Pakistan has a truly appalling record when it comes to road safety. Crashes or incidents involving multiple fatalities are of such regularity that they rarely warrant more than a few lines in the print media or a few seconds of valuable time on any of the TV channels. The incidents are quickly forgotten — until the next time. Occasionally there is an incident of such magnitude that it breaks through the wall of indifference and apathy. One such was the crash of a petrol tanker and the subsequent immolation of hundreds — the death toll eventually reached 219 — which happened near Ahmedpur East on 25th June 2017. The cause of the crash was probably a burst tyre. The cause of the fire indeterminate but posited either as the lighting of a cigarette or a spark from one of the many vehicles that arrived at the scene to loot spilled petrol.
Now another dreadful crash in which fire consumed at least 14 people, including four children. A passenger van rammed into a trailer and caught fire near the Chakri interchange, Rawalpindi. There are survivors but they are in critical condition and the death toll is likely to rise. The police believe the driver may have fallen asleep leading to the initial crash and the fire is attributed to the gas cylinders in the vehicle. The story will have disappeared within 24 hours.
According the latest WHO data published in May 2014, deaths in road traffic accidents annually amount to around 30,300 or about 2.69 per cent of total deaths from all causes in any year. Deaths in road accidents are the 15th most common cause and outweigh, and always have by many thousands, deaths caused by terrorist activity. Despite this there remain extremely low levels of road safety awareness, a fatalistic attitude to the quality of driving generally, poorly enforced driving and road regulations and no sign of the carnage reducing. Road casualties? What road casualties?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2017.