There is always a reason behind each traffic crash whether it is due to personal neglect or from the management authority side. Road traffic accident (RTA) is the most neglected epidemiology specially in developing countries. The global status ‘Report on Road Safety’ reveals that road traffic deaths have plateaued at 1.25 million per year, making it one of the world’s most leading cause of death with the highest road traffic fatality rates in less developed countries. In Pakistan despite a very comprehensive National Highway safety ordinance and hefty investment in improving the traffic system, construction of roads and provision of better vehicles in recent years, the epidemic of traffic crashes claims almost 15 lives daily. According to the world health organization (WHO) statistics Pakistan losses almost 20 lives out of every 100,000 people every year in traffic crashes and if the situation persists the rate will be doubled in the year 2030 making it too serious a situation to be handled. No doubt, a death on the road distresses the victim’s intimates in the worst possible way, shattering the emotional and financial status of the family. Besides death, in case of severe injuries the cost incurred on seeking medical aid and a drop in the earnings due to loss in working days lead to depleted savings especially in poor families. The most alarming situation is when major victims losing their lives are youth, between 15-39 years who are mostly earning hands and sometimes sole bread winners for a household, which on one hand results in financial losses while on the other hand an unrepairable emotional damage devastates the victims’ family for a life time.

The situation poses some crucial questions, either people are not very cognizant of the traffic laws or they have understanding of these rules and regulations but the risky and over confident aptitude of both pedestrians and drivers make the situation terrible or there is some compromise on traffic laws from the law enforcement agencies or most of the vehicles are obsolete and underpowered.

Government is making heavy investments on the construction and maintenance of roads which is even a point of dispute between many political parties that these investments could have been diverted towards the provision of basic necessities of life like water availability, health and education. Studies reveal that almost 90 percent of traffic crashes occur only in developing countries and it has become such a serious problem that FIA foundation is working in collaboration with UNICEF to include road safety issue in the sustainable development goals. As an attendee of a seminar in United Nations Headquarters at New York City organized by FIA and UNICEF on Safe Mobility as Sustainable Development Agenda my attention was on success stories told by officials from different countries. Deputy Minister Teimuraz Murgulia of Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection of Georgia told that traffic crashes were reduced by 20 percent in the last decade in Georgia by ensuring safe roads, easy mobility through secure public transport and clean air. Similarly, Brazil minimized the traffic accidents by 45 percent after the zero-tolerance law was enacted in 2008. So, this makes it clear that to avoid the heavy damages due to road traffic accidents these investments are justified and serve many purposes of socio economic development of the people like increasing access to the markets, minimizing the distances from health and education facilities but the major issue which needs to be tackled with utmost attention is the concentration of these investments in some specific areas. The government should make these expenditures well spread out in underdeveloped and rural areas also. Along with this although National Highway safety ordinance of Pakistan discusses maximum speed limit, weight limit for all types of vehicle, age limit for driving and rules to be followed on every type of road but the major problem is that people are not very aware of these rules and regulation. So, well organized training programs at grass root level are required to make people aware of traffic rules. Awareness also requires about the appropriate emergency responses in case if the traffic crash occurs. Like solution to every other problem education is the first requirement for the people to get familiar with the traffic laws. So educational seminars must be conducted in each city. Further, the impact of these seminars can be multiplied through involvement of media. To ensure road safety, a “Forever Zero Tolerance Law” is immediately required even in less developed areas of the country. Nepotism, bribery and favoritism are killing people on roads. So, any further compromise in implementation of traffic laws will lead to more accidents and consequently more deaths and injuries therefore, an urgent pronouncement is needed on “No comprise on traffic laws”. Only a long-term implementation of laws can lead to a traffic crash free Pakistan.

 

The writer is a Research Fellow at the Punjab Economic Research Institute (PERI),Planning and Development Department, Government of Punjab.