Taming fatal accidents in Sri Lankan roads
Posted on September 21st, 2011

Dr.Chandana Jayalath

Hardly a day goes without road accidents. Any accident is a bad scene quite disheartening and dreadful. Lorries, buses and containers overtake blind. Around 2,000 people die out of 6,000 recorded accidents every year, being the number one killer among people in the 15 to 29 age group. The three decades from 1977 to 2007 recorded 1,120,848 accidents, 40,000 deaths, 370,000 injuries and 68,440 serious injuries. This means at least a one person dies in each 4 hours. The annual social cost of road traffic injuries runs to over Rs.10 billion, and the trend is upwards.

Amongst the manmade perils are the VIP scods and private buses running races. For instance a bus carrying 90 people met with an accident at a level crossing killing 35 people in Polgahawela. Still some with exterior posters of political figures including that of HE the President openly engage in races. Particularly, those in long sectors such as Colombo Matara, Colombo Anuradhapura, Colombo Trincomalee and Colombo Kandy engage two more ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”driversƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ to wave hands and give signals standing at the footboard. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Suicide overtakeƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢is the word newly added to the jargon amongst these drivers to say overtaking in the wrong sideat unclear abrupt turns. On the other hand, VIP convoys move fast beeping horns and flashing head lights, harassing other motorists, causing a new dimension in public nuisance. During election times, many were knocked down by vehicles canvassing votes. Sarcastically, there were ambulances also accompanying with those convoys. Although VIP is a person who is accorded special privileges due to his or her status or importance, in Sri Lanka, the definition must now includethose taking political upper hand on public roads.

Having accepted it an offence anyway, the IGP in Sri Lanka promises that the Police can take actions against them if they are interrupting the daily traffic flow. Further, it was heard that a car driven by HE the President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself was nearly hit by a VIP convoy when he was touring the city to monitor vehicular conduct of VIPs on the roads. Though he had warned the Ministers not to cause problems to the public in driving fast as he got many reports on VIP vehicles hitting innocent people on the roads, it is important also for the Police to have immunity from possible political influx into their investigations. Also, there is no point of keeping Policemen at designated points permanently since at those points the routine drivers become over disciplined in driving for a while. The best solution would be for the Police personnel to travel up to some distance in civil suit similarly as passengers and prosecute the culprits on the spot allowing no time for political influx into the legal process.

It must be noted that without any further delay the entire Omni bus service sector must undergo a comprehensive revamping process. These include new licence scheme upon minimum qualifications for new drivers, proper re-training by licensed instructors, educating on public rights, law and procedures, constant vigilance on violations, periodical tests on medical fitness, introduction of a uniform, etc. Such steps must be made inevitable and procedural by law and custom so as to avoid reckless driving, boost up discipline and evolve occupational recognition. It will then only avoid civilians taking law into their hands. The premise is that justice should not only be seen, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.

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