Stop this road carnage | Daily News

Stop this road carnage

Chief Government Whip, Minister Gayantha Karunaratne revealed in Parliament recently that 3,017 people had been killed in 39,199 road accidents last year. Of these accidents, according to Transport Ministry sources, 11,300 were critical accidents. The Minister also confirmed that there had been an increasing trend in road accidents, when compared with the previous years.

For example, between 2009 and 2016, there has been an increase of 58 percent of accidents and 20 percent of the people who were killed.

Far too many people are killed or seriously injured on our roads. The sad fact is everyone pays for road accidents, through taxes which finance emergency response crews, hospital stays, rehabilitation and, in many cases, lifelong care for the badly hurt. That price tag is exceedingly high.

Finance apart, road deaths and injuries are traumatic events. Their impacts are long-lasting, often permanent. Each year, thousands of newly injured and bereaved people from every corner of our country are added to the thousands who already suffer.

Reality

Yet the reality is Sri Lanka could have done better. We could have saved many of these lives quite easily. Our failure to do so, is the result of our failure of commitment.

Currently there are 3.8 million motor cycles and 1.1million three wheelers in the country. In addition, there were seven million registered vehicles, of which six million run on the roads. Every month, the figures keep on rising. Clearly, vehicle imports need to be guided by a rational policy based on ground realities and national priorities. A steady influx of vehicles doesn’t put us on the fast highway to ‘progress’. It’s a delusion.

Feasible

For some reason or other, road traffic accidents have been neglected from our national health agenda, despite being predictable and largely preventable. Even the language we use for the traffic pandemic lacks intensity. The phrase “car crash” has become slang for a social or professional mishap. The word “accident” suggests that a death was unavoidable, a matter of fate. This is wrong.

Countries such as Norway, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and even Singapore have shown how road deaths can be reduced when a government bothers. In all those countries the number of road accident deaths per 100,000 people per year are 5 each, other than Singapore which is 6. The global average is 18 car-crash deaths per 100,000 people per year, whereas Sri Lanka is in the latter part of the pack, ranking with 14.)

The irony is that we know what to do. There were hundreds of articles written on this issue with suggested solutions. There were number research papers with valuable ideas presented. But we didn’t take notice of those suggestions and presentations. At least now, let us wake up and take some solid action including legal deterrents to reduce this carnage without further delay. Let us have a target, for instance, of cutting road deaths to below 1,000 per year by 2022.

National plan

This writer believes what we urgently need is a National Plan of Action for Road Traffic Safety, initially, for a 5-year period. It needs to be practical and holistic plan once-and-for-all to set the path right.

This Plan has to be compiled by the National Road Safety Secretariat under the Ministry of Transport. The writer believes this Secretariat has preceded National Council of Road Safety. The website is “under construction” and therefore, only assumption can be made.

For the purpose of this article, we will assume National Road Safety Secretariat will take responsibility. The secretariat should obtain the support of the experts from other Government bodies, private organisations, NGOs, voluntary organisations and other interested parties to prepare the Master Plan.

The objective of the plan is to demonstrate the challenges we are facing, and describe measures that need to be implemented during the Plan period to keep a steady course towards the target.

The Plan should give in detail the structure, factual basis indicator targets and follow-up measures of the proposed schedule of action. It should also reflect a collective description of the measures expected to be carried out during the period.

The writer would like to share few ideas which he thinks should be considered when drafting the Plan.

* Communication

Experiences in other countries clearly indicate that regular national traffic safety campaigns have made a significant contribution to the decrease in the number of fatalities and severe injuries. We can take our cue from those experiences.

* Road user training

Educating children and young adults traffic is also an important preventive measure of road accidents. The objective is to contribute to increased understanding of risk factors and safe traffic behaviour. National Road Safety Secretariat in collaboration with other interested parties, like parents and schools, can take major part of the responsibility.

* Development of driver training and practical driving test

Driver training is of considerable importance to knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and accidents. Our current driver training systems should be subjected to an extensive evaluation. Based on this evaluation, the Secretariat can further develop and revise the regulations, curriculum and the practical driving test.

* Youth measures

Little experience combined with immaturity cause great challenges for youth in traffic, and particular measures targeting this group are required. Such measures should target youth who run a high risk of being involved in accidents. Efforts should be made to promote knowledge and proper attitudes in traffic. National Road Safety Secretariat has a major role to play.

* Measures targeting Motor Cycle (MC) riders

MC riders represent an unprotected road user group that is easily injured during accidents. Attention must be paid to extreme behaviour of rider sub-groups. Expert teams could be used to re-train them within three months after obtaining the licence (as groups) and to raise awareness and create a culture among riders.

* Measures targeting taxi drivers

The taxi drivers (including three-wheeler) need more comprehensive training and testing. A review must be done about the requirements for professional skills development applicable to all these drivers. The secretariat also should consider whether to implement vocational training requirements for these drivers.

* Enforcement and control

The traffic safety measures conducted by the police need to target all road user groups. They need to highly trained in modern detection and handling systems.

* Supervision

National Road Safety Secretariat must be authorised to supervise driving schools. There should be continuous inspections and schools that do not adhere to the regulations should be warned, followed up and, if not improved, authority recalled. The efforts to increase the expertise of inspectors and supervisory personnel should continue.

* Deterrents

The use of fines, penalties and various types of sanctions could be important to the traffic safety work. Transport Ministry confirmed recently that a driver improvement points system will be introduced soon. These needs to be properly implemented.

* Speed limits

The speed limit criteria should be based on traffic safety principles. Additionally, they should to the best extent possible attend to the environment and traffic flow.

* Intelligent transport systems (ITS)

Intelligent transport systems use information and communication technology (ICT) to influence behaviour and improve transport solutions and traffic management. National Road Safety Secretariat should plan to introduce ITS in stages during next 5 years.

* Improved treatment of injuries

Short response time and high quality of the emergency response services are therefore vital to survival or to reducing permanent injuries during road accidents. The Secretariat should plan to obtain a digital communication system for the emergency response services and other relevant emergency services.

In spite of implementing even the best Plan, however, the major responsibility in preventing road accidents is in the hands of individual driver or rider. That means, foremost focus of any Plan should be on the driver. 


 

There is 1 Comment

Bus Drivers....Bus Drivers ...Bus Drivers ...control them and accidents will fall...they are the primary source of all anxiety on Sri Lanka's roads...plus remove the bribe culture

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