By Khadija Baig and Salma Neelofar
More than 1.35 million people die as a result of a road traffic related accidents every year, according to the World Health Organization. But, that is no tall. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-lethal injuries and many of these injuries result in disabilities. Moreover, 93% of road accident casualties happen in low and middle income countries. Haplessly, road accidents are the forefront cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.
Pakistan Bureau of Statistic reports that during 2018-19, up to 10,779 Road Traffic Crashes (RTCs) occurred which took 5,932 lives and left 13,219 people injured. This is a considerable number and it should be taken in account by the road traffic authorities.
In a seminar on road safety measures arranged by Geology department of Karachi University on 21 Feb, the Dean of Civil and Petroleum Engineering faculty at NED University, Dr Mir Shabbar Ali enumerated three major factors which mainly cause road accidents. As 67% of the accidents could be caused by human errors, 28% to poor infrastructure and impair condition of roads and 5% to inept vehicles.
The situation in Gilgit-Baltistan is not different. Deteriorating conditions of roads, careless driving and bike riding and malfunctioning vehicles have cut short scores of precious lives. Not only natives but also the tourists have been the victim of RTCs. Bike accidents have become achingly common during past few years. These accidents either cause fatalities or leave the youngsters severely injured. The most risked segment is our male youth aging from 15-30. As they don’t abide by the traffic laws or there are no any rules or maybe there is no any active authority to deal with the enforcement of the traffic laws. The mismanagement of traffic authorities could be seen in a picture went viral on social media where a tourist police was removing the stones from the road after a land slide. Where is the concerned department?
A few number of bike riders along KKH can been seen wearing helmet for the safety purpose. This single act of safety can save many lives. For instance, as stated in an article in The Express Tribune, the death rate due to RTCs in Lahore has shown a decline in 2019. In 2018, 350 and in 2017, 443 people lost their lives. In 2016, 328 and in 2015, 308 people were killed in road accidents. However, in 2019 the number has dropped to 184. The greatest contributing factor for this decline is the strict implementation of using the helmet said one of the rescue officers.
Additional fore factor for the RTCs mentioned by a native driver is the less number of traffic sign boards on KKH. The local experienced drivers are aware of the turns and other land slide risked areas but the tourists and untrained young drivers become the victims.
Another trend is on these days that while driving little kids want to sit in the drivers lap or take the control of the steering wheel in private vehicles. This can cause fatal consequences. Travelers must take care of such things.
A little more research and meet ups with the RTCs survivors gave us some more causes such as, the driver in the opposite vehicle does not dim the headlights at night time, the vehicles are not maintained well, racing on KKH, using phones while driving, absent mindedness, over speed and worst of all is driving after the consumption of alcohol. These causes can be put paid to and lessen the risk of RTCs if the strict road traffic laws are enforced on daily basis.
Altogether, the absence of any obvious Road traffic law, the absence of road safety measurements, the absence of awareness concerning safety techniques among young bike riders and drivers, unfit vehicles and our sleeping authorities have kept the lives of all the travelers at great risk
Many other countries have significantly steeper penalties for breaking the road traffic laws and these penalties contribute in lessening the risk of RTCs. The ratio of RTCs in the countries, where road traffic laws are enforced, is comparatively low than countries like Pakistan and other less developed and developing countries.
No doubt, accidents and mishaps are the parts of our life but we can reduce them by taking care or abiding by the traffic laws.