Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA) officials Sunday observed the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims in Thimphu. It was, besides remembering the many millions of road traffic victims throughout the world, a sobering moment to reflect on some of the inherent issues that help to make our roads one of the biggest killers.

We can and must acknowledge the crucial work of emergency services; call or draw attention to legal response to culpable death and injuries; call for better support for road traffic victims and victim families, but these alone will go only some way in addressing some of the biggest problems in the system that we have built over the years.

Over the period of four years—until June 2021— we saw 4,446 accidents and 382 road traffic-related deaths. This is an alarming number. What we know, with pain, is that these deaths could have been prevented. It is in this perspective that the remembrance day, themed “Act for Low Speeds”, assumed special significance and gravity.  

It called on us to look deeper inside and impelled us to act—with great speed—to make our roads and driving safe. That means promoting evidence-based actions to prevent further road traffic deaths and injuries.

According to RSTA, the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic adversely affected the authority’s targeted outcome achievement. But then, thankfully, due to Covid-19 pandemic and travel restrictions, we seem to have also experienced fewer road traffic deaths—73 between July 2020 and June 2021 compared with 109 between July 2018 and June 2019. Even in these challenging times, the Authority was able to conduct road safety awareness to 2046 drivers, traffic officials, and de-suups between July 2020 and June 2021.

RSTA has finally come up with Road Safety and Transport Regulations (RSTR) 2021 which will supersede the 20-year-old RSTR. It is expected to come into force from January 2022. This is a significant stride in the right direction but we will need more than RSTR to get a grip on our road traffic-related fatalities.

The new regulation will certainly bring about much-needed clarity but what is important is that we need to ensure strict and uniform implementation of regulations across the country. We also need better roads. Otherwise, we would just be observing World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims year after year forgetting the increasing numbers of lives lost to road traffic accidents.