Road Accidents Existing Transport System Must Change
A series of recent road accidents have made the common citizen to believe that travelling on Nepali roads is one of the most trying experiences. The series of accidents are ample proof that road safety provisions are not effectively adhered to in the nation.
Within a month, more than 55 persons have died in accidents, in which two buses and one passenger jeep were involved. Two buses carrying passengers fell from the roads, killing several passengers and injuring many more on the Narayangarh-Mugling road and in Kavre. Even as the nation was mourning the deaths of the Trishuli bus victims, a jeep fell several hundred metres from the road, killing 11 and injuring several others, suggesting that Nepali roads, mostly those that pass through the mid and high hills, pose great danger to the life of the innocent passengers.
These are but some of the major road accidents, apart from air mishaps and small accidents taking place in the cities and towns where people on motorcycles, scooters and other small vehicles face risks from other vehicles as the traffic rules are frequently broken by the drivers and riders of especially the two wheelers.
Accidents have been taking place with such frequency that Nepal has become one of the most dangerous countries for travelling. Clearly, the basic reasons for the growing number of accidents in the nation are poor implementation of the traffic rules and poor condition of the roads and vehicles of all hues and stripes.
Majority of the accidents in Nepal take place on roads that pass through the mid-hills. As the roads passing through the hills are tortuous in nature, they require very skilled and confident drivers to ply their vehicles. On most occasions, while probing into the deadly accidents, the driver has been at fault.
In the case of the recent Narayangarh-Mugling night bus accident, the police say the mishap occurred because the driver had either tried to overtake another vehicle or had fallen asleep while driving on the most difficult road section, damaged by the recent rains. In the case of the Kavre accident, the old bus was packed with passengers and loaded with goods. As the bus was going over a hill road, it could not climb up and slipped. The helpless driver jammed on the brakes to hold the bus from dragging itself downwards only to see the bus veer off the road. In the Arghakhachi jeep mishap, the driver had failed to negotiate a sharp turn, and, as a result, the jeep fell from the road, killing 11 persons.
The three recent accidents suggest that experienced and skilled drivers are needed to drive on Nepal’s hill roads. The existing system of granting easy licenses to drivers should, therefore, be amended and made stringent. The drivers must be granted permits to drive a bus on the hill roads only after he/she completes a certain age and have enough skills and confidence as well as experience. The provision of having two drivers on long-haul night buses should be strictly enforced while the condition of such buses should be scrutinised on a regular basis by the concerned authorities. The passenger buses and jeeps should not be allowed to carry goods while those carrying goods should not be permitted to carry passengers.
While talking about stringent rules for granting licenses to the drivers of night or long haul buses, the scene at the zonal transport management department is not that soothing. A visit to the Bagmati Zone Transport Management Department will reveal the real situation at the department that controls and regulates the licenses of drivers.
On the other hand, it is alleged that the tests and trials for licenses taken by the Traffic Police Department is also not up to the mark. While the tests taken to grant licenses to two wheelers and small cars are satisfactory, the tests for heavy and long haul vehicles need reform so that the drivers of such vehicles are tested to the full before they can lay their hands on the steering wheel.
The license distribution system needs an overhaul. The Transport Management Office and Traffic Police Department are often accused of having officials who are in close nexus with the rackets that provide licenses to the hopefuls who can’t pass the tests and trials or who have no time to appear in these tests in return for a few bucks. There are allegations that licenses do come to people’s homes if they are willing to shell out a certain amount of money. The prevalence of counterfeit driving licenses in the nation can be gauged from the fact that the driver of the ill-fated Kavre accident bus possessed one.
With road accidents taking place on a daily basis, the government has now brought out new rules that will revoke the licenses of reckless drivers for good. However, the effectiveness of this rule will take place only if the government is capable of neutralising the pressures from the powerful bus operators’ committees that operate bus services under the infamous syndicate system. Under this system, the existing operators do not allow new operators to enter a route, thus curtailing the rights of the people to opt for buses that offer them better services.
Indeed, the prevailing syndicate system has proved to be a scourge to the passengers. The system has compelled the passengers to travel on whatever types of buses they are offered by the operators. The buses pressed into services by the syndicates to the different routes are often poor in shape. Yet the government so far has not been able to take action to end the existing syndicate system in the transport sector.
There are many big groups or entrepreneurs who want to enter the transport business with their new sleek vehicles, but the members of the syndication do not allow them to enter the lucrative routes.
Indeed, the nation will continue to witness many more road accidents in the days to come if the concerned authorities cannot implement short and long-term road safety measures. These measures are necessary to change the existing transport services in the nation. The road accidents are an indication that the existing public transport service system is in a pathetic condition and is in need of change.