As a struggling country, Nepal faces a huge amount of problems on its way to progress and development. Although there are innumerable problems which Nepal has to deal with, road traffic injuries in Nepal has become a burning and sensational issue. Road traffic injuries in Nepal occur daily – in fact, every hour, taking the lives of thousands of people across the whole country every year.
Although globally road traffic injuries are the eighth leading cause of death and this figure is projected to rise to the top five by 2030, in Nepal, they are one of the most common causes of death. Although their frequency is already high, it is predicted that their number will double by 2030. Accidents involving buses occur more frequently in Nepal, especially during festivals in hilly regions, whereas other accidents involving motorcycles, micro-buses, cars/jeeps/vans, etc. occur in small towns, cities and Terai regions.
In Nepal, the population has increased by 25% from 23.2 million in 2001 to 28.98 million in 2018, while the registration of vehicles jumped from 626,174 in the period 2006-2007 to 2,551,138 from 2016 to 2017, according to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport. This shows that the trend of purchasing vehicles in the country has increased significantly.
According to the data of the Department of Transport Management (Do.T.M), 211,969 new vehicles were registered in the country in the first six months of 2016-2017. Approximately 80% of these vehicles are two-wheeler (motorcycles), followed by light vehicles such as cars, jeeps and pickup vans. This increase in the number of vehicles on the roads has been accompanied by an increase in the occurrence of road traffic accidents and related injuries in Nepal.
In Nepal, road traffic injuries are recorded by the traffic police in each district and compiled for the whole country at the police headquarters in Kathmandu (capital of Nepal). A road traffic injury refers to an injury or death of a road user as a result of a traffic-related crash that involves at least one motor vehicle with two wheels.In fact, road traffic injuries rank eleventh among the leading causes of disability-adjusted life years and twelfth among the leading causes of premature deaths in Nepal.
The mortality rate per population due to road traffic injuries almost doubled from 2001 to 2013, suggesting that this is a silent epidemic in Nepal. The mortality rate of 7/100 000 population derived from police data in a study for 2011–2012 is lower than the WHO estimate of 17/100 000 population for 2013, which suggests that not all road deaths are included in police data. In Nepal, the deaths caused by road traffic accidents mainly occur on highways and district roads outside Kathmandu valley or other major cities. The majority of such accidents involve buses in hilly districts, where buses frequently go off the road in the hilly terrain. Owing to the hilly and rocky terrain, the likelihood that passengers survive is low.
Apart from the traffic police data, other sources of data related to road traffic accidents are derived from hospital medical records. Previous hospital-based studies found that persons in the 20-40 age group, males, pedestrians, and motorcyclists are most likely to be the victims of road traffic accidents. This is somewhat expected considering the popularity of motorcycles among those between the ages of 20 and 40. Drivers of vehicles are predominantly male in Nepal.
A recent report shows that the country witnessed an average of 27 accidents and five deaths every day in road accidents in 2015-2016. As many as 2,006 people died in road accidents in 2015-2016 compared to 2,004 in 2014-2015 though the road facilities remain relatively unchanged. In 2015-2016, 2,006 people died and 13,048 were injured, 4,882 were critically injured in 10,013 reported road accidents according to records maintained by the Nepal Police. A total of 1,365 people died in road accidents in 2008-2009, followed by 1,734 in 2009-2010, 1,689 in 2010-2011, 1,837 in 2011-2012, 2,816 in 2012-2013 and 1,786 in 2013-2014. These figures show the high mortality rate in Nepal following a road traffic accident.
According to a report by the Metropolitan Traffic Police Division, most accidents occurred due to the negligence of drivers – in 2015-2016, 3,038 accidents occurred due to the fault of drivers. A further report indicated that drivers’ negligence caused 7,432 road accidents followed by 1,273 due to speeding, 321 to driving while intoxicated, 321 due to the recklessness of passengers, and 226 while overtaking vehicles. Similarly, 245 accidents took place due to mechanical breakdown, 53 due to overloaded vehicles, 34 due to the poor condition of roads, 34 due to straying animals and 14 due to bad weather.
The reports also state that the majority of accidents involve motorcycles and scooters – in 2015-2016, the figure was 2,249. Motorcycle riders undertake dangerous overtaking maneuvers. Studies show that most road traffic accidents occur in cities, with pedestrians being more likely than vehicle users to be victims. Data shows that in 2015-2016, 39 pedestrians lost their lives in road accidents. Not following traffic rules, failing to use overhead bridges which are intended for pedestrians in order to cross roads safely, crossing roads without taking the necessary care, etc. are the reasons why pedestrians become involved in road traffic accidents. In 2015-2016, 17 females and 90 males died in road accidents throughout the country.
In Nepal, there are various causes and reasons behind this huge incidence of road traffic accidents. In the next part of this series, I will look at these in more detail.
To be continued …