Recently, the traffic police department has set up traffic cones along multiple parts of the Koteshwor-Kalanki section of the ring road, which has been dubbed as “Killer road” by the media. This was done to force motorists to reduce the speed of their vehicle, following a fatal road accident in Gwarko. Though this measure has somewhat managed to slow the pace of the vehicles on the road, yet at the same time they have also created confusion among many motorists. The risk of accidents has increased, as evident by the chaotic positioning of the cones in the road, after being hit by vehicles now and then. At the least, the cones should have had lights to caution the drivers during the night. Even though they are placed only in black spots/accident-prone areas, due to lack of strict regulations, overspeeding and careless driving still prevails in the remaining section of the roads. Thus, the effectiveness and the outcome in the long run of this crude unscientific methods implemented by the government to reduce road accidents just simply won’t be enough. Investment in road infrastructures and introduction of strict efficient regulations is necessary.
‘Road Safety Audit’ was prepared and published by the government in 2019 for the Koteshwor-Kalanki stretch of the ring road, which suggested the installation of traffic lights on 12 of the main intersections of the notorious stretch (i.e. 41.37% of the existing number of traffic lights inside Kathmandu Valley). Yet, there are still zero traffic lights installed on this part of the ring road. Not only this, there is also lack of traffic signs, zebra crossings (only 3 zebra crossings), designated U-turn, street lights (due to which there is a high number of night accidents), and a sufficient number of overhead bridges. The report suggested for installation of 400 street lights, 12 zebra crossings, and 213 traffic signals along the entire stretch of the road. Other suggestions included the addition of railings on the sides of footpath, division of lanes with dividers and steel barriers, and overall improvement of major intersections. However, the amount of work done in this regard is negligible despite the 2 years that have almost passed since the preparation of the report. It shows a blatant lack of commitment from the responsible authorities.
It is the prime time that the government at least scrambled investments to turn the so-called “Killer road” into a rather safer road. Not to mention, the 10.5 km stretch of road is part of the 27 km long ring road also known as NH39 National Highway, as per the new proposed classification system, and falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In addition to the investments in infrastructures as per the recommendations mentioned in the ‘Road Safety Audit’, governments should also bring stricter rules and regulations in place. This is because investment alone won’t minimize the frequency of accidents. For example, the accident that lead to the placement of the cones in the first place was caused by jaywalking even though an overhead bridge was just meters away. Therefore, stricter rules which enforce safer road habits should also be brought. These could include heavy fines and harsher punishments for breaking traffic rules, careless driving, ignoring red lights, jaywalking, and overspeeding. Investment in CCTVs and automated speed cameras like those in developed countries should be done to ensure people follow the rules and practice safe road habits. As of now, removal of the cones and marking the roads with dividers and steel barriers should be the first step of the concerned authorities to curb the number of accidents. Regarding the speed limitation regulation, there are some who are criticizing it as counter-intuitive on an ‘expressway’. Since the major number of accidents is being caused by overspeeding and carelessness, for now, speed restrictions seems like a good idea for keeping the road safe.
Ensuring a safer road will undoubtedly minimize Years of Potential Life Lost (YPLL) from accidents and millions of rupees in property damage.