CK Lal's "The road not taken" (#122) carries an important message on the meaning of road safety in Nepal. That is why the new rule making seatbelts mandatory raises some questions about whether we understand the real problems with safety, or are we just making token gestures. Road safety is determined by the vehicle, driver, road and the environment. The passenger compartment of a car is the survival zone for vehicle occupants, and a seat belt is just one of the interior restraint components. Chances of survival are high if the occupants are trapped in vehicles and not ejected. However, it is actually the pedestrians and non-motorised cyclists who are the most vulnerable groups in Nepal. What seat belts offer to those groups is almost negligible. Accident trends in Nepal reflects the lack of road safety measures, poor knowledge of the driver, ineffective legislation and improper licensing systems. What one expects in such situation is pedestrian protection, facilitated cycling, conditioned vehicles and licensing systems that examine basic knowledge on vehicle dynamics and traffic laws. Fulfilling minimal safety requirements neither require tremendous efforts nor huge capital but strong desire, sharp vision, careful homework, strict policy and proper legislation. Implementing seat belt laws in Nepal could be a first step for the future, but is far away from the real issues of road safety.
Link?pings University, Sweden