The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims was started by the British road crash victim charity, RoadPeace, in 1993, and through the UN General Assembly resolution 60/5 on 26 Oct 2005,it was announced that this remembrance will take place every year on the third Sunday in November. This day is dedicated to remembering those killed or injured in road crashes. On this day, tribute is paid to the dedicated emergency crews and ways and means are found to mitigate the burden of grief and distress experienced by the victims’ families, communities and countries.
Stop accidents before they stop you
Road Accidents in Pakistan
In Pakistan, the task of collecting data on road accidents is performed by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS). The related facts and figures are collected with the help of the record maintained by police departments of all provinces. However, these statistics do not depict the actual situation because, in our country, a large number of accidents go unreported as most people do not want to get indulged in legal complexities.
But, it is also true that unless we have authentic data available with us, we will have to rely on the figures provided by the FBS which suggest that in 2015-16, a total of 9100 road accidents happened in the country. In these accidents, 10,636 motor vehicles were damaged and 4,480 people lost their lives while 11,544 received injuries of varying nature and severity.
As per an analysis of the FBS data, the population of Pakistan rose by 40 percent between 2000 and 2016, soaring from 139.55 million to 195.40 million. But, during the same period, the number of registered vehicles saw an increase of 290 percent reaching 18,352,500 from 4,701,600.
World Health Organization (WHO) reports say that Pakistan, with 25,781 deaths in 2013, was the eighth biggest country in the world in terms of traffic-related deaths. They also suggest that the country occupied 101st position in terms of deaths per hundred thousand population.
- In 2000, every 30th Pakistani owned a motor vehicle while in 2016, every 11th Pakistani had one.
- The biggest increase was recorded for motorcycles – 474 percent.
- During this period, on a daily average:
- 25 road accidents happened
- 10 road accidents claimed lives
- 12 people lost their lives in them
- 32 casualties were reported
- 29 motor vehicles were damaged
- Every third accident claimed lives
- Every road accident damaged 1.16 motor vehicles
- Every road accident caused injuries to 1.26 persons
- Overall, 39 percent of road accidents in Pakistan claimed lives
The biggest number of road accidents was recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) which accounted for 47 percent of the country’s total. KP was followed by Punjab (36 percent), Sindh (10 percent), Balochistan (4 percent) and Islamabad Capital Territory (3 percent).
In terms of accidents that claimed lives, most were reported in Punjab province that accounted for 44 percent of the country’s total. Punjab was followed by KP (33 percent), Sindh (18 percent), Balochistan (5 percent) and ICT (3 percent).
Among the provinces, the biggest number of accidents that claimed lives occurred in Sindh where 69 percent of accidents caused deaths. This ratio was 48 percent in Punjab, 50 percent in Balochistan, 49 percent in ICT and 25 percent in KP.
Biggest number of traffic-related deaths was recorded in Punjab which accounted for 46 percent of the country’s total. KP (29 percent), Sindh (17 percent), Balochistan (5 percent) and ICT (3 Percent) were at second, third, fourth and fifth position, respectively.
The WHO says that Pakistan has no mechanism to check the quality of its existing roads. Moreover, it suggests that strict implementation of standards while building new roads is inevitable.
According to WHO, in Pakistan:
- There is no unified UAN available to seek emergency services; rather it has multiple numbers where people may call up the rescue staff.
- Maximum speed limit in urban areas is 90 kph.
- Maximum speed limit in rural areas is 110 kph.
- Maximum speed limit on motorway is 130 kph.
- Laws that prohibit driving under the influence of alcohol also exist.
- Laws making the use of helmets necessary for bikers do also exist and they are equally applicable on both seats. However, fastening helmet straps is not necessary. No regulations on the quality of helmets exist.
- Law making fastening of seat belts necessary exists but it is not applicable on both front and rear seats.
- There is no law to prohibit children’s presence on front seats of a vehicle.
- Law that prohibits the use of mobile phone while driving is in place and it is applicable on hands-free also.
As per the Road Safety Journal of the National Highways & Motorway Police, in Pakistan, more than 50,000 road users are severely injured and become disabled. An estimated cost of all this loss and burden on the national exchequer is more than US$5 billion every year.
Most automobiles built in Pakistan do not have safety features like airbags, and Antilock Braking Systems (ABS) that help a driver to maintain control over a vehicle in difficult or emergency situations.
