“… 𝑰 𝒇𝒆𝒆𝒍 𝒕𝒉𝒂𝒕 𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒔 𝒔𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝒃𝒆 𝒔𝒍𝒂𝒑𝒑𝒆𝒅 𝒂 𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒆 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝒅𝒓𝒊𝒗𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒕𝒉𝒓𝒐𝒖𝒈𝒉 𝒑𝒖𝒅𝒅𝒍𝒆𝒔 𝒔𝒑𝒍𝒂𝒔𝒉𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒅𝒊𝒓𝒕𝒚 𝒘𝒂𝒕𝒆𝒓, 𝒊𝒏𝒄𝒐𝒏𝒔𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒓𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒅𝒊𝒔𝒓𝒆𝒈𝒂𝒓𝒅𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒉𝒆𝒍𝒑𝒍𝒆𝒔𝒔 𝒑𝒆𝒅𝒆𝒔𝒕𝒓𝒊𝒂𝒏𝒔.”
You are strolling along a city sidewalk when a passing driver hits a puddle of dirty runoff on the roadway, sending up a wave that soaks you. This incident, at best, leaves you feeling uncomfortable, and at worst, inconvenienced, especially if you were on your way to work or somewhere you need to look presentable. So, what can you do in such a situation, apart from seeking a change of clothes? The unfortunate answer is no, legally charging the responsible driver is not an option.
Until the new Road Safety and Traffic Regulations of 2021 were implemented, splashing pedestrians while driving through water was considered a traffic violation. However, the new regulation has omitted car splashing as an offense. Nonetheless, as the rainy season begins, pedestrians continue to face such problems along the roadsides.
Nima Wangmo witnessed an incident where a driver drove through a puddle, splashing water on a mother and her two children. She expressed her anger, saying, “It was raining that morning, and the puddle was filled with water. The driver could have waited or driven through it slowly to avoid splashing anyone on the footpath. I was furious because I felt the driver lacked consideration. Surprisingly, the driver actually came and apologized to them. Regardless of whether it was intentional or due to negligence, I still believe the driver acted inconsiderately.”
Unfortunately, not all drivers bother to apologize. Tenzin, an entrepreneur, shared his experience, saying, “I was walking to catch a city bus to work on a rainy day. As a car approached me from the opposite direction at high speed, I moved aside to the footpath. However, as soon as the car passed me, my clothes were completely soaked. The car didn’t even stop or offer an apology. I felt disgusted yet helpless. Should I have chased the car and confronted the driver? Or should I worry about getting to work on time, as I was already late? I had to make a choice, so I decided to continue on my way, soaked and dirty, to reach the office on time.”
Similar concerns were echoed by Kezang Dorji, who stated, “This has happened to me couple of times. Stagnant water accumulates due to poorly maintained roads with potholes. Drivers could easily avoid splashing by going around the potholes, but they don’t. They ruin our day.”
According to Dorji, many of these drivers display rudeness and a tendency to flee the scene immediately after committing the offense, fearing detection or simply not knowing how to handle the situation. “They lack even the slightest bit of courtesy to stop and apologize. Most of the time, I arrive home completely wet and covered in mud. Thankfully, such incidents have been relatively rare while going to the office. Since I don’t wear white clothes to work, it hasn’t bothered me much. I can easily wash my dark clothes when I arrive home drenched with rainwater and mud,” he added.
Chencho Lham, a university student, tearfully recounted an incident where a passing car splashed dirty water on her while she was all dressed up for an important occasion. Despite the frustration, she chose not to curse the driver, stating, “Such incidents make me realize that life is normal, and I have little to complain about. It’s a part of life, and I don’t want to blame anyone, even if I arrive at my destination wet.”
“It happens to many of us as we stroll down the street, only to have our day ruined by an inconsiderate driver zooming through a puddle. But the driver is already out of sight, so what can we do besides shouting at the car disappearing in the distance? Do we have the right to report this issue to the authorities, similar to how robbery cases and battery cases are reported to the police? I believe that drivers should be fined for driving through puddles and splashing dirty water, as it shows their disregard for helpless pedestrians,” said an anonymous individual.
A pan shop owner expressed their frustration, saying, “During rainfall, the streets are filled with rainwater due to the abundance of potholes here. Some young drivers speed their cars, splashing dirty water all over the area. It greatly bothers us.”
Seven splashing cases were reported last year, and the Traffic Division fined the drivers with Nu 1000 per person for splashing water on pedestrians, in accordance with the Road Safety and Transport Regulations of 1999. However, with car splashing omitted in the new Road Safety and Transport Regulations of 2021, Bhutan Today reached out to the Road Safety and Traffic Authority but received no positive response. Moreover, the discussion was cut short, with the suggestion that this guideline may not have been deemed significant and could potentially be eliminated.
Does this imply that the matter is too trivial to warrant any action? People who have experienced such situations strongly feel the necessity of this rule. Kezang Dorji expressed his concern, stating, “Without this rule, drivers will become indifferent to pedestrians and won’t feel morally guilty for splashing soiled (dirty) water on someone.”
In many countries, it is illegal to splash pedestrians with a car. In the United Kingdom, it is classified as “careless and inconsiderate driving,” and the Crown Prosecution Service policy explicitly mentions driving through a puddle and causing pedestrians to be splashed. Courts can impose fines of up to £2,500 for such offenses.
Similarly, in Japan, driving through a puddle and splashing a pedestrian is a punishable offense. Such careless driving is not tolerated, and drivers can be fined up to ¥7,000 (USD66.24) for splashing someone. The law also emphasizes that vehicles should have mud flaps or drive at slower speeds during rain to ensure the safety of pedestrians is not compromised.
The problem with splashing pedestrians (which some people might find funny, but is actually inconsiderate) is that it puts the driver in danger. Driving with one side of your car’s wheels through deep water can cause loss of control due to the additional drag on that side of the car or even result in aquaplaning. If you encounter deep water, it’s best to slow down to minimize the height and amount of water splashed.