Safety Begins With Us

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By Abish Shakya

Dear transport entrepreneurs and workers, instead of enforcing vehicular strikes, stop creating road-terrorism by indiscipline overtaking, over-speeding than ambulances, breaching lane disciplines. Stop understanding these anti-discipline acts as your fundamental rights,” writes journo SubratAcharya, on his Facebook post, on May 26, the day when National Federation of Nepal Transport Entrepreneurs (NFNTE) imposed a vehicular strike against the increase on the fine rates on traffic rules violation.

While transport entrepreneurs and workers joined the agitation accusing the government of illogically increasing the fine rates, people from different backgrounds believe the move to be logical.

Trisha Dahal, a 21-year-old student says, “Drivers who drive micro-buses are impulsive. Over-speeding and false tendency to overtake are leading numerous accidents, and I will have to agree that the hike in fine rates are justifiable because public transport drivers will now actually follow the traffic rules to prevent paying heavy fines.”

Similarly, Sujan KC, a 24-year-old student says, “Drivers do not panic at earning more money by carrying passengers beyond the vehicle’s capacity and always hurry to reach final stops, intending to ply more within their routes. Recent move will make motorists conscious before violating traffic rules, which is a good thing for everyone.”

When has hiking of fine rates been perceived as a good decision by public transport commuters, how has been the results of new rules?

According to the data provided by Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD), a total of 30 thousand 5 hundred and 40 traffic rules violators were slapped with fines 15 days before the enforcement of new traffic rules, and 15 days after the enforcement of new rules, the numberdropped to a total of 10 thousand 2 hundred and 45. The new traffic rules is proved to be effective in reducing the number of traffic rules violators by ‘3 times’.

Though the comparative figures are impressive, it is of grave concern to learn that there are still over 10 thousand motorists who violate traffic rules. Are these numbers going to drop?

Offences that can result in different fine categories

Rs 500

  • Carrying load beyond capacity
  • Surpassing the load-limit, and commuting in load-limit areas
  • Carrying passengers or materials in restricted areas of vehicles
  • Driving a vehicle against its purpose
  • Not wearing a helmet while driving
  • Obstructing the road
  • Parking vehicles in a way that puts other vehicles in danger
  • Carrying passengers on the roof

Rs 1,000

  • Driving a vehicle without license
  • Haphazardly parking vehicles or placing luggage/materials in public places
  • Driving under influence of alcoholm Causing accidents or absconding from a scene of accident
  • Letting someone without license to drive

Rs 1,500

  • Disregarding traffic signs or traffic police instructions while driving
  • Parking vehicles in ‘No Parking’ areas or time
  • Taking ‘U-Turn’ and honking horns in restricted areas
  • Driving a vehicle in the wrong lane or from the wrong side of the road
  • Driving a vehicle with bad conditions
  • Speeding exceeding the speed-limit
  • Driving a vehicle without turning on the lights during night time
  • Driving a vehicle in restricted routes and time
  • Driving a vehicle without a number plate
  • Commuting through load-limit areas in a vehicle exceeding load-limit
  • Driving a vehicle without helmet or seatbelts
  • Carrying loads and passengers against the limit of vehicle
  • Public vehicles refusing to take in passengers
  • Public vehicles charging passengers with more than the fixed tariff
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving without license

“For countless of times, I have violated rules against drunk-driving and those regarding lane disciplines. Usually, I drink in the afternoon, and head towards home in the evening after roads get a stream of heavy traffic. I know drunk-driving is against traffic rules but since I am confident on my driving skills, I don’t think I’ve committed wrongdoings,” admits Maggi (name changed), a 22-year old girl.

Sajan (name changed), a 21-year motorist, also admits the same. “Me and my college friends are street smart because we almost get the whereabouts of traffic police right every time, successfully escaping from their grips all the time,” admits Sajan, “I drive fast, even under the influence of alcohol; give rides to two pillion riders at a time,” and says, “While my mom is scared to death by the way I drive, my sensible friends warn me saying, “Kunn din marchas”. In spite of reckless driving, I haven’t met with an accident until today, and I’m still alive.”