Situation in Punjab
In Pakistan, consolidated data on road accidents at provincial level are available in the Punjab province only. The figures collected by Punjab Emergency Service (Rescue 1122) are not only detailed but are also updated on a daily basis. The process of data collection started on 17th June 2013 and, as per the details provided therein, 973,779 road accidents were recorded in the province till 16th October 2017, affecting 1,169,760 people. An analysis of the data reveals a bitter fact: the number of road accidents in Punjab on a year-on-year basis is increasing; for instance, 201,120 accidents were recorded in 2014 in the province while the number rose to 227,390 in 2015 and to 238,782 in 2016 – an increase of 19 percent. Population of the province recorded an increase of 3 percent while this increase for the number of registered motor vehicles was 19 percent. It means when compared with the population increase, the number of motor vehicles and that of road accidents rose six times.
If the growing number of motor vehicles in Punjab reinforces the need for a safe transport system in the province, the picture that emerges from the aforementioned state of affairs on road accidents, too, exposes the seriousness on the part of concerned authorities and our own sincerity in fulfilling our responsibilities as individual citizens of the state.
A brief on this fact is presented hereunder:
In Punjab on average, every day:
- 616 road accidents happened.
- 739 casualties were reported – 587 men and 152 women, in them
- 108 pedestrians met with road accidents
- 349 travellers met with road accidents
- 282 drivers met with road accidents
- 491 motorcycles (bikes) met with road accidents
- 67 cars met with road accidents
- 20 trucks met with road accidents
- 84 rickshaws met with road accidents
- 8 buses met with road accidents
- 35 wagons met with road accidents
- 72 other passengers met with road accidents
- 777 motor vehicles met with road accidents
In terms of age of the victims:
- 35 children aged between 1 and 10 years met with road accidents
- 144 children/teens aged 11-20 years met with road accidents
- 225 young boys and girls aged 21-30 met with road accidents
- 150 men and women aged 31-40 years met with road accidents
- 96 people were aged between 41 and 50 years
- 53 people were aged between 51 and 60 years
- 36 people were above 60 years of aged
When we analyse the nature of injuries, we find:
- 81 people received serious injuries
- 31 persons received spinal injuries
- 116 persons got their one leg broken
- 38 persons got their more than one bone broken
- 492 people received minor injuries
- 08 people died
- Every fiftieth accident caused a spinal injury
- Every eighth accident caused a head injury
- Every seventeenth accident broke one or more bones
- Every second accident caused minor injuries
- Every seventy-fourth accident caused deaths
- 267 accident happened due to overspeeding
- 203 accidents happened due to driver’s negligence
- 49 accidents happened due to taking a wrong turn
- 35 accidents happened due to suddenly taking a U-turn
- 1 accident happened due to one wheeling
- 5 accidents happened due to tyre burst
- 56 accidents happened due to other reasons
- Every third accident happened due to overspeeding
- Every fourth accident happened due to driver’s negligence
- Every thirteenth accident happened due to taking a wrong turn
- Every eighteenth accident happened due to suddenly taking a U-turn
- Every 1192th accident happened due to one wheeling
- Every 114th accident happened due to tyre burst
- Every eleventh accident happened due to other reasons
On an average, approximately:
- 1.2 individuals were affected in every road accident
- 1 man was affected in every road accident
- 1 woman was affected in every fifth road accident
- 1 pedestrian was affected in every sixth road accident
- 1 passenger was affected in every second road accident
- 1 driver was affected in every third road accident
- Every second accident involved a motorbike
- Every tenth accident involved a car
- Every thirty-first accident involved a truck
- Every eighth accident involved a rickshaw
- Every seventy-sixth accident involved a bus
- Every thirty-first accident involved a truck
- Every eighteenth accident involved a wagon
- Every nineteenth accident involved other types of vehicles
- Every road accident caused damage to 1.26 motor vehicles
- Every eighteenth road accident affected 1 child of age up to 10 years
- Every fifth road accident affected 1 child aged between 10 and 20 years
- Every third road accident affected 1 youth aged between 21 and 30 years
- Every fifth road accident affected 1 person aged between 31 and 40 years
- Every seventh road accident affected 1 person aged 41-50 years
- Every twelfth road accident affected 1 person aged 51-60 years
- Every eighteenth road accident affected 1 old person aged over 60 years
The data further reveals that:
- 79 percent of the victims of road accidents were males
