End this carnage | Daily News


End this carnage

While the nation’s focus is riveted on the Coronavirus which is yet to claim even a single life in Sri Lanka, the Grim Reaper is having a field day on our highways. An astounding 17 deaths in road accidents were reported from different parts of the country in just 72 hours as at last morning, the worst being the death on the spot of six youth when the van they were travelling in crashed into a tree in Lunugamvehera. The driver of the vehicle and two others are battling for their lives at the ICU.

In Madampe a music teacher and her 13 year of daughter were also killed on the spot when a speeding lorry crashed into the trishaw they were travelling in. The body count keeps mounting with each passing day while nothing is being done to put an end to this carnage by the concerned authorities. It is claimed that the road deaths during past decades had even eclipsed the number of those killed during the three decades long war. The tragedy is, unlike during the war these deaths were avoidable.

Drastic action is called for to check the large number of road accidents. All the victims in the Lunugamvehera smash up were either in their mid twenties or early thirties - cut down in the prime of their lives. It is revealed that the ill fated van was travelling at 122 Kmph at the time of the crash which occurred in the wee hours. No doubt the driver of the van may have felt safe going full throttle at a time the roads were empty of traffic which, no doubt, is an irresponsible act that resulted six youth losing their lives. The stretch of road in which the mishap occurred in Lunugamvehera 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. 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 career as perhaps may have been the case with the six youth. 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. One should not also forget the immense health cost of 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.

As another measure in curbing road accidents, an age limit should be placed on drivers, particularly for 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.

Fitness tests should be made compulsory for all drivers of motor vehicles at regular intervals to avoid disaster. Most drivers on long haul journeys are prone to fatigue and needs to rest intermittently during such journeys to avoid mishaps. They should also be told to pass on the wheel to other qualified drivers from time to time, by the owners as a safety precaution.

A ceiling should also be imposed on the mileage for a heavy vehicle driver for a single day. Drivers of heavy vehicles who have clocked an optimum mileage should not be given charge of the vehicle thereafter for that day. This would not only leave them fit and fresh for the next haul but also avert possible disaster if they were to go on the journey in their jaded, fatigued condition. It is time the authorities sit up and take serious note of the carnage on our roads and devise a solution to end this monumental tragedy.

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