Bhutan’s roads are becoming increasingly dangerous. The number of vehicles has drastically risen over the years, choking our narrow roads and, there has been corresponding growth in the number of population, especially in towns and cities. The consequence is that it is becoming more and more unsafe for both pedestrians and drivers to negotiate through the streets.

What used to be an occasional problem just a few years ago has become a serious nuisance. Traffic accidents have now become disturbingly common. To date this year, there have been 16 cases of traffic accident involving pedestrians. This is a serious concern for all of us.

The rising number of vehicles ought not to be a problem, really, if we figured out ways to tackle it sensibly and more responsibly. Our people – drivers and pedestrians both – need a little education about road use. The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) recently began creating awareness and educating people on the use of zebra crossing in Thimphu. There has been a marked improvement ever since. Traffic congestion could be addressed most effectively without posing risks on pedestrians.

Good thing is that the RBP will carry this programme on until our people are thoroughly educated on road use. In order to make our people understand and cooperate fines were imposed on both drivers and pedestrians who flouted the rules. It worked. The challenge now is to make respecting traffic rules second nature to our people.

Thimphu has a total of 59 zebra crossings and the police cannot be there on each one of them to monitor who is respecting the rule and who is not. If stringent regulations must be adopted and hefty fines imposed on defaulters, we must do so. In order to reduce traffic-related accidents and road congestion, our people must be sufficiently educated. What we can observe today is that drivers do not stop at the pedestrian crossings and, often, people just walk on by leisurely.

Both drivers and pedestrians seem to welcome this RBP’s new initiative. We only needed to be led by someone, it appears. While there are disagreements from some quarters, most seem to find respecting traffic rules beneficial to both drivers and pedestrians.

More pedestrian crossings will be required in the future as both number of vehicles and population grow. It will be difficult for the police to stand on every spot for days on end. The best way to make this practical is to educate our people. Only then will our roads become less hazardous and our traffic less clotted.