Rapid desk-based study: Nepal road safety

This report looks at a diverse range of issues relating to road safety levels of Nepal


Evidence on Demand was requested by DFID to undertake a rapid desk-based study to provide evidence to support improved road safety in Nepal. Wide ranging advice was sought on a diverse but related series of road safety issues which are of current interest. These questions range from quite specific technical issues on road safety infrastructure performance to wider questions relating to the relative road safety levels of Nepal in global terms.

The study identifies evidence to support the assumption that the poorest sections of communities in Nepal are being most affected by injury in road crashes, confirming that working age males from poorer families are injured more greatly than other groups. In global road safety terms (using 2007 data) Nepal is ranked 20th in the world for fatality rate and 127th for fatality risk. This pattern reflects that Nepal has very dangerous roads but low vehicle ownership. In comparison with the UK, using each country’s official fatality figures, Nepal’s fatality rate is similar, but the fatality risk is very much worse. Using the WHO fatality estimates to calculate these statistics, Nepal is very much worse in terms of fatality rate and nearly 70 times worse in terms of the fatality risk which in these circumstances is the better indicator of the problem magnitude.

Reports that a number of Low Income Countries have achieved improvements in their road fatality numbers could not be verified in this desk study. Estimates of the numbers of road deaths reported for many countries, especially for Low and Middle Income Countries, are acknowledged to be so poor that it is hard to give the reported trends significant credence. The statement that investment in safe road infrastructure delivers twice the economic returns of investment in enforcement or education approaches is considered in the report. However, it is concluded that it is more applicable to High Income Countries which have been effectively improving vehicle safety, enforcement and road user behaviour over many years.

From a more technical perspective, the study considers evidence on improvements in safety through use of the W type steel crash barrier. Whilst international evaluations indicate that roadside barriers at steep drops do significantly reduce the severity of injuries, the author advises that W steel beam type barriers may be inappropriate for many situations in Nepal since they are unsuitable for motorcyclists and heavy vehicles and where roadside space is limited.

The study finally considers the targets set out in the Nepal Road Safety Action Plan. The Plan is considered to be well intentioned and the initiatives set out reasonable, but clear targets appear to be missing in terms of casualty reduction rates (although the development of these is in action) and monitoring and evaluation methods are not given enough emphasis.

This report has been produced by TRL for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by HTSPE Limited and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Fletcher, J. Rapid desk-based study: Nepal road safety. Evidence on Demand, UK (2013) 21 pp. [DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12774/eod_hd079.aug2013.fletcher]

Rapid desk-based study: Nepal road safety

Published 1 January 2013