Traffic shapes itself according to the administrative supervision that it is accorded – or due to the lack of it. The culture of traffic congestion and chaos that has developed on our roads deserves serious attention from the relevant authorities.

Almost every day, pictures of snarled-up traffic along major roads and angry letters about our mismanaged traffic system appear in various newspapers. But instead of improving, the situation has worsened by the day. The loss of life and permanent disabilities caused by road accidents are on the rise. Is the situation beyond redemption? No. All it needs is attention from senior traffic police officials who seem more concerned about facilitating VVIP movements along the roads than ensuring the orderly flow of traffic for road users.

As it is, most drivers seem to ignore traffic laws. You see them moving about on the roads and changing lanes at will while be glued to their cellphones. The use of cellphones while driving has become rampant, as if business deals worth millions cannot wait until people are off the roads. As I write this article, I happen to glance on the news post section of this newspaper where a regular contributor decries how the Mianwali-Talagang Road has become a death trap for the commuters. Such death traps exist everywhere.

In another English newspaper of the same day, a letter draws attention to the perennial traffic jams at Thokar Niaz Baig Chowk under the flyover. This chowk is a nightmare to negotiate for the drivers who regularly travel through the route, leave alone visitors from other cities who seem completely baffled by the traffic chaos on the confluence of the six roads that meet here.

In my previous articles for this newspaper, I have mentioned how traffic jams are a permanent feature on Multan Road from Hudiara Drain to Thokar Niaz Baig. Mercifully, this stretch of road, measuring about 10.7 kilometres, is now under expansion, even though it has been redesigned from four lanes to three each way. Had the National Highway Authority kept the burgeoning traffic situation in mind, it would have followed the initial design.

However, traffic mayhem along the roads is primarily an outcome of poor traffic management. Roads in Lahore are wide enough but the traffic is unruly. As they drive leisurely through the streets of Lahore, many drivers move in the fast lane and chat on their cellphones while others are in such a hurry to reach their destination that they overtake these drivers from the wrong side of the road.

In addition, motorcycles and rickshaws moving along the centre of the road are an annoyance for other commuters. We often fail to understand why motorcyclists insist on squeezing past parked cars to get ahead at traffic lights. This reflects the apathetic attitude of traffic police officials who are untrained for the job and somewhat uninterested in performing their duty.

Whenever an accident takes place, a crowd of spectators often gathers on the scene. If a car has collided with another car, two angry drivers tend to alight from their vehicles in the middle of road and begin arguing with one another while passers-by gather around them. The traffic jams that result from such incidents often run into a few hundred metres. In this situation, it is the duty of the traffic police to instruct drivers to move their vehicles to one side of road and restore the traffic flow. They must also ask all nosy bystanders to disperse from the scene.

The only way to keep undisciplined drivers in check is by imposing heavy fines on them. There aren’t as many traffic violations along the motorway as there are on main city roads. People don’t violate traffic rules on the motorway for fear of heavy fines. As the population expands exponentially, thousands of vehicles are added to our roads. The day isn’t far when commuters will remain stranded in traffic jams for hours. The signs that indicate such a situation are already apparent. Naya Pakistan demands a ‘naya’ traffic culture.

The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore.

Email: [email protected]

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