negligence on the part of the authorities, drivers, transportation entrepreneurs, passengers, and pedestrians.

The concern of concerned authorities in this matter has looked very thin. So many roads of Nepal are yet to be built properly. And those completed must be maintained. An effective way to manage the crowds, to manage the parking, to build bus stops, and to practice strict rules and regulations seems urgent here. Otherwise, at this rate, the casualties on the road will only exceed. The data of the last five years reveals some tragic numbers; a total of 46,712 road accidents which killed 11,945 people. That number is very alarming in itself. For such a small country like Nepal, to have these many people die from road accidents is a huge issue.

Few changes in habits from the riders and the pedestrians are in need here. Many pedestrians do not look both ways before crossing the road. Many people do not pay attention to where they are going. A proper check is vital before stepping on the road. And from the riders, on a two-way road, it should bring down the high beam light so that the vehicle on the opposite end can pass easily. The high beam light crashes into the eyes of the driver coming from the opposite direction making him go sightless for a few seconds, in such a few seconds an accident can happen. The driver may not see someone crossing the road, may rear-end another car, or worse, may not see a big hole in the road. So, with proper awareness, a driver should drive carrying a feeling of mutual co-operation. Drivers on the road will have a safer time if they complement each other. So, a selfless attitude seems to be necessary to maintain road discipline.

If people get their traits right and concerned authorities get their concentration right, then the casualties can be minimised drastically. With that being said, there is relevant data here that provides a pathway to improvement; according to a World Bank report, Nepal will need to invest an additional US$879 million in road safety measures over the next ten years to halve the current trend in road fatalities. Both air pollution and road casualties can both be tackled if a better initiative is taken to smoothen the road infrastructure of Nepal. The plan is there, the budget is there, the time is here, we're just waiting for the day when the plan takes its stronghold.

(Ghimire is a university student)