- 21 percent of the victims were females
- 15 percent of the victims were pedestrians
- 47 percent of the victims were passengers
- 38 percent of the victims were drivers
- 05 percent of the victims of road accidents aged up to ten years
- 20 percent of the victims aged between 11 and 20 years
- 30 percent of the victims aged between 21 and 30 years
- 20 percent of the victims aged between 31 and 40 years
- 13 percent of the victims aged between 41 and 50 years
- 07 percent of the victims aged between 51 and 60 years
- 02 percent of the victims of road accidents received a spinal injury
- 11 percent of the victims received a head injury
- 16 percent of the victims broke their one leg
- 05 percent of the victims got their one or more bones broken
- 67 percent of the victims received minor injuries
- 01 percent of the victims died
- 80 percent road accidents involved a motorbike
- 01 percent involved a car
- 03 percent involved a truck
- 14 percent involved a rickshaw
- 01 percent involved a bus
- 06 percent involved a wagon
- 12 percent involved other types of vehicles
- 43 percent of accidents happened due to overspeeding
- 33 percent of accidents happened due to driver’s negligence
- 08 percent happened due to taking a wrong turn
- 06 percent happened due to suddenly taking a U-turn
- 0.08 percent happened due to one wheeling
- 0.88 percent happened due to tyre burst
- 09 percent happened due to other reasons
Causes of road accidents and remedies
There are six major reasons of road accidents and the casualties thereupon:
1. Driving after getting intoxicated (drunk driving)
3. Not using helmet while riding a motorcycle
4. Not fastening seat belts
5. Allowing children to sit on front seats
6. Using mobile phones while driving or walking on the road
Driving under the influence of drugs, or use of drugs while driving, causes serious road accidents. So, quantitation of drugs of abuse in blood is highly important.
Strictly abiding by the traffic rules while driving under the influence of drugs reduces traffic-related deaths by 20 percent.
Overspeeding is another principal cause of road accidents. About 40 to 50 percent people drive their vehicles faster than the speed limit.
Overspeeding is directly related to accident and its graveness. For example, an increase of one kilometre per hour (kph) raises the chances of accidents involving injuries by 3 percent and death by 4-5 percent.
Greater the speed, more the distance required by the vehicle to stop. It is estimated that a vehicle running at 50 kph stops after covering a distance of 27 metres; the one running at 60 kph after 36 metres and the one having 80 kph speed after 58 metres.
In countries with high per capita income, one out of every three traffic-related deaths is caused by the violation of the speed limit.
If an average male pedestrian is hit by a vehicle running at 50 kph, the probability of his death is 20 percent whereas if he is hit by the one with 80 kph speed, the chances grow to 60 percent.
A 5 percent drop in average speed means 30 percent reduction in traffic-related deaths.
When a vehicle is taken to a place where there are pedestrians and cyclists, the speed limit should be less than 30 kph.
Speed limit of more than 50 kph in cities is dangerous.
Deaths in accidents involving bicycles and motorbikes are mostly caused by head injury.
A proper helmet reduces the likelihood of death by 40 percent and of severe injuries by 70 percent.
Use of seat belts, especially on the front seats, reduces the possibility of traffic-related deaths by 50 percent, while that on rear seats gets reduced by 75 percent.
Banning children to occupy front seats of a vehicle, and proper use of safety seats for them, will reduce the chances of death by 70 percent for infants and 54-80 percent for young children.
The use of mobile phones while walking on a road or when driving a vehicle is another major cause of traffic-related deaths. Drivers do so are four times exposed to the likelihood of meeting an accident than those who avoid doing so. It is because use of phones while driving decreases response capacity – applying brakes, following traffic signals, staying in one’s lane and line and keeping a safe distance from the next vehicle.
Why the prevention of road accidents is important?
Traffic-related injuries have both economic and social repercussions on individuals, families and even countries. This loss occurs in the form of increased expenditure on healthcare, victims’ incapacitation to take part in productive activities – or cutting off from those due to death – and time consumed on nursing the injured that would, otherwise, be spent on education or work. Accidents are a big public health issue because they further strain an already-overburdened health infrastructure, further hamper the provision of healthcare facilities, cause consumption of more and more resources and hinder economic growth by effecting a decrease in productivity.
