Worldview: ‘Sinful’ traffic violations

  • The police, not gods, tame traffic

May 1, 2014-

Most countries struggle to get drivers to follow the law. Rarely, though, has anyone had the sort of idea dreamt up by Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti, who struck upon a potential solution back in 2010.

Back then, he had issued an edict saying that anyone who caused the death of another person because of a traffic violation was guilty of involuntary manslaughter. More recently, on Tuesday, he issued a fatwa against drivers who jump red lights, terming such a transgression as ‘haram’. In other words, in that conservative kingdom, a driver who jumps a red light risks not just action against him by the law, but his very standing in the eyes of his Maker.

There is no denying, though, that the problem is a serious one: Saudi Arabia has one of the highest rates of car accidents in the world, with an average of 17 fatalities a day. According to a 2010 report, almost a third of traffic accidents in Riyadh occurred because drivers failed to follow traffic signals.

But for much of the rest of the world, regular, man-made traffic rules do seem to achieve the desired results, i.e. road safety, especially where these are strictly enforced. Unfortunately, Pakistan does not count amongst these states, and the outside observer would be forgiven for thinking that only divine intervention could sort out our traffic problems. Jumping red lights is but one of the multitude of violations that occur constantly on our roads. From reckless driving to not following one-ways to illegal stops and turns—all these violations are committed under the very noses of our traffic police.

The latter might take some of the offenders to task but will invariably let off the influential among them. Clearly, greater checks by the traffic police on wayward drivers, and penalising, without fear or favour, those who violate traffic rules and endanger lives will have a more, immediate, deterring effect than any fatwa warning of divine wrath in the Hereafter.

Published: 02-05-2014 09:00

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