WHAT starts as a time for celebration quickly turns into sorrow for many families in Pakistan. Over the three-day Eid holidays, a staggering 4,677 road accidents were recorded across Punjab. Tragically, 33 lost their lives while another 5,500 people were injured. Most of the deaths occurred on Independence Day that coincided with the Eid holidays. In Peshawar, two youngsters lost their lives; 400 accidents took place between Aug 13 and 14. Meanwhile, in Karachi, at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, there were 1,155 patients between Aug 12 and 17 due to traffic and road-related accidents. The vast majority of these deaths and injuries were attributed to speeding motorcyclists and impatient drivers trying to get to their destinations quickly. During such festive occasions, it is also not unusual to see motorcyclists doing tricks on their bikes or children behind the wheel. While it may be exhilarating for some, the brazen disregard and violation of traffic rules endangers not only their own lives but also the lives of those around them. The sheer number of casualties from such incidents is far too high to not be taken as a major public health concern.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, there were 5,958 fatalities throughout the country in 2017-18 — the highest in a decade — while another 14,489 others sustained injuries. Despite having comparatively better roads, highways and services, Punjab had the highest fatalities at 3,371. This was followed by KP, which recorded 1,295 deaths. Meanwhile, Sindh witnessed 802 deaths and Balochistan 313. And whether it is due to the increased number of vehicles on the roads, a growing population, or other factors, the Edhi Foundation considered 2018 to be the worst year for road fatalities in Karachi, with 797 deaths and 16,980 injuries documented. Enforcing preventive measures such as the wearing of seatbelts and helmets, constructing new pedestrian bridges, and ensuring working traffic signals, appropriate speed breakers and road signs, while being vigilant of corruption in the ranks of the traffic police, are just a few steps in the right direction.
Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2019