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Road safety

July 19, 2012

IT is a measure of how callous Pakistani society has become that we can look upon the face of preventable tragedy but not be moved enough to do anything about it. Consider the accident that occurred near Rawalpindi on Tuesday, when a bus carrying more than 50 passengers plunged into a ravine. Reportedly, whilst trying to negotiate a sharp turn the driver shouted that he had lost control of the vehicle and passengers should jump out if they could. While the driver was injured, the nine people killed included one of his sons; dozens were injured.

Such tragedies occur frequently but few reflect on where the blame lies. In some cases, the drivers are held responsible by other people, even if not the law. But should not equal, if not more, censure be directed towards a state that has few regulations to ensure the fitness of vehicles and even less the will to enforce them? As in so many other areas in Pakistan, the role of oversight that ought to be played by the state is left to an individual, such as the driver or owner of a vehicle. Others that may be placed at risk must rely on good luck. It is time the state owned up to its responsibility in terms of road safety. This includes making sure that vehicles can pass a road-worthiness test, drivers are licensed and aware of the traffic rules, and public transport is regulated in a much more comprehensive fashion. Issues such as overcrowding or obviously unfit vehicles are so common that they rarely attract attention. Yet brought under control they must be, for they seriously compromise public safety. In the pockets where the state has exerted the will to enforce the law, such as in certain cities and on some highways, the situation has improved. Why can the same techniques not be expanded to cover the whole country?