THIS refers to Sindh police chief Dr Amir Sheikh’s announcement on the enforcement of traffic rules.
I had the opportunity to be one of the members of the steering team consisting of experts from the NED University, AKUH, and Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. They worked together to get an in-depth analysis of traffic safety issues for almost a period of 10 years at the Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre at JPMC Neurosurgery Unit. The centre presently is closed owing to funding issues.
Western traffic philosophy propagates “3 Es” — engineering, education and enforcement. The last one — enforcement — is considered as a last resort. Acceptance of traffic rules and regulation is made digestible to society via education. We don’t see this happening in our country. There is no traffic body where all three Es work hand in hand.
Developing countries like us highlight another E — economy. People below the poverty line get penalised heavily for non-compliance.
We did observe in our research that wrong way movement was a major cause of accidents, but we also did communicate to the authorities that a good road design minimises the violation to zero degree. Most of our road designs are copy/paste versions of Western societies where car ownership is well over 90 per cent. Our road designs do not take into context the high ridership and pedestrian movements.
Violations can be curbed by improving road designs and creating awareness among the people. We see very little of this in Pakistan.
Vietnam, having a motorcycle ridership of over 90pc, did overcome the violation of the helmet wearing rule by introducing light weight and cooler helmets along with a strong and effective educational awareness campaign.
International road safety experts of developing countries, Prof Dr Danesh Mohan and Prof Geetam Tiwari, suggest a lowering challan rates but an increase in the frequency of challans.
I do believe the recent suicidal act of a rickshaw driver in Karachi and the manhandling of a traffic police officer in Punjab emphasise the need for a saner approach so as to improve road safety and reduce casualties.
Syed Ameer Hussain
Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2018