Drunk driving is the main cause
Thimphu Traffic Division, Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), registered 326 cases of Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) in 2019 so far, with 2 deaths and 132 people injured. 2018 saw 460 cases with 7 deaths and 200 people injured.
The injured victims count from very minor to sever injury cases. For any accident case, even at a minor scale, the police immediately refer the victims to the hospital to check for any complications or internal injuries due to the accident.
Of the total registered MVA cases in 2019, the highest accident reported is drunk driving with 75 cases followed by over speeding. Likewise, in 2018, drunk driving topped the accident category with 130 cases followed by not giving right of way cases.
Superintendent of Police, Traffic Division, Lt. Col. Namgay, said that the majority of the accidents take place in highways where the police cannot keep vigilance round the clock and the common cause of the accident is drink driving.
He said, “Accident due to drunk driving and over speeding are common cases. However, in general, those are happening due to negligent driving and basically a human error. While accident happening due to weather condition is very few.”
Meanwhile RBP is stepping up its effort to monitor the situation to bring it under control.
“We have recently started night highway checking thrice in a week. We go equipped, with a breath analyzer and we stop and check all the vehicles,” Lt. Col. Namgay added.
Vehicles are stopped depending on the traffic flow. If the density of the vehicles on the road is very heavy, then the police randomly pick drivers or those that appear suspicious. And that way they avoid unnecessary harassment, he added.
Bhutanese people have a mindset that drinking a peg or bottle of beer can keep them warm in harsh weather condition, he said, adding that, such a mindset leads to accidents and death sometimes. Nonetheless, due to routine checking they could prevent accidents from happening, he said.
The division also conducts regular highway checking during daytime. They also conduct strict night checking in core town area during the weekends. Harsh weather conditions, such as heavy downpours, hamper the monitoring efforts.
“We are all humans, and therefore, the people should drive responsibly. They want moral policing. They follow the traffic rules in front of us, but once they are out of our reach, they are prone to traffic violation,” he added.
Another challenge, he emphasized, was dealing with drunk drivers. He said that most of the drunk drivers get very aggressive and start having arguments with the traffic personnel, whereby some of them were detained as a safety precaution.
“The next day, they are so sorry, once they are sober,” he said. However, there is no case of assault or harassment of traffic personnel by drunk drivers.
“Informing one another (drivers) about the highway checking is another challenging issue. They inform each other to lower the speed. But they do not see the possible cause of accident in the front,” he added.
In addition, he also said that time planning is another issue, especially when commuters driving their vehicles start their journey late and have to over speed to reach their destinations on time. Starting early, driving slow and reaching the destination on time can prevent accidents, he said.
Police on bikes are the first responders on the accident site. The next to reach the site are police personnel in police cars. They also coordinate with traffic division of other jurisdiction/ location if the accident took place near to their location. Further, ambulance, fire division and others rescue team are dispatched depending on the severity of the accident cases.
As of now, the police say there is an adequate number of equipment and manpower. The old bikes have been replaced with new ones. The division also conducts enforcement and advocacy together. “We always deploy our men with a safety messages, and we do highway cleaning in respective locations everyday,” said Lt. Col. Namgay.