On an average, every year, road accidents add a burden of nearly US$65 billion to middle- and low-income economies.
Road accidents an international emergency
Yesterday, in road accidents:
3417 road-users lost their lives
1060 car users lost their lives
137 cyclists lost their lives
786 bikers lost their lives
752 pedestrians lost their lives
In 2015, 56.40 million people died. Among the major causes behind nearly 54 percent of these deaths, road accidents emerged as the tenth biggest cause.
The biggest cause of the death of people aged 15-29 years is road accidents.
Road accidents cost nearly 3 percent of the national GDP in high-income countries whereas for middle- and low-income countries, this loss is up to 5 percent.
Nearly 48 percent of deaths in road accidents are of people aged 15-44 years.
Nearly 74 percent of deaths in road accidents occur in middle-income countries whereas for high- and lower-income countries, this ratio is 10 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
Seventy-five percent of deaths in road accidents are of men.
22 percent deaths are of pedestrians, 4 percent of cyclists and 23 percent of bikers, that is, 49 percent deaths.
Between 2010 and 2013, the world population grew by 4 percent while that rise in the number of registered vehicles was 16 percent.
How traffic-related accidents and the losses thereupon can be reduced?
Road accidents can be curbed if government takes serious steps in that direction. It is possible with more and more participation of transport, health and education sectors, as well as the country’s media. In addition, initiatives that make roads safer, allowing cars with all safety provisions and building better-designed, safer roads is also highly important.
Roads should be built keeping in view the needs of the road-users. There should be proper facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and bikers. Building footpaths, making lanes exclusively for cyclists and bikers, introducing safe road crossings and ensuring smooth flow of traffic are some steps that can help radically reduce casualties of road-users.
Safer vehicles play a key role in reducing road accidents and minimizing the possibilities of severe injuries. There are certain conventions of the United Nations on road safety; if they are applied on manufacturers – and production standards – a large number of precious lives can be saved.
There is a pressing need to introduce tough traffic rules and ensure their effective implementation.
Any delay in giving proper medical care to those injured in road accidents can be detrimental to their life. Post-accident care should be speedy because the fine line between life and death can vanish in a matter of seconds.
Media usually report traffic accidents only as a news item and not as a potent threat that kills people and causes the loss of human, health and economic resources. Media should also highlight the importance of road safety by broadcasting detailed information and facts and figures on health and development aspects. This can effect a huge change in people’s behaviours and will also attract policymakers to play their roles effectively.
What is being done to minimize road accidents?
In the past three years, 17 countries having a cumulative population of 1409 million have amended their laws with an aim to minimize road accidents.
In 116 countries, universal access number (UAN) for emergency services exists.
47 countries with 950 million population strictly enforce laws related to speed limit in cities.
97 countries out of 180 have limited traffic speed in cities at 50 kph or below.
44 countries, home to 1.2 billion people have strict applicability of laws to wear helmets.
105 countries, with a population of 4.8 billion individuals, have laws on fastening safety belts on front and rear seats of a vehicle.
53 countries have enforced law prohibiting children’s presence on front seats.
139 countries have laws prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving a vehicle. Moreover, in 31 countries, these laws are applicable also on hands-free.
34 countries have laws that prohibit drunk (excess of alcohol in blood) driving.
Nearly 53 percent of registered vehicles are in middle-income countries, 41 percent in high- and only 1 percent in low-income countries.
Middle- and low-income countries have nearly half the world’s registered vehicles but they account for nearly 90 percent of all deaths in road accidents.
In 2010, deaths in road accidents rose in 68 countries whereas a decline was recorded in 79.
The biggest number of traffic-related deaths in the world has been recorded in China. In 2013, there were 261,367 deaths in the country which accounted for 22 percent of the world’s total. India and Brazil occupied second and third place.
In terms of traffic-related deaths per hundred thousand population, Thailand was topped the list with 36.2. It was followed by Malawi and Liberia.
The United States of America has the biggest number of registered vehicles in the world. Americans own 265,043,362 registered vehicles (15 percent of the world’s total). China and India, respectively, occupy second and third position.
Every year 20-50 million people get injured in road accidents with most getting incapacitated for life.
If far-reaching initiatives are not taken in this regard, traffic-related accidents will be the seventh biggest cause of deaths by 2030.
Target 6 of Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals aims to halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents by 2020.
Target 11.2 enunciates “By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons.”