Road rage and indiscipline
Posted on July 26th, 2010

Dr.Tilak Fernando -Daily News Features –  26 July 2010

Whenever I sit behind the steering wheel of a motor vehicle I will be able write a book on what I experience on the roads today. Sometimes I wonder where we have gone wrong in using public roads in this country. Have the standards of Motor Traffic Law and its implementation deteriorated to such an extent that majority of motorists behave very irrationally and the human element is allowed to transform into demonic actions!

Colour and additives used in some popular brands of soft drinks given to children are supposed to make them hyperactive. Could it be that the types of food we consume on a daily basis with a full supplement of chemicals in them make us react irrationally?

Seldom have we found these days a motorist who is not in haste on the road. Everyone seems to behave as if there is no tomorrow! Unfortunately this trend is fast spreading like a contagious disease and more or less a modern trend!

Driving tests

What can be said about the intimidation by drivers coming from behind tooting their horns and demanding to overtake at all odd spots? This displays their utter ignorance about “ƒ”¹…”braking and thinking distances’ when following other vehicles. In this respect driving tests need to be much stricter than what is today and it is encouraging to see that Motor Traffic Commissioner taking remedial action on this particular issue.

Ignorance can be excused as bliss, but when it comes to Motor Traffic Law imprudent behaviour cannot and should not be tolerated. The speed at which some motorists keep on harassing drivers coming from behind thinking it is their right of way, especially busses, creeping, cutting-in and overtaking from the wrong side (left) is regrettable but is taking shape, as fast as the speeds at which they travel.

Many motorists either do not seem to have an iota of knowledge on the Highway Code or pay any heed to it. This is visible when they dart across roundabouts completely paying no attention to the vehicles coming from right. Same can be said about vehicles emerging from side roads to the main roads, without even bothering about their own lives.

To ride a bicycle in the night without a light was an offence in the past and Police were active in nabbing such lawbreakers. Bicycles had to be registered at Local Councils in the olden days at a cost of Rs 1. Today what we see is 99 percent of riders of bicycles pose a threat on the roads while riding in the dark.

Pedestrian crossings

Pedestrian zebra crossings are another area that the public needs to be educated on. Pedestrians’ minds need to be conditioned to the fact that they should cross roads at such crossings only and when red lights indicate it is danger to cross; they cannot choose to simply walk across the road at will, as if they are walking in their homes.

International pedestrian crossings bleep a sound as an indicator for pedestrians to cross (which is mainly for the benefit of the blind) and a “ƒ”¹…”walking man’ on the green light indicates it is safe to cross. In Japan sound tracks inform the pedestrians to cross the road when it is safe.

These are basically due to the lack of authority’s intervention in educating the public. Like the Dengue epidemic, road rules and Highway Code practices need to be rub down on people until the message get through to them. Recently Kandy police prosecuting people crossing the road dangerously could be taken as the starting point and to continue this trend to other parts of the country should become the duty of all traffic Police squads.

Driving schools responsibility to ensure their learner drivers are fully aware of the Highway code when training is given and prior to their submission for a driving test should incorporated into the statute book. Simultaneously all driving instructors should be subjected to an advanced driving test with a senior Driving examiner at the RMV to ensure they are qualified to train people to drive motor vehicles.

Driving schools

Is there a provision under Motor Traffic Act today to assess and issue an instructor’s licence to train people prior to their becoming or get their registration as driving schools? Or can any tom dick or harry set up a driving school overnight and start training learners to drive? There is an urgent need for the Law to interfere and assess all driving schools and monitor their progress periodically for the safety of all road users.

There are no “ƒ”¹…”stop’ signs or broken double white lines or white triangles drawn on the road surface at intersections of roads joining main road to warn motorist to stop before entering a main road. Equally these lines are missing on roundabouts to remind motorists that they should stop and give way to traffic from the right. In such circumstances what can motorists expect from ignorant drivers and from the law enforcement authorities?

When the country is expecting a tourist boom she can expect some tourists to revert to self-driving too to enjoy the beauty of the land. It is therefore essential that Sri Lanka also adopt an international standard of the Highway Code practice and signals as there are some motor signs peculiar to us only.

All in all, there is a lot to be updated in Sri Lanka’s motor traffic law and it needs to be done quickly and effectively for the benefit of all.

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