LAHORE - Thousands of new drivers are issued licences in the provincial capital where more than a half million people were caught and fined for violating traffic laws in 2015.

This year, more drivers were intercepted and fined for violating traffic rules as compared to the previous. Similarly, more people got driving permits in 2015 if compared to the last year, official record reveals.

The violations included breaking a red-light, one-wheeling, underage driving, vehicles with tinted-glasses, and driving without a seatbelt, or helmet. Among most of the violators were some 280,000 motorcyclists who were issued fine tickets for not wearing safety helmets.

Interestingly, policemen including traffic officers themselves violate the traffic laws frequently but they are not taken to task by their colleagues.

An official said the city traffic police issued more than 500,000 tickets to the drivers for different traffic violations since January. No less than 9000 new drivers are given licenses by the city traffic police this year so far.

Punjab Emergency Service officials say the Rescue-1122 service responds to at least 700 accidents in the Punjab province everyday. Around 1.179 million road accidents have been reported over the past 11 years in the province with the highest in Lahore, where the count has reached to 317,748.

According to the Lahore traffic police, at least 282,474 motorcyclists were caught and fined for not wearing safety helmet. The police also took action against at least 9434 underage drivers. Also, more than 124,958 drivers were intercepted and issued fine tickets in Lahore for not wearing seat-belts.

The city traffic police’s figures further revealed that over 75,000 drivers were stopped and fined for driving vehicles with tinted glasses. Similarly, at least 89,000 drivers were challaned for using unauthorized number plates while more than 37,660 were booked for driving vehicles without number plates.

City traffic police also booked 1399 motorcyclists for performing stunts on the back-wheel of their two-wheelers during this year. While taking action against encroachments, the police registered at least 3789 FIRs against the violators. Police also removed irritating streamers from the backside of over 3000 auto-rickshaws.

Traffic experts and road safety researchers blame the corruption-tainted police for issuing driving licenses mostly to unqualified motorists. The driving licensing system of the Lahore police is marred with complaints of corruption and nepotism.

A good number of “agents” could be seen sitting outside the traffic police headquarters. They in connivance with the policemen help untrained and incompetent people get driving licenses even without appearing in the driving test.

Also, the traffic police have no system in place to keep a check on every motorist in Lahore. Policemen say they can’t capture everybody red-handed since motorists violate the traffic signals in bulk.

A traffic warden yesterday was seen standing like a silent spectator at a busy crossing on the Mall Road as over a dozen motorists crossed the red-light. He says the police can’t capture everybody. “You see several motorists have crossed the red-light and that happened right in front of me. How one traffic warden can catch so many violators at a time?” asks traffic police officer Sajjad.

Insiders say the traffic policemen are given a specific target on monthly basis to issue fine tickets to the motorists. The policemen extort money from the drivers of commercial vehicles in the name of checking. Drivers complain that the police only intercept and impose fine on the poor, mostly motorcyclists and rickshaw drivers while the influential persons are not taken to task.

Experts say that important steps should be taken to make the roads safer and to decrease the deaths in accidents because every year almost 20,000 to 25,000 persons fall victims to road mishaps.

According to the World Health Organization report published in 2013, the road accidents will become the fifth major cause of deaths by 2030.

Road safety researchers say, accidents are unwarranted, undesirable, and unjustifiable which can be controlled through strict observance of laws, good driving behavior, proper education and enhanced level of awareness about hazards of accidents, traffic rules, respect for law and fellow humans, innocent victims, and sense of responsibility.

The citizens must realise the losses and damages inflicted by road accidents and wake up from slumbering negligence to adopt measures to enhance road safety and prevent road accidents, experts said.

According to Mohammad Shahid, an expert on Road Safety in Pakistan, “human fault causes 95 per cent road accidents.” He says, “80 per cent people do not follow the safety cautions like fastening seat-belts or wearing helmets, which results into serious injuries”. “Traffic safety rules should be taught in schools,” he said.