Citizens, cops may equally lack traffic literacy but who cares!

At 23, Mohammad Azam was too young to die. He was an active member of the Islamabad’s motorbike stunt community. A Saturday night, he was in full spirits. Clad in black biking gear, he had planned to show off his newly perfected stunts. Azam stumbled near the Faizabad Flyover after 15 minutes of daredevil wheeling on a bike whose brake shoes had been removed purposely. He never wore a helmet. His head rammed on the sideway of the Islamabad Highway. The crash proved instantly fatal.The Islamabad’s protocol police, alias traffic police, were too late to arrive. An ambulance ferried the body to the Polyclinic Hospital after the cops completed the paperwork. He was buried in enormous outpouring. His friends had come on motorbikes with stripped off back-view mirrors, indicators, and even license plates (commonly referred to as registration numbers plates). They grieved and cried but learnt little from the untimely demise of a friend. Even a year after the incident, the capital city’s police had failed to curb the costly hobby. Since the adrenaline pumping ‘sport’ takes place on the highways, the capital’s protocol police can dish out no excuse curbing it to save lives.Even an average biker can easily escape the police. Rarely, the bikers use rear-view mirrors and indicators. It’s easy to spot a family of four travelling on a motorcycle with only driver wearing the helmet. The traffic police speed guns are only fixed for the four-wheelers. More die in accidents involving speedy motorbikes than four-wheelers. However, there is a little empirical data available to crystallise the trend.Pakistan has been witnessing a boom in the motorcycle use since 2004. With the addition of cheaper Chinese petrol-run two-wheelers, their number soared enormously over the last few years. Meanwhile, no attention was paid to road safety. While low-priced motorcycles seriously compromise on safety standards such as brakes and tyres’ road grip, the branded ones don’t provide two helmets and a traffic manual with the vehicle they sell.Even the advertising campaigns on television and print media focus on speed, ruggedness and strength of the motorcycle, while laying special emphasis on the machine’s added appeal on exceedingly pretty females. When such is the lust to sell the product at the top, why shall the motorcycle dealers’ care to engage in road safety awareness campaigns. Motorbikes are never inspected for maintenance standards too. You are more likely to get a ticket for using cell phone while driving a car but a motorcyclist won’t ever be challaned for the same. In 1999-2000, this correspondent conducted a simple survey on the provision of traffic rules and regulations manuals. Only four could be found available for sale at the stores and post offices across the twin cities. The situation may not be as bad now. However, the traffic illiteracy has disastrous implications for the society when it’s widely prevalent in the traffic police.

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Aaj Kal