By Ahsan Ali Bashar
On the 12th September 2012, Manzoor Hussain, father of six was involved in a fatal motorcycle accident. Manzoor collided with a 4×4 Police vehicle throwing the 40 year old off his motorbike, scraping his head across the ground. Serious consequences were to follow for him and his family. The powerful impact with the ground meant that Manzoor suffered from a traumatic brain injury, requiring immediate assistance. Rushed to the local hospital by his nephew, Doctors and surgeons examined the man’s condition and stated that he’d be taken to Rawalpindi straightaway for a Brain scan as The Jhelum Civil Hospital had insufficient equipment to determine Manzoor’s critical condition.
It was during the 90 minute journey to the hospital, when he began to lose his speech although still conscious. Manzoor began to bleed from his ears, mouth and nose indicating that he was suffering from severe internal bleeding. Once arriving at the Military Hospital in Rawalpindi, Manzoor was sent for a CT brain scan. The results were what everybody feared. Results showed that there were fractures in 14 different areas of the skull, X-rays showing a sufficient amount of blood loss seeping from the brain. From there, Doctors announced that the chances of survival were low. Despite this, he was admitted to a high dependency unit where only 12 other patients were staying at the time.
Doctors and nurses monitored Manzoor’s condition over a period of seven long days, not knowing whether he would recover. Manzoor fell in and out of consciousness throughout this period, one day vaguely opening his eyes and other days showing movement in his limbs. The signs were promising. Despite this, Manzoor was unable to consume any food or water resulting in a tremendous amount of weight loss. Nurses provided him with specific supplements to prevent this and restore the minerals and vitamins that he required. Family members visited regularly some staying bedside with him during the lengthy nights of his recovery. It was on the 6th night in hospital when doctors discovered that he had a chest infection which deteriorated his health tremendously. Manzoor showed no signs of movement or consciousness and it was here that Doctors’ predictions stood corrected. On the 19th September at approximately 8pm, Manzoor was pronounced dead.
What could have been done to prevent such a tragic and devastating event? Or rather, who is to blame? Manzoor was involved in the accident with a police vehicle which unquestionably should have been followed up and reported to the authorities. This indicates a deeper, underlying, issue.
Pakistani laws state that motorcyclists must wear helmets in order to protect themselves from roadside accidents and deaths. Despite this there are still a high number of deaths that occur due to motorcycle accidents. In 2007, a study by National Road Safety Secretariat highlighted a number of issues. In 2006 10,125 crashes were reported. This included 4193 fatalities. This is high although despite these figures, they do not represent the total number of crashes and deaths which include those that are unreported. Road traffic statistics about Pakistan are produced by police agencies. The National Road Safety Strategy collected data in 2007 from hospitals in the districts of Pakistan and only received data from 14 districts out of a possible 112 further suggesting that there are 2.7 per 1000 serious injuries and deaths that go recorded.
Applying this statistic to the growing population at the time, suggested that there were over 400,000 road traffic accidents illustrating that police were reporting less than 2.5% of all incidents that occurred. However, it gets worse. A National injury survey of Pakistan was carried out which estimated that there were 15 roadside accidents (Severe injuries or deaths) per 1000 showing that on a national scale, motor vehicle incidents were estimated at 2 million in the year 2006, alone. Furthermore, to demonstrate a greater call for concern with regards to the legislation in Pakistan, fines for not wearing a helmet are extremely low and can vary between 50-300 Rupees.
This calculates to 50p-£3 per fine, not supportive enough to implement a change in drivers’ attitude to road safety. Ownership of a motorcycle is also a factor which has an effect on the wellbeing of motorcyclists in Pakistan. In the year 2001-02 there were a recorded 120,000 Motorcyclist in Pakistan nonetheless this has increased rapidly to 750,000 in 2006, the most significant in comparison to car ownership and other commercial vehicles increasing the chances of more injuries and deaths. Particular institutions are also to blame for the lenient legislation. According to the study conducted by the National Road Safety Secretariat, Institutions show lack of collaboration among each other, resulting in a lack of sharing of information among agencies hence a barrier to road safety in Pakistan. There is also a lack of training and educational opportunities to road safety professionals.
On the other hand, in defence of the police, there are also issues needed to be addressed among road users themselves which add fuel to the fire. Based on a series of interviews conducted by Dr Mumtaz, a senior lecturer at the department of community medicine, Foundation University, medical college Rawalpindi, those who drove motorcycles said that the reason why they choose not to wear a helmet was because of the hot climate and view restrictions. Another cause for concern is the use of a mobile phone not only among those driving a car but as well as motorcyclists. In order to prevent this, not much is being done to educate the young as no government school has incorporated road safety in their curriculum. This is only implemented in the fewest of private schools. In another study which looked to identify the frequency of helmet use among motorcycle riders in Rawalpindi, Pakistan showed that the average age of riders among a sample of 1000 showed that 350 of those were between the ages of 20-29 and the second highest age bracket was between the ages of 30-39, just under 250 participants, an age which many families heavily depend on them. Most breadwinners in Pakistan are also males which not only results in a loss of life but drives a family into more pressure, poverty and pain. This is because income is stopped instantly further resulting in emotional, economical and an excessive pressure on their family.
It would be unethical to compare developed countries with the developing as there are a number of differences between the two in numerous ways. However, implementing the programmes and encouraging Pakistani drivers to practice guidelines that are practiced in developed countries, will most defiantly make the difference and potentially save many lives. Brake: The Road safety charity, A UK Organisation and a charity, aims to put a complete end to the carnage of roadside accidents and deaths and promote Road safety highly. Brake has created a 16 point plan for motorcyclists in particular to follow in order to save your life as well as others. These are some of the points:
- Gear up
always wear full protective gear manufactured to the highest standards; it’s the only protection bikers get.
- Slow up
stay well within limits and slow right down for bends, junctions and where there are people on foot or bicycles.
- Look up
for people on foot, bicycles and horses and look out for potholes, diesel spills, and debris.
- Back up
keep a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front; it’s your braking space in a crisis.
- Straighten up
position yourself in the safest place on the road – usually the middle of the lane. Take your position in good time before turning so other road users can see what you’re doing.
- Check up
regularly check tyre tread and pressure, oil and brakes and keep mirrors clean. And get your bike serviced.
- Shut up
turn your mobile phone entirely off while riding. Even if your phone is on vibrate, it could distract you.
The after effects on Manzoor’s family were significant in many ways. Manzoor was renowned welder in the Jhelum District, very well connected with his business affiliates. As a result of his death, this has led to the closing down of his shop as well as the five workers who he had employed. Currently there is no source of income for Manzoor’s family driving his family deeper into poverty. Much of the responsibility has been shifted to his wife who has to now find a way to provide her 6 children, the eldest being 18 and the youngest just 2 years old.
It is vital that we, The Pakistani community, pull together and stop this carnage. The simplest precautions can make the difference between life and death and prevent the trauma that our loved ones have to face. It is the duty of Fathers, brothers and men in general who are the providers and breadwinners in a social structure that still exists in Pakistan. Your arrogance will not only be the death of you but will be the result of further implications.