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Tuesday, May 24, 2022
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Going everywhere, reaching nowhere

I had never thought it would become this hard to commute in Lahore where vehicles seem to move pell-mell towards their destinations. Hitting the road every time, whether for a short journey or covering a good distance, one’s apprehensions are confirmed that the traffic mess is worsening every passing day at an exponential speed.

Frustration awaits a person who traverses the city’s main thoroughfares and predictably gets stuck in a snarl-up with countless vehicles all around, belching smoke and cacophony, making it next to impossible to reach the destination in time. Metaphorically speaking, the sight of mess on the roads betrays ubiquitous signs of a nation in desperation.

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A deluge of cars proffers a common spectacle for a person who ventures on a road. The multiplication of vehicles on roads, thanks to the loan-leasing option of banks, has been a major contributory factor in view of the fact that we don’t have requisite road network. Vehicle ownership has soared alarmingly in urban areas and it is a significant driver in aggravating traffic congestion. Close to homes, an array of cars parked outside a house, obtrusively blocking passage in posh areas, compounds the problem.

In the burgeoning cities of the country, we witness gridlocks on roads as well as at almost every signal for most part of the day. The problem is exacerbated by encroachments, wrong car parking on narrow roads or service lanes and apathy of the drivers. Loading and unloading at marketplaces during busy hours hinders the smooth flow of traffic.

Worse still, minor and sometimes serious scuffles break out among people on such occasions. Heavy traffic damages the already dilapidated infrastructure and makes travelling hazardous. With the increase in traffic, the number of accidents has also gone up, costing precious lives, time and fuel.

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The Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) should introduce well-planned decongestion projects to bring about an end to the traffic jam problem. The infrastructure should be improved throughout the country, the roads should be widened, addition of roundabouts on crucial spots should be considered, and underpasses and overpasses should be built to minimize the congestion problem.

Road pricing on the busiest roads at specific timings can also play a major role in discouraging needless traffic jams. The government should invest in public transportation with minimal fares so the dependence on the private transport is reduced.

The major contributory factor for this traffic chaos is a lack of awareness among the public/drivers, especially in the underage ones, who pose a threat to the lives of everyone on the road. Every driver on the road has certain rights and certain corresponding responsibilities but generally people assert their rights and ignore the rights of others and end up blaming them. Traffic problems can be reduced if men behind the wheels are made to realize their responsibilities.

The problem cannot be solved by only punishing individuals while the system’s loopholes are not removed. The whole system needs an overhaul. The government should focus on proper education of drivers and authenticate the driver’s test. Moreover, the traffic police should also be equipped with modern technologies of controlling traffic and made aware of the traffic rules.

Media can also play a positive role by constantly reminding the public of their responsibilities. Jumping signals, over-speeding, driving under the influence of (both wealth and drink), wrong parking, and hit and run are a common sight, and often the miscreants go scot-free. It is a sad manifestation of society with a penchant for embracing shortcuts in life.

In order to inculcate traffic sense in the public, the government should enforce the law. A few police teams, headed by traffic magistrates with summary powers to impose fines on spot on violators, should be deployed in the city. The perpetrators should be dealt with an iron hand. It is the ‘nut behind the wheel’ that is mostly responsible for the chaos. That is why the driving public should be made aware of the right of the way and the whole set of regulations.

Educating drivers is a must; the process of education requires a holistic approach and for that the standards of education must be improved and that, we all know, means a fresh start.

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