The recent mishap at Jumja, Chukha where two young lives were lost has shuddered the people.
The Thimphu–Phuentsholing highway, which sees the highest volume of vehicular traffic remains the most accident-prone road in the country today. With landslides routine, loosened boulders roll off the hill crushing vehicles and passengers to death. The foggy weather at this time of the year makes driving along the highway a painful experience.
We all become wise after the event. Questions are raised on road safety and we lament about how risky the country’s roads have become. What we do not see happening are measures being taken to make accident-prone areas safer. For landslide prone areas where falling boulders are common, why are no efforts made to build infrastructures that will make the hills sturdier? In places that remain shrouded in fog, why have we not installed fog lights and reflective stud marks on the roads?
Given the country’s terrain, our roads are not safe. But the geography is not enough to not make the roads safer. When we are able to source funds to cut roads through the mountains, we should be able to do more in making the roads safer. Travel advisories are issued only when roads are blocked. Road safety authorities that are aware of the road conditions have to be more proactive in alerting commuters of the risks. What they are doing today is good but not enough.
Social media platforms have made the state of our roads and cities more visible than ever. Road users are among the first to share information on motor vehicle accidents and roads blocks across the country. While technology has empowered the people to inform each other of the happenings in the country, we are also seeing users becoming insensitive with their posts.
Photographs of the children who died in the Jumja accident are already circulating on social media. In April, a photograph of the newborn baby that was thrown out of a hotel window in Phuentsholing also went viral. With police and health officials being the first to respond and to reach any crime or accident scene, there is a growing perception among the public that they may have been responsible in leaking these photographs.
These are worrying developments.
We are not doing enough to save lives on the roads. We are not letting the survivors and the families mourn their deaths. This is becoming the narrative of modern Bhutan.