May 21, 2019-
According to the latest data of the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, most of the road fatalities in Kathmandu Valley involve two-wheelers. The traffic police attribute reckless driving when it comes to accidents involving two-wheelers in the Valley. Despite the police initiating a number of preventive measures, accidents involving two-wheelers are on the rise. Two wheelers form a big proportion of vehicles on Nepali roads. Therefore in an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities in two-wheeler accidents, the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division is lobbying for a law that makes helmets mandatory for pillion riders as well. From the vantage point of safety, this will be a welcome move.
According to a government report, the Nepal Road Safety Action Plan (2013-2020), Nepal has one of the highest road-fatality rates. The country sees 17 accidents per 10,000 vehicles, which is a higher rate than, for instance, China and most of Southeast Asia. Some blame for this may adhere to road conditions because oftentimes our roads are not in proper condition. But when it comes to two-wheelers, the riders often violate the traffic rules—where they zoom ahead full speed on busy roads, violate lane discipline, and try to enter through every small gap between larger vehicles. As of May 14, 211 people have died in road accidents in the Valley this year; 95 of these were on two-wheelers—whether riding or sitting in the pillion seat.
This is not the first time the government has come up with a similar rule. The last time such a rule was made was in 2002. However, the country then was in the midst of the decade long civil conflict. Citing security reasons, the rule was scrapped in 2004. Ever since then, only the rider has had to compulsorily wear a helmet while riding a motorbike, whereas the passenger is not obliged to do so.
In most of the fatal cases involving two-wheelers, the cause was found to be head injuries. So, if the traffic division comes up with a rule that makes it mandatory for both the rider and the pillion rider to wear a helmet, it must be welcomed. However, what the division should be careful of is to spread enough awareness about this campaign and not merely focus on collecting fines the minute they see anyone without a helmet. Granted, imposing fines may help the riders stay disciplined as it disincentivises them from repeating the same mistake. But the police should first concentrate on creating awareness about the campaign. Starting to impose fines without making people aware of the new rule will give the impression that the division is more interested in making some extra money rather than being serious in maintaining road safety. Similarly, the riders too must drive responsibly, and make sure they comply by the rules.
Published: 21-05-2019 08:49