These fresh confessions were obtained from both male and female motorists after the recent hike in fine rates was enforced, hinting that some motorists are still undeterred from violating traffic rules despite hiking the fine rates, and figures of road traffic deaths of the past might not reduce.

The campaign against drunk driving was first launched in December 2069 BS, and while the fiscal year 2069/2070 recorded 267 cases of drink-drive accidents, there was a quick reduction in the 2070/71 that reported 127 accidents. But when motorists did not deter from violating traffic rules, the number increased to 150 in the fiscal year 2071/72, and to 156 in 2072/73.

Along with insignificant reduction in road accidents, there was less reduction in the number of deaths caused by road accidents. The total number of deaths caused by road accidents was 148 in the fiscal year 2068/69, which decreased to 133 in 2071/72 but increased again to 136 in 2072/73. Even with the implementation of strict traffic rules, stats show comparatively less or no improvement on much serious matters, thanks to indiscipline of motorists.

Now, MTPD has enforced the hike in the rates of fines but can these rules alone contribute to a significant reduction in road traffic accidents and road mayhem? Authorities say, “No”.

“New traffic rules and regulations will not bring significant results unless and until motorists will not change their undisciplined behaviors,” says SitaramHachhethu, Traffic Police Inspector, “Records prove that accidents are less likely to occur at spots where traffic police i present. Traffic police cannot be deployed everywhere, especially in alleys. Significant reduction in road traffic accidents and deaths is possible only when motorists do not violate the traffic rules even in the absence of traffic police.”

Comparing the behaviors of motorists in Nepal and Japan, and their obligation in respecting traffic rules, Hachhethu adds, “In Japan, there are areas with both ‘certain drinking limit’ and ‘zero drinking limit’, depending upon the accidents-prone areas, and people strictly follow the rules accordingly but in Nepal, people violate the rules despite knowing the rules.”

Highway Engineer Sudarshan Shrestha also have the similar opinion. He says, “Traffic rules are universal, and those enforced in Nepal are enforced in UK as well. In compared with Nepalese, people in UK are more disciplined in respecting and following the traffic rules.”

When there are people supporting the new fine rates, there are others who are unhappy on it, besides transport entrepreneurs and workers.

“I am against the government’s decision of hiking the fine rates,” writes singer YogeshworAmatya, as a reply to Acharya’s post, and questions, “Some motorists might be lavishly rich, and they might be the ones who intentionally breach traffic laws, but why to punish everyone for the rules violated by few?”

Responding to such disagreement, Hachhethu says, “In 2049, traffic rules violators used to be slapped with a fine of Rs 200, while micro-buses used to charge Rs 2 for commuting from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur, which is now Rs 18. Fines were heavy and people obeyed the rules then,” adding, “Number of vehicles in Kathmandu valley was 48 thousand which now nearly totals to 8 lakhs. So, I believe minimum fine of Rs 500 and maximum fine of Rs 1,500 is not much.”

No matter how high are the fine rates for traffic rules violation, if we drive our motors by strictly following the traffic rules, we do not have to pay a single penny, do we? With this, we will not only be saving our money but also the lives of ourselves and that of others. We have no option, rather than sincerely following the traffic rules.

Regan, 28 “Hike in fine rates is a step towards right direction because this will discourage people to breach traffic rules.”

Rezon, 29 “Responsible drivers and motorists have nothing to worry about the hike in fine rates because only indisciplined motorists will be affected with this new rules. Enforcing the rules is good for motorists who are reckless on driving.”

Anmol, 21 “Recent enforcement of hike in rates of fines is a very positive way of controlling traffic madness. People are very irresponsible, and I too fall in that category. It is very easy to avoid paying fines, just follow the traffic rules.”

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