7- 13 November 2014 #731

Carnage on the highways

Editorials in three main Nepali language newspapers this week after nearly 300 people died on Nepal’s highways in one month.

Annapurna Post, 3 November

Highway accidents and heavy loss of life have become common occurrences in the country. And yet, the transport companies, drivers, and the government continue to evade responsibility for these unnatural and untimely deaths. They remain unconcerned and unaccountable.The government had mandated overnight buses to have at least two drivers. But has anyone bothered to check whether the rule is being implemented or not? The most important thing would be to make bus drivers realise that their primary duty is the safety of passengers. The Department of Transportation Management along with traffic police have not been able to educate drivers on this important factor of road safety.

Transport entrepreneurs also need to abandon their mentality that when a passenger dies, they can easily be paid off with compensation, this has encouraged drivers to be more reckless. Drivers also feel that if it is their negligence that leads to fatalities, their owners and syndicates will always bail them out.

Nagarik, 3 November

The first order of business to bring down the number of road accidents would be to change the existing laws and the government’s attitude towards highway mishaps. Unless the government puts passenger safety first, such tragic loss of life will continue to occur. Present laws and government efforts are centred mostly on transport entrepreneurs and drivers. As soon as we start prioritising passenger safety and road quality, the accident rate would come down.

Besides monitoring fares, the government has shown little interest in enforcing transportation safety. If a vehicle owner or driver responsible for a road mishaps were booked and severely punished, they would not take the lives of passengers so lightly. Syndicates which monopolise routes are another problem, preventing  willing entrepreneurs from introducing new services.

he tourist bus service from Kathmandu to Pokhara has a minimal accident record. This proves that better management can minimise accidents. Freeing our highways from the stranglehold of syndicates would immediately reduce the number of accidents. Unions, syndicates and bus committees always come to the rescue of negligent drivers, forcing families of victims to withdraw cases. And if officials stopped taking bribes, drivers would respect them more.

Controlling highway accidents should not be delayed anymore. It has already cost enough lives.

Kantipur, 4 November

Recent highway accidents have shown that the main reason for the growing fatality rate on the roads is due to reckless drivers. Not all drivers are negligent, of course, but the last few accidents have been due to the irresponsibility of drivers and bus owners. In Doti, Nuwakot and Makwanpur, drivers and owners have been driven by greed to overload buses or to drive under the influence, costing many innocent lives. The collision in Makwanpur that killed 10 passengers cannot just be ascribed to negligence on the part of the driver and bus owner, but a crime.

Both should be prosecuted. Various studies have shown that up to 89 per cent of accidents are due to driver negligence, and that is where reforms should start. Most bus drivers involved in accidents are below 30 and license distribution should be strictly regulated. A government’s job is to protect the safety of citizens, ministers should take this job seriously.

Read also:

Highways of death, Sunir Pandey

6 years of road traffic accidents, Sunir Pandey

Nepal’s highways of death