Scream till sun goes off course and moon loses its splendour
Posted on March 1st, 2011

Dr.Tilak Fernando

It is not the wealth of a nation that builds roads, but the road that builds the wealth of a nation
– President, John Kennedy

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A vital transport system with effective motor traffic law enforcement becomes the main artery of a nation’s healthy existence. In the history of civilization each great power has had benefitted out of an efficient transport system to buttress its economic growth.

Open a newspaper in the morning and what do we get to read? Motor vehicle accidents of different kind with immense suffering and devastation.

Equally one cannot avoid catching a glimpse of motor cyclists getting knocked down by fast moving vehicles, ‘tuk tuks’ crumpling at the slightest impact and private bus drivers taking the law unto themselves on the roads.

Road accidents in this country have increased to such an extent that the general public pay no heed anymore, but rather take them unenergetically with indolent exclamations such as ‘Ah! Another accident’! This is what the country has become when road disasters have become part and parcel of modern day living while the value of human life is getting less significant!


Kelaniya Flyover: Efficient transport system helps economic growth. File photo

Traffic regulations

Where do we go wrong in our present approach to a better and a safer mode of transport? Statistics reveal “359,243 ‘new’ vehicle registrations last year, with an increase of 159,068 over the 2009 figure due to mainly 50 percent slashing of Customs and import duty, which contributes to major traffic congestions”.

In such a state of affairs, road/traffic/town planning/traffic control and implantation authorities need to work in harmony to obtain optimum results. Implementation of road traffic regulations, particularly syncronisation of traffic colour light signals with evenly balanced time intervals will greatly enhance traffic flow. This is an accepted norm in every developed country as opposed to Sri Lanka’s negative attitudes and failure at various busy spots.

What can be seen today is the Government investing generously on modern technology and electronic equipment to make transport effective, but some traffic control ingenuous giving orders to switch such electronic lights off and replace with traffic cops to make the situation worse.

Nawala/Rajagiriya Road junctions on Parliament Road stand as typical examples of this blunder where millions worth of traffic signals are switched off and allowed to be seen as a white elephant! Why, for goodness sake, were these installed in the first instance at such enormous costs if they are to be switched off!

Errant motorists

General public on numerous occasions have been voicing their frustrated opinion through newspaper columns; editorials too have been screaming out endlessly about such misdemeanour with sensible advise to improve the situation; regrettably both the makers and implementers of the traffic laws seem to adopt a Nelsonian eye on the problem. A case of heightened ego or lack of wisdom!

Errant motorists too are not an exception to the present day traffic/road debacle but act as major players of the game. Total lack of knowledge on the highway code by most of the modern road users, high speed bus drivers who think roads are their private domain, three-wheelers creeping in and out of vehicle gaps like cockroaches and the stubborn and selfish attitudes of overflowing number of motor cyclists contribute immensely to a total mess of Sri Lanka’s road network system while many Police officers on roadside choose to be by-standers and blowing an inaudible whistle rather than implementing the traffic law!

Those who have been and are responsible for implementing the traffic law to the letter need to hold their heads in shame for the total breakdown of the vital directive of the Motor Traffic Act where it categorically emphasizes on overtaking of motor vehicles from the left as illegal. Surely, we have not adopted EU regulations in this country as yet, to drive on the right hand side of the road? One could cry out till the sun goes off course or the moon loses its splendour, yet will the traffic police be able to put this simple regulation into force where modern motorists in Sri Lanka are blatantly violating this ruling which is hazardous.

Liquor sales

Random breathalysing tests by Police on ‘drink and drive’ at night-time has managed to discipline and curtail many drivers from consuming liquor while driving now. However, should it be confined to night-time driving only? Unlike in other countries where liquor sales are restricted to certain hours, an adult in Sri Lanka can walk into a wine store or a supermarket at any time and buy liquor before 9 pm. This makes much easier for ‘addicts’ to have a ‘shot’ or two before they sit behind a steering wheel which can lead to a major disaster. Ideal solution could be to either restrict liquor selling hours during day-time or go for a full-scale campaign to nab drunken drivers at any time.

