24th December. Kathmandu.
Just yesterday, Kantipur has reported a heart-breaking story of Shristi Pant losing her life in a traffic accident near Sukedhara. We were overcome by huge grief after reading the report. Shristi was just 21 and she had to lose her life at the beginning of her youth.
The statistics tell it all. In Kathmandu, pedestrians are more likely to lose their lives than those travelling in vehicles.
In the month of Mangsir (2076) a total of 17 people lost their lives. Among them, 11 were pedestrians. In Kathmandu, on an average 70 people die due to traffic accidents every year.
In addition to insurmountable pain that friends and families suffer due to the loss of their loved ones, traffic accidents also hamper the economic growth of the nation. Research has shown that 79 per cent of traffic accidents victims are males, who were economically productive.
We cannot entirely stop accidents from happening. However, we can surely reduce accidents by being more careful while on the road.
The Major Causes of Traffic Accidents:
- Narrow roads riddled with potholes.
- Negligence of drivers
- High speed
- Rash overtaking
- Driving under influence
- Vehicle overload and technical faults in vehicles
- Negligence of pedestrians
Ways to Address These Causes
1. Narrow roads riddled with potholes
Without roads, there is no development. However, bad roads are accident-prone. But it is not feasible for us to make good roads. We pay tax for the government to do just this.
Hence, the only way forward to build and maintain the roads should be by pressuring the local representatives – elected officers in the locality. Nepal has already become a federal state so this means local bodies should be pressurized to spend their budget on roads.
You should also factor in the roads available and their maintenance while voting. In recent times, people have started to post pictures of contractors responsible for road segments on their vehicles. We still need time to know if this works.
Since we know that most of the roads in Nepal are in bad condition, if you are travelling on a new road, decrease your speed.
2. Negligence of Drivers
If drivers are more careful, the chances of accidents decrease considerably. Major driver negligence includes
a. High Speed
While driving you must make sure that your vehicle is under your control. Remember, the higher the speed of your vehicle, the shorter the time you have to stop your vehicle and avoid an accident.
For instance, it takes 13 meters to top a car travelling at 50 km/h while that distance reduces to 8.5 meters for a car travelling at 40 km/h. As studies have shown, an increase of speed of 1 km per hour increases the chance of fatalities by 4-5 %.
b. Rash overtaking:
A considerable amount of accidents happen during overtaking. So follow the following rules for overtaking.
- Overtake only on the right except for parked vehicle or slowing to turn right.
- Make sure you have enough space to pull back in after overtaking. Judge your vehicle’s acceleration and available space.
- Check mirrors and then signal long enough so that other users understand that you are about to overtake.
Do not overtake if:
- you cannot see for certain traffic ahead due to any reason such as curves, fog or heavy rain.
- you need to cross a continuous/unbroken line except while overtaking a cyclist.
c. Driving under influence
Driving under the influence is a crime. It takes a human body anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours for alcohol to get into the bloodstream. During this time your cognitive skills (ability to process thoughts) is slower. Your response time slows. This leads to accidents.
Alcohol in heavy dose results to blurred vision due to slowing of eye muscles, this, in turn, impacts your judgement of distance. This also leads to accidents.
Similarly, alcohol decreases attention and may even cause drowsiness. Moreover, it also decreases body coordination.
3. Vehicle overload and technical faults in vehicles
Overloaded vehicles cause the tyres to overheat and wear out, this increases the chances of tyre bursting, which may make vehicle uncontrolled.
An overloaded vehicle also takes more time to stop, there are chances that the driver may misjudge distance while manoeuvring their vehicle.
Similarly, an overloaded vehicle also speeds up much faster downhill causing loss of control. It also increases the chances of an axle, the rod or spindle that holds the wheels, to snap.
4. Negligence of pedestrians
While walking you are not speeding but there are others who are. So you need to remain alert and careful. Even though in most cases it takes two to cause an accident, however, sometimes a blunder from a single person can end life. So be watchful. Follow the following points.
- Do not use electronic devices that distract your eyes and ears.
- Cross the street from zebra crossing or from an area where the drivers expect pedestrians.
- Make eye contact with drivers if possible.
- Cross the road only when there is no traffic and continue to look out for traffic while crossing.
- Use flashlights if you are walking after dark.
- Pay attention to vehicles that may be backing.
- Like with drivers, do not drink too much or take drugs while walking. Doing so will cloud your judgment. You might even hallucinate.
If you follow the above rules, you should be fine in Kathmandu. Just remain vigilant.