Karachi for decades has remained a chaotic city of Pakistan. Whether we talk about the law and order, cleanliness or traffic issues all boils down to the disorganised and corrupt management of the largest metropolis in the country. The city that provides 65% revenue to the country is in tatters. The citizens and the administration have failed to keep it the thriving center for activities. Unplanned societies and apartment blocks have sprung up with China Cutting and scores of billboards making Karachi a nuisance. Furthermore, the city gives a picture of a jungle rather than of a civilised society with no solution to the 12,000 tons of solid waste that is generated daily.
Every year over 1,000 motorcyclists and pillion riders die in road accidents, yet the traffic police management has no awareness programs or policies in place for road safety or as simple as having clear road markings on the roads. As a thumb rule, all kinds of public transport and motorcycle are only to use extreme left lanes and only when turning right or making a U-turn these vehicles may use right lanes. However, U-turns are a big NO NO for any heavy vehicle. Nevertheless, the majority of the motorcyclists are not educated and may be illiterate. Therefore they think that riding in any lane is acceptable which we commonly see on the roads of Karachi.
Last year a total of 31,041 traffic accidents were reported in which people were either injured or passed away. What is shocking is that 52% of the victims were brought to the hospital in private vehicles. Sadly, this shows the incapability of the government in the health sector. Those who did manage to get ambulances were courtesy private welfare foundations such as Chippa and Edhi among others.
According to data, approximately 14,000 motorcyclists and 5,834 pillion-riders were injured. Whereas, 436 motorcyclists and 95 pillion-riders died in accidents last year. Moreover, due to lack of footpaths, zebra-crossings, and overhead bridges the other largest road user group to get hit were pedestrians, who were involved in 5,953 cases. A proportion of pedestrians do not use overhead bridges because it has no access for the disables and elderly; many just jump on the road for rash crossing. Also due to signal free corridors at places such as Shara-e-Faisal, the overhead pedestrian bridges are in limited quantity making is difficult for the pedestrians to cross the road in a safe manner. Last year, at least 214 pedestrians died in traffic accidents, but the figure seems to be so small that it has not bothered the authorities.
The traffic police are often seen taking money from children under the age of 18 who are caught riding motorcycles and other vehicles. If the law in the society does not have a firm and disciplined order than the youth is bound to go astray. In Karachi as little as 9-year-olds are ridings bikes and driving cars – not only putting their lives at risk but several people around them. Also, in road accidents over 70% casualties are due to motorcyclists that are either in wrong lanes, are dangerously overtaking or lose control due to performing stunts.
Areas that have high accident rates are lower to lower-middle-class areas such as Gadap Town, Korangi, Keamari, Bin Qasim, Baldia, Site, and Orangi. There is an urgent need to educate the public on road safety and hazards and to reformulate the traffic management SOPs.
Women are most affected when it comes to roadside accidents involving motorbikes. They are usually pillion riders and the side sitting way that they adopt is dangerous for not only their hips and backs but at the time of accident they have far less control making them more prone to fatal injuries. The right way to be sitting on a bike is with legs open and the face looking in the straight direction of the road.
Last year the traffic police did issue orders for all motorists to have valid licenses, motorcyclists to wear helmets or else face hefty fines and punishments. Few weeks down the line everyone forgot, and the life went back to “normal”. What was interesting was that women were exempted from wearing helmets something an educated Karachiite was clueless about. We just hope that policy making is strict and according to the law. However, with authorities caring less to traffic violation issues that cause accidents, injuries, and deaths the citizens will forever have road rage something that is not a sign of a civilised society.