- Glasgow Neuro Society, Wolfson School of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom,
- Department of Neurosurgery, Allama Iqbal Medical College, Jinnah Hospital Lahore, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan.
Mohammad Ashraf, President, Glasgow Neuro Society, Wolfson School of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.
DOI:10.25259/SNI_1261_2021Copyright: © 2022 Surgical Neurology International This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 4.0 License, which allows others to remix, transform, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as the author is credited and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.
How to cite this article: Ashraf M1, Ashraf N2. Underage motorbike driving in Pakistan: A neurosurgical burden heading towards societal disaster. Surg Neurol Int 04-Feb-2022;13:37
How to cite this URL: Ashraf M1, Ashraf N2. Underage motorbike driving in Pakistan: A neurosurgical burden heading towards societal disaster. Surg Neurol Int 04-Feb-2022;13:37. Available from: https://surgicalneurologyint.com/surgicalint-articles/11370/
We are all familiar with the organized chaos where there is enough order to achieve the goal in a complex situation. But what if those at the helm turn a blind eye toward affairs demanding urgent attention; it is a recipe for disaster in the making for posterity. Before 2004, the market volume for the two-wheelers in Pakistan was below 0.1 million annual units. Thanks to the government’s open policy, new manufacturers with lower prices entered the market, giving a preferred solution for individual mobility. Effectively, purchasing a motorcycle and driving it on public roads has little to no legislative barriers enforced, and the market has achieved 2 million annual sales.[
Motor vehicle accident (MVA) is the leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) worldwide.[
In a tertiary national referral teaching hospital situated in Lahore, one of the densest cities in the world that caters to a nearly 22 million population, including the city itself and surrounding districts and villages, on average, we see approximately 1500 motorbike-associated MVA’s annually in our Accident and Emergency (A&E) department referred to us for neurosurgical review. Of these, 340 (22.8%) are between the age of 10 and 20 and around 100–120 between 10 and 17 years (18 being the minimum age required to obtain a driver’s license in Pakistan).[
Expensive sports and heavy bikes have become a fad with society’s upper-middle and upper echelon as only these societal classes can afford them. It has triggered a ripple effect and contaminated the huge segment of middle- and lower-middle-class kids who have easy access to motorbikes nowadays. Nearly, every one of them tries to replicate the machismo of biker gangs depicted in Hollywood movies and the easily performable daredevil bike antics by James Bond and Mission Impossible heroes in the CGI world, mostly with the help of stunt performers. The psyche at work is the same wherein a child attempts to jump like Spiderman or Batwoman. Essentially, this all is a fun-seeking behavior that perhaps reflects the prepubertal and pubertal fantasy world but leaves the individuals, families, and society scarred forever. In addition to recreation and pleasure seeking, motorbikes have assumed an extremely important economic role in countries like Pakistan. Rider deliveries of consumable and food items are now an established business transaction model, which works extremely well in off-work timings and keeps the economic engine moving. This has produced opportunities for the unemployed and poor sections of society. If one can catch hold of a motorbike, it results in a handsome payoff good enough to sustain a low-income family.
Bad culture, institutions, and social indifference carry the most blame. Many Pakistani families are guilty of encouraging their underage sons to drive a motorbike.[
Captured during day-to-day commute in Lahore, Pakistan. (a) Underage drivers celebrating Pakistani Independence day while driving recklessly on a public road. (b) A man traveling on a highway on the back of a minivan without any safety harness on top of the cargo. The highway is toll gated, and its entrance is always manned; a speed limit of 60 miles per hour applies. (c) Shows a seven-passenger family on a stop signal of a public road on a two-passenger motorbike. (d) Shows an underage child transporting five family members on a two-passenger motorbike, including, what is most likely, three minor siblings, and one adult in the back who most likely is his mother.
In addition to the emotional tragedy, there is a less appreciated consequence we as neurosurgeons have observed, facing families of the underage bikers, and one that has national implications. It is the economic decimation that such families face as male children contribute financially to households from a very young age; households where women culturally do not work. Their death leads to depreciating socioeconomic circumstances of the deceased kin at the individual/familial level and leads to loss of economic productivity at a national level. If we are to reverse these trends, which should be sooner than later, then this demands a massive rebound from the government, professional bodies, and civil society. In the short term, the police must be empowered; in the province of Sindh, 1400 underage drivers and their parents were fined a cumulative 2 million Pakistani rupees (US$ 11,500) within 3 days alone![
Long-term improvements require a cultural change. Educational institutes need to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for underage driving. The motor legal system of the country requires a massive overhaul. At the minimum, car insurance must be mandatory for any driver who wishes to drive a particular vehicle. The neurosurgeon’s role is essential, as this specialty was “relegated” TBI patients. Nationally, initiatives by neurosurgeons that have demonstrated positive change include the ThinkFirst Chapter in Peshawar that targets school-going children bringing cultural change by educating youngsters on road traffic safety and making smart decisions.[
This catastrophic setting urgently demands that those stewarding the society put their act together as the avalanche of destruction is about to roar. Let us call the time otherwise; the grist to the mill will become the nemesis of society.
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