SIX lives — all members of a single family — were recently lost in Lahore to the unabated menace of underage driving. The accident, involving a teenage driver, has once more raised questions about road safety and law enforcement in Pakistan. The aftermath of the incident has seen the Lahore High Court intensifying efforts against unlicensed motorists, highlighting a disturbing reality: a vast number of drivers operate without valid licences. This judicial response underscores a systemic failure in enforcing traffic laws and the lack of responsibility among vehicle owners, especially in affluent areas like DHA. The surge in driving licence applications following this tragedy is a reactive measure, yet it speaks volumes about the previously lax attitude towards this critical aspect of road safety. The daunting figures presented in court — 7.3m cars with only 1.3m licensed drivers in Lahore — paint a stark picture of the callous disregard for the law that pervades our society.
The response should be multifaceted. While the crackdowns in Lahore and Rawalpindi are steps in the right direction, they must be accompanied by a change in societal attitudes. The ease with which vehicles are handed over to minors by guardians reflects a dangerous irresponsibility, which not only endangers lives but also contributes to a culture of discourtesy. The LHC’s directives for police to ensure that punitive actions do not cross into harassment is appreciable. Protecting citizens’ rights, even in strict enforcement, is essential to maintain public trust and cooperation. Alongside, there is a dire need for awareness. The issue of underage and unlicensed driving is rooted in societal norms and requires a comprehensive approach to instigate a shift in behaviour. The DHA incident should serve as an eye-opener, demanding not just governmental action but also a collective societal effort to foster a culture of responsibility and safety on our roads. Our future actions will determine whether this tragedy becomes a catalyst for change or just another forgotten headline.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2023