ISLAMABAD - Department of Sociology, Quaid-i-Azam University organised a seminar in collaboration with Higher Education Commission to raise awareness about the issue of road safety in Pakistan.

The initiative was taken to produce reliable data to understand the behaviour of road users and sensitise the youth on this serious matter.

The seminar was based on the research work under the HEC thematic research project of road safety in metropolitan cities of Pakistan.

Dr Zaman, principal investigator of the project at the QAU Department of Sociology, discussed overall state of road safety in the country and lacunas in legislation, with the stakeholders in the seminar.

Dr Zaman stressed and explained the current state of road safety globally and nationally.

He mentioned that 27,582 people are victim of the road safety annually as per WHO 2018 estimates. He elaborated the transport infrastructure in Pakistani society. Interestingly, only 16% of the overall vehicles in the world are found in Asia-Pacific region, whereas the share of total accidents is 44%.

He also identified several important gaps in legislation. Only two convictions were found in the history of Pakistan due to road crashes. It means no one in the country is interested to realise the importance of the state of road safety affairs, he said. He proposed to fill the gaps in current standard operating procedures which included reforming weak penalty system; devising a conviction law in case of fatalities as a result of road accidents, and formulating a child restraint law.

He further discussed that a number of legislations were not implemented adequately and were dormant in legislative system. Moreover, he stressed upon the need of the centralised public transport system as well as centralised licensing system and maintenance of standards for vehicles by the legislative bodies.

Although, the laws of fastening seatbelt and putting helmet exist but are not implemented effectively for all the occupants, he said. There is dire need of a standard public transport system in metropolitan cities of the country, he said.

He asserted that it had been argued on the state level that the road safety issue could not be catered due to lack of funds but in reality, it is more of a management issue, he said.

He highlighted the absence of smart parking which could reduce influx of traffic.

Similarly, 40% of automated signals in Pakistan are out of order. He asserted that there is a need to impose heavy fines on traffic violations and these fines must be equitable according to the cost of the vehicle.

In addition, he emphasised that it was the need of hour to reduce speed limits in urban areas which are currently very high. Only 5km/hour reduction in speed can reduce 30% of the fatalities, he claimed.

Lastly, he presented tribute to the traffic personnel who are serving the public regardless of the harsh circumstances. Later, he discussed that people usually related the human error with fate. He pointed out this phenomenon to be completely a man-made hazard.

The chief guest, Ishfaq Ahmed, DIG Motorway Police, acknowledged the efforts of the QAU Department of Sociology for organising the event to address a noble cause. He imperatively discussed the initiatives taken by the Islamabad Traffic Police, including the Urdu sign boards, and increasing the amount of fines on violation of traffic rules. He appreciated the proposal of Dr Zaman to centralise the licensing system.

He pointed that every individual must play his/her role in order to achieve the goal of safer roads. He requested the Department of Sociology to collaborate with the Traffic Police in educating the masses about road safety and road usage.

District Emergency Officer Dr Abdur Rehman talked on post crash response. He said that road crashes were one of the leading causes of deaths. Globally, 1.3 million people died annually of road crashes, he said.

The severity and lethalness of this issue was highlighted by making a comparison with terrorist attacks. He asserted that road crashes had more devastating effects as compared to terrorism incidents. He highlighted the miseries created by the road accidents.

He also discussed the active role of Rescue 1122 to ensure the prevention of post crash incidents.

Hassan Shehzad, Lecturer Media Studies at International Islamic University, Islamabad, explained the crucial role of media to supplement the agencies to raise the awareness on the issue under discussion. He focused on the role of students as change makers in the country. He suggested that the students should make use of technology to make videos and highlight incidents regarding this issue.

Naveed Satti, senior journalist, shed light on key aspects of road using behaviour. He discussed issues in current body of legislation raised by Dr Zaman and added the lack of implementation to it. He criticised the role of government in this regard. He highlighted the issue of shortage of manpower in police department to meet the need of rising population. He said that there was a need of a separate ministry of transportation/road safety.

Ishtiaq, an official of ITP, said that road safety was a behaviour which depicted how civilized a nation was. He stated that improper socialisation was a key factor that contributed to fatal road incidents.

Iftikhar Hussain Sherazi, senior journalist, discussed the factors that aggravated the issue of road safety in the country.

The major reason that he associated was that people are inhibited to take things for granted. He said that we need to re-evaluate our behaviours. We all need to be aware of traffic rules and abide by the state laws. This can be the only way to safer roads in future, he said.