We have long realized that when we have more vehicles on the road, there will be inconveniences. Traffic becomes congested and we need rules. We also need drivers who obey rules and pedestrians too.
The latest addition to the set of traffic rules is warning drivers of respecting pedestrians’ right at zebra crossings. This is not new. We tried this before. It was not a success. But given the risk posed by the huge number of vehicles on the same road, the rule should work. And drivers who violate the right should be penalised.
The Royal Bhutan Police warning taxi drivers is a welcome initiative. It will make walking along the town safer and more comfortable if police mean what they say. It is a competition today between cars and pedestrians both eye balling at each other every time there is confusion at crossings.
Police will start with sensitizing motorists on the right of way. This is a good way to start although motorists go through tests when applying for driving licence. Everybody on the wheel should know this. When police finally penalise motorists, they will have no arguments.
The rule should not apply to taxi drivers alone although they were chosen for the briefing yesterday. The problem is the poor driving culture. At zebra crossings, especially on the expressway, those following rules are putting pedestrians at higher risk. It is a daily sight to see pedestrians letting vehicles pass even when they are at zebra crossings. This is because even if a driver who respects the zebra crossing allows the pedestrian to cross, another speeding car, even with speed bumps, on the other lane could hit him.
The problem is not only with drivers. If the zebra crossings are not clearly marked, there is no culture of crossing roads at designated area. A large majority of our pedestrians are youth and farmers who have no choice but to walk. We see groups of students manoeuvre the little space between cars at rush hours and pedestrians jay walking at every place. This will change with rules clear and easy to read signboards after the sensitization programmes.
It is best if all on the roads know and follow rules. Sometimes the traffic police are not pleased with motorists who give way to pedestrians at busy junctions.
A good start would be marking clear zebra crossings in the city. There is a need for at least a score on the busy Norzin Lam stretch alone. As we are hesitant with the overhead road crossings, numerous zebra crossings should help minimise traffic accidents and reduce inconvenience for both drivers and pedestrians.
Meanwhile, there are other rules that need to be looked into with some urgency. How many of us slow down near schools where children are now controlling traffic themselves? Who follows the speed limit signs? Penalties are heavier when traffic rules are violated near schools and hospitals in many countries. Here, we can get away quite easily even if there are rules.
If we need more rules, we need practical enforcement. We can do that with a team of vigilant traffic policemen and tough penalties for those breaking the rules.