Through ‘Foreign’ eyes
Posted on April 26th, 2012

Dr.Tilak Fernando

The Motor Traffic Law in Sri Lanka and its effectiveness have been continuously focused and discussed by many in print media by way of “ƒ”¹…”Letters to the Editor’ of newspapers, in electronic media and television too, highlighting the alarming rate of road accidents in this country.

Why do road accidents escalate in a manner that is detrimental to human life? Some think it’s due to too many vehicles on the road; erratic driving techniques by “ƒ”¹…”ignorant’ drivers who do not seem to know the ABC of the Highway Code, and particularly some private bus drivers who always drive like “ƒ”¹…”maniacs’ to pick up passengers. Equally pedestrians too pay no heed to oncoming traffic when crossing roads.

The government invests abundantly on roads and traffic light signals similar to other developed countries. Such efforts seem to dissipate with ineffective decisions implemented by “ƒ”¹…”master minds’ who issue orders to switch traffic lights-off and replace with police officers who are seen running about like robots all over the road blowing their whistles and holding walkie-talkies. Are two operations of traffic control a real necessity?

A vital directive of the Motor Traffic Act states that one should drive on the left hand side of the road in Sri Lanka and overtaking should only be from the right, but the million dollar question is why have we failed to execute this fundamental directive? If it can be applied to the Southern Expressway from day one of its operation, there should be no reason why we fail in other areas!

Tourist arrivals

Sri Lanka is presently concentrating heavily on tourist arrivals. Any destination gets popular from what potential tourists get to read about and hear from those who have ventured before! In that context, here are some samples of foreign reactions.

Recent motor accident on the Expressway

In response to one of my previous columns on the same subject, New Zealander (Ronald Boon) had to say thus:

“I am a foreigner living here since November 2009, and I am really fed up with the driving style in this country! Although this is a beautiful country, it will be pleasant if you can reach your destination in safety without having to hold your breath all the time when you are driving, especially when buses come towards you at full speed, on the wrong side of the road and from behind, straight at you sounding ear splitting horns! These drivers transport children, old folk, pregnant women and even infants as passengers, and how foolishly they risk the lives of many commuters because of their impatience and driving at break-neck speeds?”

The Association of British Citizens Resident in Sri Lanka, which is quite a prominent clique, contributes a great deal towards tourist promotion to this country. A humourous a piece written by a member in their ABR e-Mag, March issue, summerised in cynical vein about driving in Sri Lanka in the following manner:

“Q: What side of the road do Sri Lankans drive on?
A: Usually on the opposite side of the road to oncoming traffic”¦ but only usually

Q: What do Sri Lankan road signs look like outside Colombo?
A: What road signs? After 50 hours on Lankan roads, I didn’t see any!

Q: If there are no road signs, how do you know where you are?
A: Each town has a distinctive school uniform. In Colombo it is all white with a red tie. In Kalutara it is all white with a green tie. In Bentota it is all white with a yellow tie, etc.

Q: Where do motorbikes and bicycles fit into the scheme of things?
A: Motor bicycles on the road always ride into the face of oncoming traffic; Bicycles not have lights nor warning bells; Carry at least three passengers; Motor bike riders wear a helmet but these should not be used on children; Infants and kids preferably be seated on the petrol tank of the bike.

Overtaking all other vehicles is mandatory!

Q: Where do owners let their cattle graze?
A: Cattle, especially released from slaughter houses, by sympathetic folk who are against slaughter, must be left to leisurely walk around in the middle of public roads creating traffic jams.

Q: When must you NEVER overtake?
A: On a dual carriageway (because you might knock over the street vendors or the approaching cyclist in the fast lane); when the way ahead is clear and when on a straight stretch of road – Ideal advice – you must never, NEVER overtake

Q: When MUST you overtake?
A: On the approach to a hill; Most ideally of all, on the wrong side of the road; while going round a bend; towards the brow of a hill; while overtaking a bus which is overtaking a three-wheeler and the three-wheeler overtaking a bicycle coming towards you; while going round grazing cows placing two wheels off the tarmac and also swerving to avoid the dog aimlessly wandering round.

Q: If a three-wheeler and a car are approaching, who has the right to overtake?
A: The vehicle with the loudest horn. If that is the three-wheeler then you don’t pass!

Q: If you can’t hire a car (and after those observations, why would you want to) how do you get around the island?
A: You hire a chauffeur driven car and close your eyes when he overtakes anything – especially on a hill country road with a 300ft precipice off one side as you climb”.

Such observations through “ƒ”¹…”foreign eyes’ are exactly what local motorists experience on a daily basis but, such occurrences becoming habitual, we seem to ignore them or just accept them as a standard practice through utter frustration!

To avoid the deteriorating situation of motor accidents becoming part and parcel of daily life, motor traffic laws becoming mandatory alone will not be sufficient, but quick effective and remedial action by all those responsible is necessary for the benefit of all.

