The cabbies feel that they are picked on with regards to traffic rule enforcement  

RSTA: Rules are becoming complicated by the day for taxi drivers.  Either they stay on the right side of the rules and lose passengers, or they break the rules and make the most out of a working day.

The rules say that a child below 10 is not allowed to sit in the front seat.  And that is creating problem for passengers as well as drivers, says the taxi driver.  They say that there is a need for public education.

Tashi Namgyal, a taxi driver in Thimphu, said that the rules create problem for both drivers and passengers.

“This morning I met a lady with a child heading to Paro. She sat in the front seat with a child. When I tried to explain her the rules, she refused to go. Instead, she went for another taxi,” he said.

Tenzin, a farmer from Khasadrapchu, said that there should be consistency with rules and regulation.  Ap Khandu, a monk, said that he didn’t mind paying a little extra for a child in the front seat as long as there was surety of safety.

According to Thinlay Namgay, chief engineer with Road Safety and Transport Authority (RSTA), the rule of not allowing a child to sit in the front seat is according to Road Safety and Transport Act 1999.

What has also been observed is that the seat belt rule is not followed at all by both passengers and taxi drivers.  Thinlay Namgay said that wearing seat belt could protect the lives of passengers by 50 percent in case of an accident.

However, driver Tashi Namgyal said that wearing seat belt in hilly areas like in Bhutan is risky when accidents occur. “An Indian passenger died on the way to Mongar because he could not jump out of the car due to seat belt. I was driving, but could get away because I wasn’t wearing seat belt.”

Sonam Rinchen, another taxi driver, said it seemed as if the rules are meant only for the taxi drivers. “The rules that prohibit private vehicles and taxis from sticking stickers on their vehicles mean nothing to private vehicle owners. If we’re found with stickers, officials threaten us.”

Dawa, another taxi driver, said that the rules should apply to all without any difference.  It was because certain rules mean only to certain people that problems arose, he said.

Private vehicle owners are seen keeping their window glasses dark, while the rule prohibits it.  However, taxi drivers are fined immediately if found with dark window glasses.

“The awareness campaign that RSTA conducts to update the traffic rules should be given also to the public, not just to the students, taxi and truck drivers,” Tashi said.  He also said that awareness should be given first, and then the laws should be implemented.

“RSTA is the regulator and service provider. RSTA officials don’t get time to go for inspection every day, but whenever we get time, we go for inspection,” said Thinlay Namgay. “We notify the public through media, but people don’t care.”

RSTA conducts awareness campaign every three years for all the drivers to update on laws.  It has plans to train all license holders

Chechey and Rosmi Rana