Published On: Sat, Nov 14th, 2015

Pakistan suffers high road traffic death rate


KARACHI: Azam, 24, was feeling ecstatic while he was on his way to a company of his choice to attend his first interview after graduation from a business school. He was happy that he would soon get his widowed mother rid of all her economic woes she went through to rear him and his two younger siblings. A barrage of mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety at the thought of expected questions during the interview were punctuated by a sudden blow amid the screech of car brakes.

…Ambulance rushed him to a hospital and doctor was heard saying, “A hit-and-run case.”

Azam’s mother was sobbing while recalling her unforgettable anguish. “He was a gem…loveable…top ranker throughout his academic career,” she said.

There would be numerous Azam-like pedestrians and others who and whose families become road traffic victims and aggrieved in Pakistan every day and night.

The country is among the world’s 10 most populous countries, which account for 56 percent of the global road traffic deaths, said the World Health Organization (WHO) in its latest edition of the ‘Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015’.

The WHO estimated around 26,000 road traffic fatalities in a year in the South Asian nation.

“None of the 10 countries meets best practice criteria across all five risk factors: speed, drink driving, helmet, seatbelts and child restraints,” the report said.

It highlighted that Pakistan has no eligible death registration data.

And, since there is no national road safety strategy the federal or regional transportation authorities do not set any ‘fatality reduction target’, it suggested.

The WHO found that the country has no pedestrian protection standards and a policy to promote walking and cycling is missing.

The report noted that trends in reported road traffic deaths have been growing since 2013.

Reckless driving is one of the major causes of road traffic death in Pakistan. Alone in Karachi, which is the country’s largest city, there are 3.8 million registered vehicles. Surprisingly, only 1.2 million of their drivers have licences.

Of late, the provincial authority in Karachi initiated a drive to penalise drivers without licence.

Critics said a step cannot be taken in isolation.

They said first there has to be transparent road traffic management system and adequate public transportation facilities.

Corruption should be rooted out and officials involved in taking bribes for issuing driving licences and route permits to ineligible persons should be brought to justice, they added.

It’s a chicken and egg situation.

Dilapidated road infrastructure is another main reason of traffic accidents. Motorcyclists are more vulnerable to road patches and uncovered manholes. It is not that funds are not allocated for the road construction, but regular maintenance is rare.

The WHO said there are no “regular inspections of existing road infrastructure.”

Too, fault lies on the part of drivers. The carefree motorcyclists, for example, feel caged wearing helmet. Notably, helmet wearing rate is meager 10 percent in the country. Though there is a law, yet its enforcement is weak and it doesn’t require helmet to meet certain standards – fastening, for instance.

Likewise, there is a national seat-belt law, but it doesn’t apply to front and rear seat occupants. There is no law that restricts a child from sitting in front seat.

There is no training in emergency medicine available for doctors and nurses, while emergency-room based injury surveillance system is absent.

Indeed, the whole transportation system needs a significant and effective overhauling else the road traffic deaths will keep on increasing and its economic cost due to loss of valuable human capital will keep escalating.

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Shahid Tariq

- is a SEO Consultant. He has over 4 years of experience in SEO, e-commerce, content strategy and digital analysis. Shahid has helped grow businesses through more effective search marketing and SEO strategies.