The menace of traffic jams
A lot happened in different parts of the country to dampen the spirit of Eid celebrations this year. The last thing the people living in big cities like Karachi needed on the occasion was getting stranded in traffic jams for hours on an end. Thousands of vehicles remained caught in traffic muddles all along the roads leading to Karachi's various recreational spots. The ensuing bedlam caused six fatal accidents in which seven people were killed and several others injured. It is not known how many people with health conditions suffered in silence.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2013
Deputy Inspector General Traffic Police for Karachi told journalists, poor awareness regarding traffic rules and road safety are the main reasons behind the accidents on Eid days. The major problem, of course, is a lack of civic sense. People routinely violate traffic rules. If ignoring the red signal is not bad enough, an equally bad public habit to avoid congestion is to jump into the opposite side traffic lane, thus blocking the flow from both sides and creating a big mess. And those belonging to the privileged classes, especially politicians, senior bureaucrats and their children deem it below their station to observe simple rules such as stopping at the red signal or avoiding use of the prohibited tinted glass on their vehicles. Members of certain influential political families of Karachi have also been seen travelling in cars without licence and registration numbers. Similarly in Lahore and Islamabad, instead of leading by example, members of the assemblies often times use their positions to violate traffic rules as a matter of right.
Aggravating the situation is poor planning and lack of professional motivation on the part of the traffic police to handle the increased vehicular activity on special days such as the two Eids. The fact of the matter is that people will go on violating the rules as long as they know they can get away with it. It is not enough to run periodic awareness campaigns. As pointed out earlier, the offenders include members of the educated privileged classes who are well aware of the rules. It is important therefore to create respect for the law. First and foremost, government officials and legislators have an important role to play in this regard. They and their families must observe the rules, giving the police the confidence that if they book a violator, no matter how influential, they will not come under any pressure to ignore the offence or face consequences in the form of a humiliating reprimand or transfer orders. Secondly, the traffic police personnel need to be properly trained, equipped, and motivated to perform their duties. Once the road users know not stopping at the red signal or occupying the opposite traffic lane will invite trouble, they will follow the rules.