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Fleeting moments

February 19, 2020

Total chaos


February 19, 2020

Chief Minister Usman Buzdar surely doesn’t like unruly traffic on the roads. He recently ordered the relevant officials to take immediate steps for improving city traffic, as ‘citizens face mental stress due to traffic congestions.’ He also ordered to ease traffic flow at various road crossings in the city and develop some roads, the canal bank roads, for instance, as a model.

CM Buzdar has lately begun to take a keen interest in matters pertaining to public wellbeing. Not a day passes when he doesn’t hold a meeting or make statements. In one such meeting, he ordered the concerned officials to streamline traffic in the provincial capital.

But the glitch is that it isn’t the first time he he has taken notice of the traffic chaos on the roads; he has passed similar orders at regular intervals in the past too. For example, in March 2019, the news headlines ran: “Buzdar for improving traffic flow”. Then in November 2019, papers reported: “Buzdar orders taking immediate steps to improve traffic system”.

When the CM is determined to improve the traffic system, what’s stopping him? Why are his orders not carried out and why does he have to repeat them time and again? The traffic system has gone beyond redemption and needs a major surgery. If CM Buzdar follows up on his own orders and succeeds in organising the traffic in major cities of the province, he will make history.

The roads in Lahore are wide but the traffic on them is poorly managed. Many drivers and motorcyclists are not aware of the basic traffic rules. It’s the duty of the traffic police to educate car drivers and motorcyclists about traffic regulations.

A large majority of drivers, including the apparently educated ones, don’t bother to indicate while turning. What are the indicators meant for? Car drivers talking on cell phones and driving in the fast lane cause a serious problem in maintaining smooth traffic flow.

As a result, the vehicles following behind are forced to overtake them from the wrong side. Even motorcyclists zoom past, chatting on their cell phones squeezed between their ears and shoulders, which is no less than a circus act. Callous car drivers and motorcyclists endanger their own lives and also lives of other road-users.

Many traffic lights in the city are faulty. The traffic wardens, instead of guiding the traffic, stand on the roadside talking on their cell phones. Even violators of one-way traffic don’t attract their attention. To improve the traffic system, a separate lane for motorcyclists is needed, and a fine for not indicating while turning or using cell phones when driving. Drivers who park their vehicles on road turns must be heavily fined, as they obstruct the movement of other drivers.

Years ago, all vehicles including private cars used to be checked for their road worthiness. The drivers had to demonstrate if the indicators and all lights of their vehicles were functional and tyres were in reliable condition. They were fined if their vehicles didn’t pass the fitness test. But not anymore.

Some days ago, eleven passengers were burnt to death when the tyre of the van they travelled in burst near Bhera interchange on the Motorway. The van hit a pillar and caught fire. How could the tyre burst if it was not worn out?

The Motorway DIG later informed the journalists that the accident occurred due to ‘van driver’s negligence coupled with van’s poor condition’. Why was the vehicle in such a dilapidated condition allowed to ply on the Motorway in the first place? How tragic it was when eleven passengers, including three women, burned in an inferno in a locked metallic box and subjected to hell in this world.

The tragedy could have been avoided if the Motorway police had ensured fitness of the vehicle before it proceeded on the Motorway. How many poorly maintained vehicles run on the Motorway is easy to imagine.

Because of the population explosion resulting in high traffic intensity on the roads, the traffic needs to be organised and managed by qualified traffic engineers. Without thorough planning and strict vigilance by the trained staff, the roads will most likely turn into killing fields.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

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