By Engr.Shahid Amin
In the middle of the night sheer pain was excruciating head to toe taking me almost down. It was the night of 28th September when I was sitting on a bench outside ward #3 at CMH Gilgit,a far flung area of Pakistan where progress is more subject to political and international agendas less to welfare of the common man.
The reason being in trauma was not me but a relative of mine who had met an accident on KKH that passes right through my Distict HunzaNagar that serves as a corridor between Pakistan and china. Thanks to Allah my relative was safe but it was a nightmare to see a teenage boy in another ward who had also faced a bike accident on KKH. He was in a very critical condition.
Built in the late 70s stretching almost 900km from Hasanabdal to Kashgar, KKH has been a major transit route between Pakistan and china.
Formerly it was a rough highway with pavement failure in form of alligator cracks, rutting and even potholes all along with less maintenance. Well that sounds bad but at that time KKH was safer rather I would say “not deadly”.
Soon in the recent years KKH was rehabilitated and renovated by Chinese government in collaboration with Pakistan. The rehabilitation work completed in 2013. KKH was widened and paved to the best standards.
Well kudos to all in the plan as trade seemed booming up and conveyance turned convenient.
But the celebrating days lasted no more as traffic accidents became frequent and common that has now washed triumphant faces with tears and painted them with scars and fear.
Today KKH seems haunted as casualties are happening due to frequent road accidents. I myself am witness to the deadliest accidents in which very young souls departed. That teenage boy I mentioned earlier succumbed to injuries within two days. Today Hospitals around KKH seem loaded with teenagers fighting for their life due to bike accidents almost every day.
Being a civil engineer and inhabitant of this area I feel sad as Engineering seems taking lives than making transportation and access convenient.
Cursing engineering in this case would be superstitious and illogical as to me, it is not Engineering that is bellowing the death bagpipe.
After my graduation I have been living around KKH for more than 4 months. I observed that almost all the accidents occur due to carelessness, negligence and overconfidence of drivers travelling on KKH. People driving on KKH must understand that the road they are using is no more a link or arterial road system. It has now been upgraded and built on international standards by the Chinese engineers.
Following are my observed causes of increased traffic accidents on KKH:
1- Over speeding
2- Ignoring traffic signs
3- Dysfunctional speed meters in most of the vehicles.( Drivers do not observe it even if functional)
4- Teenage drivers (mostly bikers)
5- No use of Helmets and seat belts at all.
6- Sleeping while driving ( a striking factor)
7- Overconfident drivers with rash driving habits i-e overtaking and racing
Being a Civil Engineer I suggest following remedies to the problem:
1- Please drive slow and always keep left to the median (centerline of road), especially around turns.
2- Please keep a functional speed meter and keep an eye on it while driving
3- I request all parents to please please do not allow your children below 20 to ride bikes. Use a helmet always even if you are riding on unpaved road. It saves you from head injury which in most cases turns fatal.
4- I request all drivers to please follow traffic signs as they are source to avoid accidents and to have a smooth drive.
5- Always keep patience while driving. Keep your lane and avoid racing and overtaking vehicles ahead.
I have written my observations with a hope to bring good to all driving on KKH (especially the indigenous people) either they be anyone hailing from any area, having any kind of mindset, sect and caste.
All I want it a safer KKH as it is pride of Pakistan being the “8th wonder of the world” running through the chest of Karakoram and Himalayas which are known as the “Roof of the world”.
I request all of you who go through this to spread the word around you. It will be bliss if our few words of awareness save even a single life.