Wednesday October 04, 2023

Smart roads

August 26, 2022

Unfortunately, traffic accidents are increasing in our country. Not a day goes by when news of a fatal accident is not published in newspapers. A few days ago, at least 20 passengers were burnt to death and six others injured when a bus collided with an oil tanker at the Multan-Sukkur Motorway in the wee hours. Both vehicles caught fire when they collided, resulting in the deaths of several passengers on the spot. The details of this tragic incident are heartbreaking. We pray to God to keep every passenger safe and that no one has to face such a horrible situation.

A similar incident happened recently in the Rawalpindi metro bus service, in which more than 100 passengers were on board, but all the passengers were safely taken out in a few minutes. No casualties were reported. According to media reports, a special fire-fighting vehicle was used effectively and the firefighters were taken to the track using an automatic lift.

Road safety is one of the few issues of Pakistan which is suffering from lack of attention. Unfortunately, people in our country are not aware of it. Road safety is limited to obeying traffic signals, whereas it includes all the measures that can be used to prevent road users from being killed or seriously injured.

Contrary to popular beliefs, drivers are not always responsible for such accidents. Poor condition of roads, lack of facilities in passenger coaches, issuance of driving licences to inexperienced and underaged persons, irresponsible behaviour of pedestrians and haste of people are some of the factors behind an increasing number of fatal accidents.

A few decades ago, the number of vehicles in Pakistan was less, but with time, it has increased tremendously. Traffic laws were made in Pakistan in 1965, including the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1965, the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1969 and the National Vehicle Ordinance 2000, but it is unfortunate that these laws could not be implemented in letter and spirit.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one million people lose their lives on roads across the globe every year. The report disclosed that the number of traffic accidents in Pakistan has reached an alarming level of 28,710 annually, which is 1.93 per cent of the total deaths. Similarly, another study highlighted that traffic accidents are the main cause of unnatural deaths in Pakistan.

There was a time when traffic accidents increased with the construction of modern infrastructure in Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, the governments of those countries immediately understood the seriousness of the issue and established road safety departments at the national level. Not only did they introduce strict traffic laws, but they also ensured their proper implementation for controlling traffic accidents.

Internationally, San Marino is the best country in the world where traffic accidents occur rarely, followed by Micronesia, the Maldives, Norway and Sweden. These countries are known as the top five countries in the world for careful driving and road safety. The reason behind this is to reduce driver fatigue and increase the carrying capacity of roadways.

However, the tragedy of Pakistan is that we are certainly influenced by the best lifestyles of foreign countries but never ever think to follow their best practices. Due to an increase in traffic accidents, public trust is being undermined. It is equally traumatic for people to see their loved ones die in front of their eyes.

We need to ensure practical implementation by revising the traffic laws under the changing requirements of the time, as well as raising awareness and consciousness about road safety among the people so that lives can be saved. We need to introduce intelligent and smart road systems with the help of the latest information and communication technologies for traffic management.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets @RVankwani