FATAL and non-fatal accidents take precious lives and cause immense emotional, mental and economic loss. An estimated 1.35 million lives are lost in road traffic accidents (RTAs) across the globe, and 93 per cent of such incidents take place in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these accidents cost many countries up to three per cent of their gross domestic product (GDP).
More than half of all RTA deaths are related to vulnerable road-users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Besides, RTA injuries are the leading cause of death among children and young adults aged 5-29 years.
The data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics is alarming. It shows that a total of 9,701 RTAs took place in the country during 2019-20, of which 4,403 were fatal and 5,298 were non-fatal. It also reveals that 5,436 people were killed and 12,317 injured due to them, while the total number of vehicles involved was 12,894.
These glaring statistics validate passengers’ concerns and depict a true picture of Pakistan’s dilapidated transport system.
There is no denying that the transport system is in desperate need of an overhaul. Neither the vehicles are safe and fit for travelling, nor the drivers make any effort to drive them safely.
They do not use safety gear, and indulge in over-speeding. Then come the dangerous road infrastructure, violation of traffic rules, inefficiency of traffic police and poor post-accident care that together multiply the misery manifold.
The government needs to develop an effective transport policy using a three-tier approach. Tier-1 should focus on resolving intra-city transport issues; tier-2 should deal with inter-city transportation; and tier-3 should monitor the movement of inter-province transport.
These should include backup arrangement of transport staff, and vehicle inspection with proper and professional attention.
The government should also conduct in-depth empirical study to identify and assess the causes of accidents, keeping various social, health and economic factors in mind.
Merely the will to set things right is needed to formulate and implement an effective and efficient transport policy.
Furqan Hyder Shaikh
Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2021