Road Safety and Transport Authority’s target to reduce road accidents and fatalities by 50 percent by 2030 is to be lauded. Although road accident figures have been improving over the year—1,470 in 2019; 811 in 2020; 745 in 2021—more needs to be done because road fatalities are preventable.

Between 2010 and 2021, road accidents claimed 1,151 lives. Human error remains the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents.

According to the Authority, improving road safety with a focus on reducing the number of deaths and injuries is its “Decade of Action” goal. “While motor vehicle accidents are unpredictable, most road crashes are preventable.” Safety regulations, sensitisisation and awareness regularly will be key which the Authority is preparing to roll out. In the last three years, the Authority provided road safety education to more than 14,000 people.

But perhaps more important is to understand the factors and trends in road crashes and traffic violations. Advocacy and awareness programmes can then be tailored to address specific needs.

Among the many interventions that are likely to come include enhancing traffic signages, road markings and early warning of road conditions in collaboration with the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, Royal Bhutan Police and local governments. Such collaboration can certainly bring marked improvement in safety standards and driving discipline.

It has been observed that by drink-driving, speeding and unlicensed or inexperienced driving and phone use are the major issues that contribute to a large number of road accidents in the country. Drug tests for drivers, pre-departure and post-arrival inspection of passenger buses, and frequent highway inspections to strengthen enforcement of safety regulations will go a long way in improving safety. More important, though, is the implementation of more stringent measures to change the “driving culture” among our people.

Besides the obvious above-mentioned factors that lead to fatal accidents, it is our roads and their conditions that contribute significantly to the growing number of road accidents. While the Authority place greater emphasis on improving safety standards, regulation, education and compliance, the issue of bad roads must also be brought to the fore. We may do well to remind ourselves that difficult roads lead to difficult destinations; bad roads don’t always go to good places.