Road accidents in Nepal: Are poor roads solely to blame?

Safe driving is a mixture of discipline, experience and maturity - traits young people lack. If the minimum age to acquire a driving license is extended from 16 to 20, it might help reduce the road accidents

Every day, as we scroll through the news feed or flip through the pages of a newspaper, we witness news of a road accident. After that, we curse a whole lot of people - those in power and those responsible for the poor construction of the road. But if we delve into the causes of road accidents, we'll find it's not just the government or the department associated with road infrastructure.

It's true the roads in Nepal are not safe, but driver's negligence is a key factor contributing to the high number of deaths in road accidents. Driving is a personal thing, and the responsibility for maintaining safety is more on the drivers.

Motorbikes, among others, are the most popular form of vehicles in Nepal. In developing countries like Nepal, motorbikes outnumber cars. Among other reasons, what makes two-wheelers so popular is the cost. What's more, motorbikes can maneuver themselves through the traffic congestion, which is another problem on Nepali roads. The people who ride motorbikes are mostly between the age of 18 and 40, and it is the age where one doesn't have much control over emotions and desire.

Youths in Nepal are seen riding motorbikes at a very high speed, which affects the balance required in two-wheelers. Plus, they ride fancy motorbikes that are too heavy for them. The onus is on the riders themselves to identify which particular model suits them best. It is essential for the riders to choose the model according to their physical features. In many cases, those with shorter height ride tall bikes, and it somehow leads to imbalance.

Over the last decade, the craze for motorbikes among college-goers has increased, and it is one of those factors that contribute to the high number of road accidents. Youths are driven by the desire to get special attention, and in the process, they ride at high speed without worrying about the consequences it might bring.

The minimum age to acquire a driving license in Nepal is 16 only, which tempts teenagers to show up for the driving test. Many teenagers think that driving a bike make them stylish. What they overlook is that vehicles are invented for comfort and to save time. There are cases where youngsters drive without a driving license. On learning to drive they drive on highways and busy roads. However, one might not be eligible to drive even after he passes the test.

Safe driving is a mixture of discipline, experience and maturity - traits young people lack. If the minimum age to acquire a driving license is extended from 16 to 20 or even more, it might help to decrease the number of road accidents.

The parents at home and the educational institutions should also play their roles by monitoring the youngsters. Schools and colleges can restrict students from riding until they turn 20. And parents shouldn't be in a hurry to buy their kids a motorbike or any other vehicle. The youths should be given access to vehicles only after they attain a sense of maturity.

The current trend in Nepal is that people join a driving institute, learn to drive in a week or two, apply for a license and eventually pass. They focus on just passing the trial without paying heed to the protocols required to drive on the road. The focus should be on driving properly than just passing the trial. Manypeople, among those who passed the trial, don't even know the traffic rules, or they have a tendency to neglect them.

There's a provision of a written test as well to examine the driver's ability, but it hasn't proved very effective. Those who ride bikes are seen breaking the rules time and again; sometimes they are tracked by the police while they go unnoticed most of the time. There are too few police officers to manage the traffic, which has contributed to reckless driving.

There's no effective provision to monitor the traffic since CCTVs aren't used to check if anyone is going against the rules; CCTV footage is checked just in case of an accident.

Motorbikers are always in hurry, and they overtake from the wrong side, only to go unnoticed by the concerned authority. If action is taken against those who break the rules, they will be forced to abide by them the next time they try to cross the limit.

At night, we often come across drivers who drink and drive. Since driving requires a great concentration, a slight mistake can cause severe injury or even death. The drivers themselves must be conscious of their drinking habits. If they are going to have a drink at a party or elsewhere, they can take some other people who know how to drive. That's something a responsible driver can do.

And from the perspective of the law, a person who drinks and drives must be punished and made aware so that s/he doesn't repeat it. Strict checking should be held at the checkpoints in the city areas, and enough number of traffic officers should be deployed to get hold of the culprits.

Poor road infrastructure is something that shouldn't be overlooked while discussing the deaths caused by a road accident. The narrow lanes with countless potholes are responsible for the increasing number of road accidents. There are roads where two vehicles can't even pass through. During the monsoon, especially in the hilly areas, roads are blocked for days due to landslides. The passengers face such ordeal that they opt to stay home than travel. Such is the condition of road infrastructure in Nepal.

Rather than repairing the old roads, new roads are constructed in the remote areas, leaving the people with multiple poor roads. If the condition of roads is improved, the number of accidents will decrease on its own. To develop better road infrastructure, the different government agencies - the road department and the transport department - should coordinate between themselves.

That way, we will witness less number of road accidents. However, it mainly depends on the individual and his driving skills.

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