A timely decision | Daily News

A timely decision

The decision taken by the Government to increase fines for traffic offenses is a timely one, considering the high incidences of accidents and the mounting road deaths. According to the Chairman of the National Council for Road Safety Dr. Sisira Kodagoda the road fatalities during the last 20 years even surpassed the numbers killed during the entire 30 year period of the civil war in this country. He also made the shocking revelation that every year, nearly 3,000 road fatalities account for parents of families and of these close to 1,500 were male parents. Needless to say in most such instances the dependents are rendered orphaned. Also according to Dr. Kodagoda, 75% of road accident fatalities are those from low income families. Hence, highway accidents have now assumed proportions of a social issue which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

According to our main story last Thursday, the Motor Traffic Act is to be amended to revise the penalties for motor traffic offenses. In terms of the amendment a fine of Rs. 25,000 would be imposed for driving under the influence of alcohol, driving without a valid driving licence, entering into railway crossing irresponsibly, driving by an under-aged person (below 18 years) and driving without valid insurances. No one can object to the fine Rs.25,000 when compared to the serious nature of the offenses listed above and hopefully the authorities would not cave in to the private bus mafia, as it did on the last occasion, when the former went on strike in opposition to the Rs, 25,000 fine imposed for the same offenses.

Road discipline too should be imposed strictly. The Traffic Police should show no leniency towards errant motorists whoever they may be. We say this because there is a common complain among the tri-shaw community that it was their lot that is unfairly penalized by the Traffic Police while no action is taken against offenders riding BMWs, Prados etc. Some of these complaints could be valid since these luxury vehicles are more or less status symbols and traffic policemen tend to ignore such offenders fearing repercussions if the inmate happen to be somebody with political influence or close to high ranking police officers. Besides, most of accidents occur due to reckless driving and it is those driving luxury vehicles who are more prone to be in breach of the road rules, according to some observations.

However, the worst offenders are the private bus drivers who are a law unto themselves and monopolize the roads. Most of the accidents involving private buses occur due to overtaking. It is difficult to understand why the Traffic Police is lax in penalizing private bus drivers given their daredevil antics on our roads which endanger the lives of both road users and passengers. Perhaps, stories that some of the private buses are owned by police officers, hence, could not be entirely unfounded. There is no other reason for turning a blind eye to the blatant violations of road rules. It is also not uncommon to see policemen on patrol duty wearing handkerchief masks to escape the noxious fumes emitted by belching jalopies when their primary duty should be to book these vehicles for environment pollution.

Road accidents could also be minimized by ensuring only roadworthy vehicles are allowed to ply. In most instances where accidents are reported it invariably transpires that the mishap was due to faulty breaks or the gear systems. Also an age limit should be imposed on those driving vehicles, since slow reaction or reflexes more often than not result in accidents (those above the age of eighty should not be allowed behind a wheel). Another common cause for road accidents, particularly involving heavy vehicles travelling long distance, is the fact that the drivers of these vehicles fall asleep through exhaustion. There have been several such instances in the recent past, as reported on television, that has resulted is horrible collisions and fatalities. Ideally the drivers of these long distance vehicles should have ample rest before embarking on their journey or mid-way through such journeys.

Road accidents are fast turning out to be the number one killer today, even surpassing deaths from non communicable diseases according to some reports. Therefore drastic measures are called for to arrest this dangerous trend. The huge surge in the number of vehicles in the country too have contributed to the increase in the number of road fatalities. According to Minister Champika Ranawaka, there are 8 million vehicles in the country for a population of 5.5 million families. The problem could only get worse if urgent steps are not taken to reverse the alarming trend of road accidents.

A sensational victory

Sri Lanka cricket fans, at last, had much to smile for on Saturday with the sensational victory achieved by our team in beating South Africa in Durban. The victory took on a surreal quality in the way it was achieved, Sri Lanka reaching home by just one wicket, propelled by the pulsating knock of superhero Kusal Janith Perera in probably one of the greatest display of batsmanship seen in recent times. Has the country's cricketing fortunes turned the corner? 


 

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What remains to be highlighted is the need for proper training by competent trainers before the drivers are let loose on the highways and byways.Good number of licenses are granted for considerations other the required competency to drive properly.

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