TACKLING ROAD CONGESTION AND TRAFFIC ACCIDENTS
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A good traffic system is the identity of a good nation and is considered an attraction for foreign investment and tourists

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By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY
Jan 03 - 09, 2005
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Vehicles such as buses, trucks, vans, taxis, rickshaws, etc are the mechanical modes of transport for most of the people and goods in Pakistan. Transportation increases mobility, creates jobs, and enhances access to markets for the local produce and manufactured goods. However, we experience traffic jams or congestion in the towns and cities if there is uncontrolled flow of more vehicles vis-a-vis one or two lane roads and allied physical infrastructure. Traffic jams result into waste of money, cause pollution, inconvenience for the people and slow down pace of business activities. Traffic congestion is more common near commercial areas, schools and colleges, courts, government offices and entertainment areas, due to different reasons. Congestion is exacerbated by wrong or double parking of vehicles, mostly cars, taxis and motorcycles, along road-sides. Footpaths, mostly encroached by the shop-owners or hawkers, oblige the pedestrians to walk on roads, at great risk to life and limbs.

Pakistan is considered among the countries that have highest rate of road accidents. Scores of people get hurt in major road accidents. Some lose their lives there and then, a few succumb to injuries on way to the hospital, while a few more expire while under emergency treatment. The rest of the injured hopefully survive and after some time are discharged from the hospitals. The survivors are alive but might have deep scars or disabilities that could be permanent. The road accidents need to be reduced through appropriate measures.

A good traffic system is the identity of a good nation and is considered an attraction for foreign investment and tourists. The city of Karachi has unique geographical features, such as: two deep sea ports handling major exports and exports of the country; a busy international airport; financial hub of the country with head offices of most banks, DFIs and the largest stock exchange; large number of colleges and universities; and two oil refineries operating near the port while the third one located nearby in Balochistan. Oil depots at ports or near refineries are obliged to pass through the city, adding to congestion. Main railway line divides the city in two parts. In spite of a number of overhead bridges, traffic jams are seen daily at many level crossings. Being the capital of Sindh Province, various government departments are located in Karachi, the population of which is placed around 14 million. Building of roads infrastructure and traffic management of such a city is a challenging job. Traffic management might aim at smooth flow of people and goods at reasonable cost, without traffic congestion and accidents.

Accidents most often take place when driving regulations, road safety measures or precautions are either ignored or violated. Speed is the main cause of accidents. As they say "speed thrills but it also kills". For an accident, it could be that the vehicle was not road-worthy in the first place. The driver of the vehicle might not be fully attentive while driving or he may be inexperienced or not fully trained to handle sort of unruly traffic or narrow bumpy road. Other drivers whose vehicles are involved in the accident could be at fault. The pedestrians who got injured might be crossing the road in violation of the traffic light or were not paying attention to the blowing of horns by the driver.

 

 

Some accidents might be more fatal such as head-on collisions between two vehicles. It could be a trailer truck and a bus or another truck, van or a car. Such accidents, caused due to serious negligence, normally result into loss of more lives, more fatal injuries to many and total loss of the vehicles involves. In other accidents vehicle might hit a pedestrian or a bicycle, motorcycle, car or a wagon. In such accidents, the loss may depend on many factors including the speed at which the vehicles were moving. However, in such cases the pedestrian a child, a man or a woman has little chance of survival from serious injury or death. Accidental deaths or injuries have serious implications particularly for the immediate family, which might lose the sole bread-winner or a bright student with potential for becoming a great scientist, a doctor or an engineer. This is also a big national loss. For reducing road accidents, comprehensive road safety measures and accident insurance might be ensured by the government.

In several respects road safety impacts on the poorer income groups as pedestrians and non-motorized vehicle users are frequent accident victims. Also the costs of medical treatment and long-term outpatient assistance can have significant impact on household incomes. With further motorization in developing countries, the number of accidents might increase. We should not forget that road crashes increase poverty.

The government has, in various towns and cities, introduced the franchised buses. However, the number is small as compared to the requirements. Moreover, not all routes are being covered by these big buses. The franchise system for buses might be so designed that the transporters presently plying minibuses are attracted to start plying large franchised buses. On the pattern of Karachi Circular Railway, the Circular Buses might be introduced in the city. In addition, the Shuttle Buses might be considered for quick journeys between two important points. Comfort and convenience offered by the franchised buses would facilitate people give up travel by car, motorcycle, taxi or rickshaw and thus reduce congestion and pollution in the towns and cities.

The government might invite the private sector, through open bids, to develop and operate parking lots/vehicle terminals/multi-storey car parking at the given locations against the right to collect appropriate fee from owners of the vehicles which use the facilities. If properly structured and managed, the rentals from these lots should be enough to service the loans and after a few years the project will become a source of regular income. Such schemes have better chances of success if the fees collected for use of parking space are not excessive and the selection of the contractors has been fair and transparent.

Many road accidents and consequential losses could be avoided if the drivers are driving carefully within prescribed speed limits, the pedestrians are walking on the footpaths or crossing roads at zebra-crossings and the road are wide with proper road-signs and are lighted during nights. As in many cases these factors are lacking, the society as well as the government has to take measures for bringing improvements in road safety and traffic management systems. Campaigns for awareness of the general public regarding the need for safe driving and avoidance of road accidents might also be launched frequently over TV and radio.

Presently, most private hospitals nearest to the place of accident, instead of providing first aid for saving the lives of the injured, refer them to the government hospitals authorized to handle road accident cases. It is possible that many precious lives could be saved if first aid was provided to the injured and loss of blood was immediately stopped on arrival at these hospitals. The government is urged to resolve the legal issue.

The victims of road accidents (or their families) might be provided financial help by the government to lessen their financial miseries. The accident victims have a chance to get some financial help for medical expenses from well-known insurance companies providing comprehensive insurance or third party cover to the vehicles. However, it might not be easy to get any relief for medical care from little-known third party insurers. In many cases, the vehicles involved in the accidents simply speed away leaving the victims bleeding on the roads, particularly at night or at isolated places.

Engineering shortcomings in the transport infrastructure including roads, bridges, turnpikes, footpaths, etc need to be removed in the light of scientific studies. Many roads have potholes that badly damage the vehicle or cause accidents. Such potholes need to be filled properly in daily basis. Manhole covers of sewerages passing under the roads might be provided if they are found broken or missing. At certain locations the roads might have to be redesigned to safely cater for the increased traffic flow. New link or parallel roads might have to be built to ease the traffic flow on the main roads. Accident-prone spots on the roads need to be identified and made safe for traffic movement at all hours through redesigning of road and installing proper road signs. All new roads should be built on designs that allow movement of goods and people at fast speed but ensuring safety of both. Roads might be brought to their design breadth by removing encroachments. Footpaths might also be restored to the pedestrians by removing encroachments by the shopkeepers for displaying their wares or used for parking of vehicles. Parking plaza might be constructed at appropriate locations to remove congestion on busy roads.