A need to curb road accidents | Daily News

A need to curb road accidents

Drastic action is called for to check the large number of road accidents that has almost become commonplace today. In the latest road disaster, six inmates of a car were killed and three others critically injured in one of the most harrowing road fatalities in recent times. All the victims were either in their middle twenties or early thirties - cut down in the prime of their lives. It is reported that the car which held more than its capacity of passengers and driven at break-neck speed had crashed into a lorry. The inmates were returning after a wedding party in the wee hours of the morning and obviously had been in an advanced state of inebriation. The stretch of road in which the mishap occurred in Nainamadama on the Colombo-Chilaw road is a well laid out strip that invites fast driving. Paradoxically, it appears that development and upgrading of our road systems has in the process led to an increase in the number of road accidents and loss of lives.

According to statistics, in 2017 alone there were 3,555 road fatalities, representing 2.8 percent of total deaths in the country. Fatal road accidents have today become a regular feature. Hardly a day passes without a bloody scene of a road accident shown on television. The victims in the accidents are usually a breadwinner of a family or a student with bright prospects in his/her academic careers as per the accompanying commentary of the scene on television. In rare instances entire families get killed and in others a parent or both parents perish, leaving behind the young children to fend for themselves. Therefore road accidents and their aftermath has now become a social problem too. Hence the urgent need for the authorities to act to at least bring down the number of road accidents.

To begin with, tough action should be taken against driving under the influence of liquor. A mere fine following a court appearance is not effective. Nothing short of a lengthy prison term and/ or confiscation of the vehicle involved would suffice. If an individual driving under the influence of liquor is involved in a fatal accident he/she should also be compelled by law to take care of the dependents of the victim/ victims. Today whenever a fatal accident is shown on television invariably, according to the newsreader, the perpetrator is arrested by the police. Nothing is known of what happens thereafter. For all that the public are aware, the driver responsible may have been released after a short stay in remand custody. A more deterrent punishment certainly would have placed all other would be reckless drivers on their guard.

As another measure in curbing road accidents, an age limit should be placed on drivers, particularly that of heavy vehicles. A majority of the accidents in recent times had occurred in the wee hours and reportedly when the drivers had fallen asleep on the wheel. While this could happen to any individual irrespective of age, those drivers of advanced age are more likely to be vulnerable. Besides, slow and erratic reflexes also lead to road accidents as a result of poor control of the vehicle. Here again, age plays a part. In addition, all vehicles of old vintage and rickety jalopies should be put off the road, since they are prone to mechanical defects than the new vehicles, resulting in accidents. Fitness tests should be made compulsory for all drivers of motor vehicles at regular intervals to avoid disaster, since, as is commonly known, those addicted to alcohol display particular symptoms that are not conducive to steady manoeuvering.

Not just the aged and alcoholic drivers, some of the young motorists who have just passed their drivers’ tests too are guilty of reckless driving. Most of these young men have brought grief to themselves by speeding and attempts to ‘show off’ their driving skills. Some of them are ignorant of the basic road rules and the signals associated with safe driving. In this respect a check should be carried out on the so called Driving Schools. We say this since, like the ubiquitous tuition classes and tutories, ‘Driving Schools’ too have sprouted in every street corner and like the former is doing big business. A check should be carried on the credentials of the owners of these ‘Driving Schools’ and if the required criteria is being followed by the driving instructors. This is because there are allegations that driving certificates are being issued by some of these ‘Driving Schools’ only after the barest of instructions and in most cases Competence Certificates are handed over the counter for a fee. If true, it is a serious issue and may be one of the reasons for the rise in road accidents.

Private buses, no doubt, are the worse culprits when it comes to road discipline and have lived up their dubious tag of being ‘killers on wheels’. According to the Chairman of the All Island Private Bus Owners’ Association Gemunu Wijeratne nearly one third of all private bus drivers in the Western Province are drug addicts. Need one say more?


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