Making our roads safer

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.

2 replies
    MIGNIEN says:

    As usual , comments of our friend IRFAN are always full of wisdom , with very deep words.

    As for me , i would add an idea to help policemen ; i have yet send a comment in the article called ” WHOSE RIGHT OF WAY” . I quote it here again brievly : every pedestrian zebra must be protected by a traffic light system . Today , there is no traffic lights all over the country . According my experiment , the most dangerous crossword is the one of Norzim lam where we can see a policeman who agitate his hands in a box surelevated without any result by many , except laughing of occidental tourists who note that Bhutan is out of time!!.
    I know that it is expensive ; but there is lifes to protect ; and the work of policement would be facilitated ; and the knowledge of pedestrians would be , sure , more and more understandable by themselves .
    This system would be managed by RSTA , according me .

    It is a question of time .

    Buthanses guys and girls and women , pay attention to the order of policemen when you are crossing !!!.
    And drivers too !!!

    Peace on you all

  2. irfan
    irfan says:

    We are a talkative society in many ways and that’s not a Bhutanese society involved alone in isolation within the region. The arrival of a cell phone is new, but there has anyway been no rule to restrict us from talking to fellow passengers in a highly involved way that actually affects our driving or riding. It can be just careless, but even pedestrians end up ignoring the traffic around while talking over phone or to the next person. So awareness is highly required for safety needs. Our vehicles are getting smarter and can even communicate with the driver through different interfaces to improve the overall safety environment, but all vehicles can’t be assumed to be equally smart. Even if our vehicles from the small four wheelers to the heavy commercial vehicles are highly safe and smart; our roads, footpaths and zebra crossings are not communicating all the time in today’s smarter traffic. So how smart is our system of road safety?

    There is RSTA which has its own iron jacket that suits its organisational structure and the purpose of existence. We have the police force to make public aware about the safety rules and monitor the same. We also depend on them to punish those who ignore or violate the rules in place. Discipline is required if we want to avoid the accidents. Safety needs also require that we build and maintain our roads such that its use always remain a safe experience for the entire traffic. There are technologies in place to ensure safer highways if that needs to be implemented. But unity for a cause of safety among diversity in our varied driving culture is a critical observation. And that is a challenge for us and even our pedestrians are part of the same culture.

    Professional rally or race drivers and riders abroad are of the opinion that the key to success in driving and riding is that one starts it early. And they have such facilities in place. We need to wait to reach the minimum age when we can start to learn the skills in driving. Certain skills come naturally with practice and it can’t easily be learnt very late. And all these are part of a different agenda. But there is a need to have a separate institutional body that can implement and monitor safety measures from roads to our diverse vehicles and from drivers to the pedestrians as well as the different animals using our roads. To consider it as a periodic project than a organisation of its own may result in a flexible structure. Any project like this will need coordination among multiple departments, organisations and ministries. But a body institution has to take ownership of the projects depending on the varying traffic conditions as move from one location to another. In our informal driving needs, culture and traffic; highly formal implementation of strict rules will only lead to confusion and even corruptions. Road safety is a responsibility to be shared very formally by all.

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