An effective transport system, generally considered as a public service, should provide trouble free and comfortable rides. Overloading buses like packed tins of sardines does not contribute to safe or comfortable travel of commuters.

Public transport

This points out to why many female office workers and schoolchildren are dependent on private vans for transport which at times places children at risk with perilous driving by inexperienced drivers. Will commuters in Sri Lanka ever see the dawning of a new era where they could travel comfortably and enjoy a bus ride without being squeezed and harassed by jam-packed commuters while conductors creep through them and yelling all the time to move forward making commuters’ journey a nightmare?

If our aim is to woo tourists in the near future claiming Sri Lanka to be the paradise island we need to think hard and go a long way in achieving our goal in a sophisticated transport system and affording foreigners too to travel by bus and train as many foreigners would like to get a feel of the visiting country independently travelling by public transport.

tilakfernando@yahoo.co.uk
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3 Responses to “Scream till sun goes off course and moon loses its splendour”

  1. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    There is an underlying reason why electronically worked traffic signals are switched off perpetually, along Rajagiriya, because it is the access road to Parliament. It has become a comic trend, for parliamentarians of various hues, and high ranking Officers of the State, to travel at Jet Speed, to Parliament, the reason one may say, ” only God knows.” Mind you, these are the Legislators of the Country, who set the Rules, but yet, who do not want to abide by them, themselves. The reason is that they are egoists, who assume that they are Very Very Important People in this country, who have the license to travel at speeds, irrespective of whether they put others lives at danger, and at times with devastatingly tragic ends. It is not just one vehicle, but many BACK UP vehicles too, that takes innocent lives. They do not want to stop at Electronically worked Traffic Lights, so they put a traffic police officer, to direct traffic, putting his life too in danger. A very clear example of such speeding, ended up with tragic loss of LIVES in the Kataragama area, a day or two back.

    What is this great hurry, one may ask ? Why cannot all the aforesaid BIG WIGS, travel at speeds that are safe, stop at traffic lights, and adhere to road safety rules, just like Citizen Perera. There are no Terrorists anymore, carrying Grenades and AK47s, at junctions waiting for the kill. That era is over.

    It is time for these so called BIG WIGS, to be realistic, stop being egocentric, and set an example to the rest of the country, that Speed only Kills, and to live up to the proverbial, IT IS BETTER TO BE LATE, THAN “THE LATE”.

    In USA, DWI (Driving while being intoxicated) is a very serious offence. Sri Lanka can have self grown deterrents, such as promulgating laws, a) Suspending the License for ONE MONTH, b) Second offence, suspending the licence for two months, and impounding the the vehicle too for the same period. c) Third offence, invalidate the Licence for SEVEN YEARS.

    For Bus Drivers, Same as above, with impounding the vehicle for the same period, in the very first instance.

    CTB should put special buses for School Children. In USA, there are Yellow painted buses for school children. Prior to a school bus stopping to pick up a child, the bus puts out a STOP signal, on both sides. Any vehicle coming from the opposite direction, or from behind, should stop their vehicles at least 30 feet from the Bus. It is an offence not to keep that distance, or drive past. The driver of the Bus reports, and the offender can look forward to a heavy fine.

    It is my point of view, that all bus drivers, and commercial vehicle drivers, be tested by an Army unit too, before the license is handed over. It will ensure a double check, on whether the prospective applicant is competent to drive, and is knowledgable about Road Rules and regulations.

  2. Nihal Fernando Says:

    Very interesting article by Dr. Tilak Fernando and the comment by Mr. Susantha Wijesinghe. If the war is over and these legislators still want to be driven to the Parliament at jumbo jet speed putting others life in danger it is nothing but insanity.

  3. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    INSANITY PERSONIFIED BY A VAGUE AND PERVERSE NOTION OF A ” WHO THE HELL CARES ” STATUS SYMBOL.

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