Efforts to make Bhutanese roads safe is very much welcome. The draft road safety and transport Bill has already been floated for public review and feedback.
Vehicle numbers have been growing, particularly in bigger towns like Thimphu and Phuentsholing. At the same time, poor road discipline and other issues related with driving have been deteriorating causing inconveniences and threat to the general public.
According to reports hundreds of drivers take to the roads without licence. Call to attention to the dangers of such unhealthy practices on our roads has finally been heard. In the days ahead, we can expect some major changes in the ways rules and regulations are implemented so that driving becomes less cumbersome and risky.
Going by the available figures, between July 2015 and June 2016, 86 people died due to motor vehicle accidents. According to RSTA records for the month of January, close to 500 road users were found driving without a licence and other necessary vehicle documents. At the same time, 107 road users were fined for drink driving. Speeding, alcohol, and not wearing of seatbelts are some of the leading causes of accidents and road deaths in the country.
The draft Bill focuses notably on institutional set up and mandates of the agencies concerned. This should result in efficient implementation of road rules and regulation. Among other measures, the Bill has a new chapter concerning alcohol, narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. It forbids a person to drive, operate or ride a motor vehicle or a machine if the level of alcohol or narcotic drugs in the blood exceeds 0.08 grams per 100 millilitres. If a person is driving taxi, tourist vehicle, medium or heavy vehicle with any concentration of alcohol or narcotic drugs in the blood, he or she cannot continue to drive. The vehicle will also be held and the driving licence seized.
There is also significant revision of offences and penalties. A person who drives carelessly and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property shall be guilty of reckless driving. Nu 50,000 fine is a significant rise, but it is a measure that could help improve our road discipline.
We applaud the agencies that have worked on the draft Bill. Where our focus must now lie is on implementation of the rules.