MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
It's 7 AM at the B&B Hospital's emergency ward at Gwarko. Two motorcyclists are brought in, they are conscious but badly injured. One has serious head injury and the other has a fractured leg. The trauma centre at B&B deals with 20 traffic accidents every day, these two are lucky to have survived. Many are dead on arrival.
While aviation accidents make big headlines, road accidents have become so commonplace that most have come to accept it. But figures show that traffic accidents have now become the number one killer in the 20-30 age group in Nepal. Last year, 8,500 road accidents across Nepal killed 1,700 people, half of the accidents took place in Kathmandu Valley. B&B alone saw 50 traffic deaths last year, many of them from the newly constructed 9.14 km Kathmandu-Bhaktapur road where speeding vehicles has killed 24 people since it was opened last year.
Police say negligent drivers and careless pedestrians are the main reasons. "Driving licenses are issued without really testing a driver's capability," explains Jagat Man Shrestha of Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, "drivers forget traffic rules as soon as they pass their written tests."
"Road dividers are not uniformly placed and it is hard to see them at night, I have missed the concrete dividers by inches on several occasions," says Sajal Shrestha who commutes to work daily on his motorbike from Satdobato to Baneswor.
A big part of the problem is the complete lack of coordination on road safety between the Department of Roads (which is supposed to undertake repairs) the Department of Transport Management (which registers and regulates vehicles and driving licenses), the Traffic Police (which enforces traffic rules) the Ministry of Environment (which issues green mission stickers), and the municipality (which is supposed to oversee strategic management of roads and parking).
At the Traffic Police, Shrestha says he has neither the budget nor the authority to maintain road safety. Although driving under the influence is a leading cause of accidents, the Traffic Police has few breath analysers. Moreover, there are no laws limiting the alcohol level for drivers.
Cyclists and the city, BHRIKUTI RAI
For cyclists in Kathmandu, the path ahead is full of potholes
Compensation by accident, DEWAN RAI
It's the rule of the jungle when it comes to seeking damages after a traffic accident