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February 20, 2017

Drivers who kill shouldn’t be allowed bail: traffic police chief


February 20, 2017

DIG Asif Shaikh says he has asked transport department to review law under which cases of fatal accidents are bailable; 70pc public transport vehicles in city unfit to ply on roads

Though hundreds perish in road mishaps mostly because of rash driving, cases of fatal accidents are bailable and the provincial government has been requested to review this issue, the Karachi traffic police chief said on Sunday.

“These cases are registered under Section 320 of the Pakistan Penal Code and the drivers involved in fatal accidents manage to evade justice because it’s a bailbale offence. It has to be changed to prevent rash driving,” DIG Traffic Karachi Asif Aijaz Shaikh told The News.

Besides, he added, most public transport vehicles in Karachi possessed fitness certificates even though they were not fit to ply on the roads.

“Seventy percent of public transport vehicles possess valid fitness certificates but they are too dilapidated to be on the roads.”

He added that in 2014, the fitness certificate department was handed over to the transport department through a notification dated May 28, 2014 for it improvement.

Shaikh said the traffic police were devising a strategy to overcome public transport issues and suggestions were sent to the transport department.

The suggestions include declaring the transport sector as and industry and providing soft bank loans and subsidies to transporters. “In the long run, this move will help in providing international standard transport facilities to citizens.”

The DIG said Karachi had witnessed the disappearance of over 12,000 buses, mini-buses and coaches in the last decade.

According to one report, there were 20,000 buses, mini-buses and coaches in the city till 2000, but now only 8,000 are operating.

Similarly, there were 200 routes of public transport buses and mini-buses in the last decade, but now only 80 remain.

This decrease in the number of public transport vehicles has created a vacuum filled by illegal Qingqi motorcycles or extra seat rickshaws.

‘Besides, transporters are reluctant to bring in new buses, mini-buses and coaches in the city because of the increase in fuel prices, the vehicle registration process, the government apathy and lack of insurance in case they were set ablaze in violence,” the official noted.

The DIG said some transporters had sold their vehicles in scrap while had converted them into contract carriages, trucks, and other goods vehicles.

“There is a huge gap between the demand and supply and to fill this vacuum the city has witnessed overloading, Qingqi rickshaws and conversation of three-seat rickshaws into six-seaters and even nine-seaters.”

He observed that as transporters were not investing in  new vehicles, 40 or 60 years old vehicles were plying on the roads.

He added that this was happening because the life of a vehicle was not specified by the government for use as public service.

“All public sector plans for mass transit are still in the pipeline and under these circumstances, there is no immediate solution.”

Shaikh said the traffic police were making strenuous efforts to overcome the menace of overloading in public service vehicles, unfit buses and school vans and rash and negligent driving but these actions were not a permanent solution.

The official said to bring the public transport system in the city at par with international standards the following steps were required: Restarting the CNG green buses service, lifting the ban on the issuance of new public service routes that was in place since 1985, and providing subsidies to the transporters.

Besides, he said it would also help if the life of a public transport vehicle was specified so that decades-old vehicles that were not only responsible for fatal accidents but also causing environmental pollution could be stopped from plying on the roads.

The official said the conversation of public service vehicles into loading vehicles also needed to be discouraged.

“There should also be proper bus bays and stops. Major roads need to be widened to accommodate the growing number of vehicles and roadside encroachments which are a major cause of traffic gridlocks must also be removed.”

The DIG said to overcome the problem of rash and negligent driving, it was obligatory to set up traffic signboards on all the important roads.

“Traffic signboards guide motorists and warned them to abide traffic rules and regulations”

The official also noted that the fine on rash and negligent driving was only Rs1,000 which needed to be increased to Rs5,000.

“Cases of fatal and non-fatal accidents are pending trial for a long time in lower courts and this process needs to be expedited,” he added.

He said the transport department had been recommended to make amendments in Rule 57A and B for restricting old age buses from plying in the metropolis.

“We have also recommended outsourcing the vehicle inspection system as the existing one is sub-standard.”

The DIG also said traffic police were launching special campaigns against unfit public transport vehicles.