Jigmi Wangdi

The Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority (BCTA) reported an alarming rise in motor vehicle accidents in 2023, with a total of 1,060 incidents, marking a 35.8 percent increase from the previous year’s 780 accidents.

However, despite this surge, the figures for 2023 remain lower than those recorded in 2018 and 2019, where the numbers peaked at 1,360 and 1,471 accidents, respectively.

The primary causes of these accidents include distracted driving, driving under the influence (DUI), unlicensed driving, speeding, and vehicle overloading. Additionally, factors such as road and weather conditions, mechanical failures, and pedestrian negligence contribute significantly to MVAs.

An official from BCTA said that most vehicle accidents are preventable and require collaborative efforts from both motorists and pedestrians.

The authority conducts targeted awareness programmes with specific driver groups to promote responsible driving behaviour. Efforts also extend to educating traffic enforcers to ensure consistent enforcement of regulations.

“To promote greater responsibility among motorists, we conduct targeted awareness initiatives. This involves organizing awareness programs specifically tailored for taxi drivers, bolero drivers, and truck drivers. While it’s not feasible to reach every individual driver directly, we strive to disseminate crucial information through various media platforms,” the official explained.

This year, the BCTA is prioritising the training of traffic police officers, the enforcers of road regulations. “We have already implemented this program in Gelephu and Phuentsholing. Our aim is to raise awareness among the enforcers themselves, empowering them to execute enforcement measures rigorously and consistently,” the official said.

Regarding fines and penalties for offenders, the official explained that if necessary, the authority has the flexibility to adjust the amount that violators must pay.

The authority acknowledged the potential ineffectiveness of solely monetary fines in changing behaviour. “Instead, a focus is placed on raising awareness and providing education to instil long-term behavioural changes. Repeat offenders may be required to attend road safety education courses or face license suspension,” the official said.

The official mentioned that for repeat offenders, the authority has the option to require them to participate in road safety education courses before regaining their licences, or alternatively, their licence could be suspended.

The official emphasised that the authority views DUIs, speeding, and distracted driving (especially using mobile phones while driving) as significant offences, leading to penalties and demerits on the driver’s licence.

Pedestrians are also reminded to use designated crossings and refrain from jaywalking, as their negligence also contributes to accidents.

In 2023, approximately 56 motor vehicle accidents occurred due to vehicle-pedestrian collisions. From January 2024 to date, the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has recorded 196 motor vehicle accidents.