LAHORE: Professors, police officers, business tycoons, and illiterate auto drivers act in the same way when it comes to violation of the traffic laws.

More than one million drivers are ticketed for violating various traffic rules annually in Pakistan’s second biggest city but powerful persons are rarely caught and fined.

Violations of traffic signal, use of mobile phone while driving and overspending are quite common in the town. Many motorists don’t use seatbelts or helmets. The unfit commercial vehicles are driven by untrained drivers sans safety measures.

Even police officers are seen carelessly violating traffic signals in the presence of on-duty traffic wardens. In case, there is no traffic officer deployed at a crossing or any traffic signal then the motorists are not bound to follow the rules.

City traffic police officers say that indiscriminate implementation of traffic laws in this society is “almost a hard nut to crack” due to one or the other reason. Many drivers ignore traffic laws, including driving through red lights and stop-signs and turning left from far right lane.

“Even university professors are seen violating one way traffic. And if they are caught by traffic officers, they use various tactics to get away,” a senior traffic officer said on Thursday. The officer who spoke to The Nation on the condition of anonymity said that the city traffic police department had no system in place to punish each violator of traffic laws.

In Lahore, hundreds of traffic officers are deployed on all the major roads to force the motorists to obey traffic rules. They also control traffic manually in many parts of the city.

“How a traffic officer can stop so many violators at the same time. We catch some violators while the others managed to escape,” a senior warden said, who also preferred his name not to be mentioned.

Every year, city traffic police department launches awareness campaigns to educate the motorists about the importance of traffic laws and road safety measures. In addition to traffic awareness lectures at educational institutions, seminars and walks are organized regularly. But there is no visible improvement on the ground.

“Unfortunately, people from all walks of life behave equally as they drive on roads. Motorcyclists and car drivers ignore traffic laws. This is very unfortunate,” another traffic warden said. He said the fine on traffic violation in Pakistan is minimal as compared to other countries of the world.

For instance, use of cell phone while driving is strictly prohibited by the Turkish law. Driving while using a cell phone can lead to a fine of 72 Turkish Lira (TL) (approximately $40) fine. But in Pakistan, violators are charged Rs 300 only.

On the other hand, motorcyclists and commercial drivers complain that traffic officers issue fine tickets only to poor and helpless violators while the powerful people go unpunished.

More than 2500 motorists are caught up and issued fines tickets everyday in Lahore. The complaints of corruption against traffic wardens are also common.

Some motorists say traffic wardens deployed on a road to ensure smooth flow of traffic are bound to issue tickets to at least 20 vehicles during their duty shift. They say that this compulsion has multiplied the miseries of the motorists on the one hand while on the other hand this ‘policy’ is providing an opportunity to the officials to extort underhand money from the poor drivers.

The traffic wardens are seen waiting for poor public transport drivers at various points on the main arteries of Lahore. “The police must stop a vehicle in case of any violation (of traffic rules). But the wardens impose fine only on the poor driver,” Pehlwan, a 45-year-old rickshaw driver told this reporter in Mozang.

According to the official data (available with The Nation), the city traffic police issued challan tickets to at least 473,665 drivers during the first three months of this year. In 2016, at least 340,293 persons were penalized for violating traffic laws in town during the same period. 

The police are struggling to implement traffic laws in a country, where at least 15 people die in road accidents every day. The data of traffic accidents, which took place in Pakistan during the last 10 years, present a horrific picture. According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data on traffic accidents in Pakistan (from 2004 to 2013), the ratio of killings in road accidents in Sindh was recorded the highest at up to 86 percent. A total of 51,416 people died in 97,739 road accidents across the country from 2004 to 2013. Out of total casualties, as many as 29,524 were killed in 51,715 accidents in Punjab

The provincial government recently hired the services of Turkish experts to introduce road safety measures. Official sources say the government is likely to develop a “directorate of transport” in Lahore to oversee vehicular traffic by employing multiple resources.

As part of this initiative, traffic officers will be equipped with the latest equipment, vehicles, and communication system to control and monitor the vehicular movement on city roads from a high-tech nerve centre.