TWO horrific accidents on Tuesday, which resulted in high death tolls, illustrate the dangers people face while using Pakistan’s roads. In the first incident, which occurred on the M5 Multan-Sukkur Motorway, a passenger bus going to Karachi from Lahore crashed into an oil tanker early in the morning, causing at least 20 fatalities. Officials told the media that the accident occurred when the bus driver apparently fell asleep at the wheel. In the second incident, which occurred near Rohri, Sindh, at least eight people were killed when a passenger coach also heading towards Karachi from Swat overturned and fell into a ditch.
The figures of road accidents nationwide do not present an optimistic picture. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ numbers, in 2019-20 over 9,000 accidents were reported in the country. Over 5,000 people were killed in these mishaps, while over 12,000 were injured. Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported the highest number of road accidents. PBS data stretching back to 2009-10 shows similar numbers for every year, indicating that no significant fall has been reported in the number of road traffic accidents. Moreover, these figures do not include numbers from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, and it is fair to assume that if these were added, and unreported accidents factored in, the annual figures for deaths and injuries on the country’s roads would be even higher. The reasons behind these grim numbers are not difficult to identify. For example, whether it is urban roads or the country’s highways, road sense for most drivers is close to zero, while overspeeding and wanton disregard for traffic rules is widespread. True, the situation may slightly be better on the Motorways, but as Tuesday’s tragedy indicates, even this well-maintained network is not immune to hazards. The fact is that unless the authorities strictly enforce road safety regulations, such tragedies will keep happening. Also, the intercity bus sector needs closer scrutiny. The authorities need to investigate whether the driver involved in the M5 crash had received enough rest. If not, the bus company concerned needs to be penalised, while it should be ensured that drivers of long-distance routes get enough sleep before getting behind the wheel. Furthermore, there should be zero tolerance for overspeeding and hazardous overtaking, particularly on the highways. For the state, road accidents may not be headline news, but thousands of precious lives lost every year can be saved if better road safety measures are enforced.
Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2022