The good news is that there were five per cent less deaths and injuries in road accidents in 2011 compared to the year before, says an annual report prepared by the Road Traffic Injury Research and Prevention Centre. The bad news is that people are being killed for reasons that can be completely avoided: overspeeding, overtaking and going the wrong way.
According to the Road Casualty Report 2011, there were 32,300 road accidents, including deaths, reported at the city’s five major hospitals. And while it was less than in 2010, 1,161 people lost their lives.
The sad part is that men on motorcycles between 31 and 35 years of age are at the highest risk. They are dying of mostly head and neck injuries. Yet the number of men who don’t wear a helmet is increasing.
“There is no way to enforce the law on the youth,” said Prof. Dr Mir Shabbar Ali, who is the chairman of NED University’s urban engineering department and is part of the road traffic accident centre. “Everything has been tried – from issuing fines to distributing free helmets.” The only way is to encourage the use of helmets through education, he said.
Syed Ameer Hussain, the centre’s programme manager, adds that young men don’t find helmets ‘cool’ enough. “We have to attack all the wrong perceptions. Some people even think that wearing a helmet hinders the view. That is absurd.” He reels off a list of benefits: You don’t get sunburn, you don’t lose hair and most importantly “it saves your life”.
The centre found that Korangi Industrial Area Road, Chaudhry Fazal Ellahi Road, Manghopir Road and Sher Shah Suri Road were the major arteries where deaths went up more than 100%. Interestingly, there was a one-third drop in accidents on Moulvi Tameezuddin Road. The problem with Korangi Road is that it is potholed, doesn’t have street lights and freight trucks drive on it haphazardly.
The data gathered from the five hospitals found that Aman Foundation’s ambulance service has improved 40%, followed by Edhi at 20% and Chhippa took 35% less cases.
Abbasi Shaheed Hospital reported receiving more accidents in 2011 than 2010 and Liaquat National Hospital reported a drop. Jinnah hospital had to tackle the highest number of cases (12,933)
Nearly 20,000 pillion or double-sawari riders reported injuries and the severity seems to have jumped 13% with fatalities going up 15% compared to 2010. The traffic police is seeing a lot more underage driving. It needs to upgrade and reform the licensing system, implement the day-time running lights and make sure motorcycles have rear-view mirrors, said the report.
The report also noted that rickshaws caused 33% more fatal accidents. The problem is that their drivers are untrained, unprofessional and not licensed. Many of them are underage. The report suggests that they be registered and trained.
But there is some good news.
Preventive measures do help to save lives. Last year, the civic authorities responded to calls for pedestrian bridges at spots where people were frequently killed and injured while crossing the roads. “The bridges were built on University Road and in Saddar’s Lines Area,” said Ali. “And that helped.”
Prof Dr Ali explained that when someone is stuck in traffic for a while, he or she will speed up after traffic opens up. “That is when the accidents happen.”
Other good news was that public transport and vehicles carrying heavy goods caused 11% and 18% less accidents. It turns out that the more fatal accidents are taking place at dawn and not necessarily at night.
Strangely enough, July 2011 was safer, which Ameer Hussain says was probably because of politics and people staying inside more.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2012.