Vehicle: Three months into 2015, and the number of vehicles imported into Bhutan this year has already exceeded last year’s growth amount of 2.5 percent.

As of March end, there was 2,079 more vehicles in the country, representing a 2.9 percent increase. The total number of vehicles in the country stood at 71,681 at the end of the last month.

In March alone, 884 new private and 25 government vehicles were registered with the Road Safety and Transport Authority.

In comparison, 2014 experienced a 2.5 percent increase in vehicles as compared to the previous year. There were 69,602 registered vehicles as of December last year, as per the latest annual infocomm and transport statistical bulletin released by the information and communications ministry.

While an annual growth of 11 percent had been taking place in previous years, the temporary ban on imports reduced growth to 0.71 percent in 2013. The ban was lifted in June, last year.

On distribution, almost 53 percent of all vehicles are registered under Thimphu, 36 percent under Phuentsholing, and the rest spread out under the Gelephu, Samdrupjongkhar and Mongar regions.

In terms of ownership, slightly over 91 percent of vehicles are owned privately, 8.5 percent by the government and public organisations, and 0.2 percent by diplomatic missions and royal family.

However, number of vehicles owned by the armed forces are not included in the bulletin.

The previous year saw the number of heavy vehicles, defined as those weighing over 10 tonnes or with a carrying capacity of 25 or more people, in Bhutan decrease by 0.8 percent to 8,474.

The number of medium vehicles on the other hand increased by 45 vehicles or 3.3 percent to 1,392. A medium vehicle is between 3 and 10 tonnes, seating 13-24 passengers.

The largest increase was in the light vehicle category with 2,382 added last year to bring the total number to 41,924, an increase of 5.9 percent. A light vehicle is described as one not seating more than 12 adults and not over three tonnes.

There was also a 2.4 percent increase in two-wheelers to 9,988, last year.

Continuing a trend started in 2012, the total number of taxis decreased in 2014 by almost 30 percent or 1,082 taxis. There were 4,109 taxis in Bhutan, as of December last year.

A reverification effort is attributed for the fall in number of taxis.

On road safety, the number of motor vehicle crashes fell to 792, as compared to 1,023 registered by the police in 2013. However, 76 deaths were recorded last year, 17 more than the previous year.

The number of injuries sustained during motor vehicle accidents dropped to 426, significantly less than the 601 registered in 2013.

The leading cause of accidents was human error, followed by alcohol.

The Road Safety and Transport Authority collected a total revenue of Nu 295 million the last fiscal year from July 2013-June 2014, which was only slightly more than the Nu 283.5 million collected the previous fiscal year.

By Gyalsten K Dorji