ROAD fatalities continue to rise. At least 4,286 people were killed, as New Age reported on Tuesday quoting from the latest report of the national committee to protect shipping, roads and railways, and 9,112 injured in 3,472 reported road accidents in 2017. The number death is 26 per cent higher than that of 2016 when 3,412 people died in 2,998 road accidents. The statistics are enough to suggest that the roads have become nothing but death traps for people. Many have likened the casualties of road accidents in the country to casualties of war to underscore the severity of the problem at hand. The government has, therefore, the responsibility to break the cycle of its apathy to road accidents. In this grim situation, it will not be mistaken to say that road safety measures are nearly non-existent in the country.
It is evident from opinions of experts, activists and researchers that reckless driving, lack of skilled drivers, increasing numbers of three-wheeler vehicles on roads and highways, overloading and violation of traffic rules and regulations are the main reasons for the accidents and causalities on roads and highways. The steps the government has taken are rather superficial and do not tackle the systematic problems of the transport sector. It has totally failed to stop reckless driving and routine violation of traffic rules. In most of the cases, those who are responsible for the accidents are not brought to justice. The owners of the vehicles and transport companies who enjoy impunity of a sort manage to brush aside their liabilities using political influence. The labour unions in the transport sectors are unduly politicised by the mainstream political parties. They are, therefore, too often an impediment to the enforcement of related laws. In the past, state ministers also made irresponsible remarks that passively encouraged reckless driving and the violation of traffic rules. In addition, a serious lack of awareness among people and other private transport agencies regarding the importance of road safety is also a contributing factor.
It is time that the government took immediate steps to improve the road safety situation, set legal precedents of giving exemplary punishment to all responsible from the reckless drivers to public servants issuing fitness certificates to unfit vehicles. In order to ensure a greater accountability across the transport sector, a system must be developed to compensate the victims of accidents keeping to Section 128 of the Motor Vehicle Ordinance 1983. Experts in the sector have for long argued that the implementation of this law will, in turn, improve road safety, as the vehicle and transport company owners and insurers will, in their self-interest, be motivated to support proper driver training, more rigorous enforcement of vehicle fitness standards, requiring first-party insurance for all public transport vehicles and perhaps, goodwill of political parties.
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