Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Swimming Pool Junction on Doebum Lam highway in Thimphu should probably have speed-breakers to reduce chances for frequent accidents at the intersection

Since the day the 4-lane Doebum Lam highway in Thimphu was opened to traffic in 2008, the intersection at the Swimming Pool junction has seen numerous accidents over the years. The ever increasing traffic congestion coupled with reckless driving has made this part of the highway one of the most dangerous traffic hotspots in Thimphu. Despite stringent traffic rules and regulations in place, we still continue to see so many crazy drivers on the road.

My wife is a very careful driver. Having been trained at Gangjung Driving Institute for four months, she is well aware of all the traffic rules and regulations, and strictly follows them while driving. But after being involved in two collisions and one near-miss at the Swimming Pool Roundabout Junction within the past three years for no fault of her own, she has now lost her confidence to drive.

The first incident happened in 2017 when we were nearly hit by a speeding car as we cut our way through the roundabout up towards my office. My wife instinctively turned the car to the right and avoided the collision just at the nick of time.

The second incident that happened in November 2018 could not be avoided. We had crossed the roundabout and were on our way up towards my office after being waved on by a car that had stopped for us. It was at this point of time that a Toyota Hilux emerged from the other lane and hit my car on the left-hand side. The worst part was that the Hilux driver refused to accept responsibility for the collision and instead blamed my wife for not giving him way. There was nobody around to tell us exactly whose fault it was. Since it was our first car crash, I and my wife were numbed by the experience. At the Traffic Police Division, we were left with no choice but to sign an internal agreement with the Hilux driver saying that we would repair our own cars. I and my wife were convinced that court settlement would be hectic and time-consuming. I was told only later that he was being levied fine for traffic rules violation at the time of the incident. If I had known about the fine he had to pay, that would have given me full assurance that he was at fault and that I would have chosen to go to court to settle the case.

The latest incident happened on 6th October 2019. My wife had just crossed the roundabout after being given way by a Land Cruiser that had stopped for her on her left. She had almost crossed the highway to go down towards Kelki road when a speeding Santro car emerged from the other lane and slammed into the left side of my car, throwing it off into the edge of the road. My eldest son was seated in the front and hence, he got saved from the direct impact. Had there been people on the backseat, they could have been even killed. However, this accident had eye-witnesses and even the traffic police gave us clues that it was not our fault. There were no brake marks on the road which meant that the Santro car had not even attempted to stop. Although the driver of the Santro car easily accepted his fault and agreed to repair my car, the hassle of dealing with the situation was really a traumatic experience.

Photo of my damaged car

The experiences I have got from such accidents tell me that much more needs to be done to make our roundabout junctions safer for motorists. I strongly feel that the Swimming Pool junction in particular needs speed-breakers to slow down the speeding cars on both sides of the roundabout. Although any normal human being should be intelligent enough to know that he or she should slow down at a roundabout or U-turn, or when the car on the right lane has stopped, I have realized that not everybody possesses that common sense. Had there been such speed-breakers on either side of the junction, they could have definitely avoided the accidents my car was involved in. There is a need for more coordinated efforts from relevant agencies to take appropriate actions to make our roads safe for all. We can no longer afford to keep counting the number of accidents and sleep on these issues.

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