[email protected]

Daily News Column “”…” 26 March 2012

THROUGH “ƒ”¹…”FOREIGN’ EYES

Description: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/04/26/Tag-In-Focus.jpgThe Motor Traffic Law in Sri Lanka and its effectiveness have been continuously focused and discussed by many in print media by way of “ƒ”¹…”Letters to the Editor’ of newspapers, in electronic media and television too, highlighting the alarming rate of road accidents in this country.

Why do road accidents escalate in a manner that is detrimental to human life? Some think it’s due to too many vehicles on the road; erratic driving techniques by “ƒ”¹…”ignorant’ drivers who do not seem to know the ABC of the Highway Code, and particularly some private bus drivers who always drive like “ƒ”¹…”maniacs’ to pick up passengers. Equally pedestrians too pay no heed to oncoming traffic when crossing roads.

The government invests abundantly on roads and traffic light signals similar to other developed countries. Such efforts seem to dissipate with ineffective decisions implemented by “ƒ”¹…”master minds’ who issue orders to switch traffic lights-off and replace with police officers who are seen running about like robots all over the road blowing their whistles and holding walkie-talkies. Are two operations of traffic control a real necessity?

A vital directive of the Motor Traffic Act states that one should drive on the left hand side of the road in Sri Lanka and overtaking should only be from the right, but the million dollar question is why have we failed to execute this fundamental directive? If it can be applied to the Southern Expressway from day one of its operation, there should be no reason why we fail in other areas!

Tourist arrivals

Sri Lanka is presently concentrating heavily on tourist arrivals. Any destination gets popular from what potential tourists get to read about and hear from those who have ventured before! In that context, here are some samples of foreign reactions.

Description: http://www.dailynews.lk/2012/04/26/z_p09-Through.jpg

Recent motor accident on the Expressway

In response to one of my previous columns on the same subject, New Zealander (Ronald Boon) had to say thus:

“I am a foreigner living here since November 2009, and I am really fed up with the driving style in this country! Although this is a beautiful country, it will be pleasant if you can reach your destination in safety without having to hold your breath all the time when you are driving, especially when buses come towards you at full speed, on the wrong side of the road and from behind, straight at you sounding ear splitting horns! These drivers transport children, old folk, pregnant women and even infants as passengers, and how foolishly they risk the lives of many commuters because of their impatience and driving at break-neck speeds?”

The Association of British Citizens Resident in Sri Lanka, which is quite a prominent clique, contributes a great deal towards tourist promotion to this country. A humourous a piece written by a member in their ABR e-Mag, March issue, summerised in cynical vein about driving in Sri Lanka in the following manner:

“Q: What side of the road do Sri Lankans drive on? 
A:
 Usually on the opposite side of the road to oncoming traffic”¦ but only usually

Q: What do Sri Lankan road signs look like outside Colombo? 
A:
 What road signs? After 50 hours on Lankan roads, I didn’t see any!

Q: If there are no road signs, how do you know where you are? 
A:
 Each town has a distinctive school uniform. In Colombo it is all white with a red tie. In Kalutara it is all white with a green tie. In Bentota it is all white with a yellow tie, etc.

Q: Where do motorbikes and bicycles fit into the scheme of things? 
A:
 Motor bicycles on the road always ride into the face of oncoming traffic; Bicycles not have lights nor warning bells; Carry at least three passengers; Motor bike riders wear a helmet but these should not be used on children; Infants and kids preferably be seated on the petrol tank of the bike.

Overtaking all other vehicles is mandatory!

Q: Where do owners let their cattle graze? 
A:
 Cattle, especially released from slaughter houses, by sympathetic folk who are against slaughter, must be left to leisurely walk around in the middle of public roads creating traffic jams.

Q: When must you NEVER overtake? 
A:
 On a dual carriageway (because you might knock over the street vendors or the approaching cyclist in the fast lane); when the way ahead is clear and when on a straight stretch of road – Ideal advice – you must never, NEVER overtake

Q: When MUST you overtake? 
A:
 On the approach to a hill; Most ideally of all, on the wrong side of the road; while going round a bend; towards the brow of a hill; while overtaking a bus which is overtaking a three-wheeler and the three-wheeler overtaking a bicycle coming towards you; while going round grazing cows placing two wheels off the tarmac and also swerving to avoid the dog aimlessly wandering round.

Q: If a three-wheeler and a car are approaching, who has the right to overtake? 
A:
 The vehicle with the loudest horn. If that is the three-wheeler then you don’t pass!

Q: If you can’t hire a car (and after those observations, why would you want to) how do you get around the island? 
A:
 You hire a chauffeur driven car and close your eyes when he overtakes anything – especially on a hill country road with a 300ft precipice off one side as you climb”.

Such observations through “ƒ”¹…”foreign eyes’ are exactly what local motorists experience on a daily basis but, such occurrences becoming habitual, we seem to ignore them or just accept them as a standard practice through utter frustration!

To avoid the deteriorating situation of motor accidents becoming part and parcel of daily life, motor traffic laws becoming mandatory alone will not be sufficient, but quick effective and remedial action by all those responsible is necessary for the benefit of all.

[email protected]

 

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