Yangyel Lhaden

If what the traffic division of the Royal Bhutan Police and the road safety authority proposed come through, violating traffic rules could become expensive.

The two authorities have proposed to increase the amount of monetary fines by twice or thrice to the information and communication ministry in their effort to curb the increasing traffic violations.  The violation of drink-driving today is fined Nu 1,750. It could become more than Nu 5,000 together with other penalties like punching the licence.

While officials refused to share details of the proposed penalties, reasoning that the proposal is still in its draft stage, it was learnt that drink-driving could cost not less than Nu 7,000. Superintendent of Police (SP), traffic division, Namgay said that severe penalties for violation of traffic rules are needed, as violators didn’t hesitate to pay the fines.

Traffic police charge Nu 1,750 for drink-driving and speeding, Nu 2,500 for hit and run, and the lowest, Nu 550 for parking violation. Lieutenant Sonam Gaki of the traffic division said that people could afford to pay on the spot of the incident and repeat the offence because the penalties did not pinch them. “Unless, there were severe penalties imposed, people won’t hesitate to violate traffic rules,” she said.

The Lieutenant said that although traffic offences had reduced, much more had to be done to make people responsible drivers. A recent incident of driving without a licence cost a life, she said.

The top five traffic offences today are driving without licence, drink-driving, using mobile phones, speeding, and driving with learner licences. Royal Bhutan Police’s (RBP) half yearly report recorded 4,180 top five traffic offences in 2019 while only 2,974 such cases were recorded this year. However, using mobile phones while driving increased by 30 cases this year.

Traffic inspection

SP, Namgay said that traffic inspections were carried out around the clock in Thimphu.The vehicles are inspected randomly mostly for licence and drink-driving. Although the number of offences of driving without valid licence dropped from 1,723 in 2019 to 1,480 this year, SP Namgay said with RSTA not conducting driving tests, there were many people driving with learner’s licence or without licence. Drink-driving had significantly reduced from 1,488 in 2019 to 671 this year. “It could be due to closure of parties and movement restriction.”