Roadblocks Slowdown Fight Against Road Accidents
by Ifham Nizam
- The number of drunk drivers is increasing due to various reasons
- Traffic congestion on the streets of Colombo is getting worse by the day
- According to statistics a large number of Sri Lankans spend more time on the roads
“The number of drunk drivers is increasing due to various reasons, first and foremost interference of senior police officers especially to release those who violate the Motor Traffic Act. The other reason being constables focusing only on getting 40 cases a month. They know by getting more than 40 would not get them a bonus,” a police official said.
He said fines should also be increased for violating the Motor Traffic Act 148 1-14.
A constable speaking to The Sunday Leader said that if they were rewarded accordingly they would go out of the way but when their perks were tightened they have no choice but to limit their work.
He also said that unlike constables working in other departments they were paid the least.
“We get an allowance of Rs. 1,650 month whereas some get an allowance of between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000. We have reliable information that other constables get 33 per cent more than us,” he added.
He also said that those who follow traffic programmes and studies, remain isolated in other areas.
“Only five per cent of us are qualified to carry out work on the road. It is high time officials look into it,” he said.
Police Media Spokesman Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG), Priyantha Jayakody told The Sunday Leader that there isn’t much difference with the allowance given to Police constables who serve in the traffic and others.
However, he stressed that those who serve in special operations would certainly get more than others. He also said that those who were not fit to serve in the traffic transferred to other departments, while other transferred to traffic as punishment. “This leads to number of stories being created,” he said.
He also stressed: “As the Inspector General of Police believes we give the best job to the best persons. There may be individual cases; some will not like to say the real cause/reasons of the transfers etc.”
He also said that some Police officials use vehicles with tinted glasses. There are two reasons for this, he pointed, firstly due to security reasons and other is due to medical reasons. This is usually done under the permission of Defense Secretary
He agreed that the increase number of vehicles in the roads is the biggest issue. Ten years back there were 1.5 million vehicles and at present there are more than 6.5 million vehicles.
Within the last five there were a number of three wheelers that had entered the country, accommodating them is also a huge task, he further said.
He added: “ A Number of traffic schemes, detection programmes is in the pipeline.”
The traffic congestion on the streets of Colombo is getting worse by the day. The large numbers of private vehicles plying on the streets is a message from the people that they are not prepared to use the unorganised, outdated, and overcrowded, public transport system in Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka had the second best public transport system in Asia several decades ago. In the 1960’s tram cars, trolley buses, buses, railways were operated in city routes following proper timetables and standards. For various reasons the country has gradually lost all these transport services. The country has lost the technology, the management capabilities etc. However, the backbone needed for a successful transport system is there,” he said.
“We are a small country; our population density is very high. Our cities are not that big. We cannot widen our roads and build enough new roads as we like. Therefore, we will not be able to accommodate this huge demand for vehicles,” an official said.
The constraints of road space and parking space also add to the misery of a densely populated city such as Colombo. This has been further aggravated with only 10 per cent of the population owning cars.
The constraints of having additional road space and parking space simultaneously also exist. Even if the vehicle ownership is continued, the free usage of these private vehicles is also constrained.
According to statistics a large number of Sri Lankans spend more time on the roads, paying more for fuel, as the number of vehicles on the roads is rapidly increasing and it takes longer to reach one’s destination.
Private companies incur at least a 10 per cent loss due to heavy fuel bills and in addition they suffer man hour losses as well due to a decline in productivity even after providing vehicles for some of their top executives, he revealed.
According to latest statistics there are 130 vehicles per 1,000 people, out of which 66 per cent would be motor cycles while three-wheelers and four-wheelers (small and large) make up 45 vehicles per 1,000 people.
If there is no vehicle fleet management, like in the last 30 years, there will be problems regarding space, he said.
He suggested that there should be a restriction on ownership of vehicles, like in Singapore, where a vehicle permit is auctioned on a quota basis by courts, which will be more expensive than a vehicle.
The country incurs a massive financial and man-hour loss due to traffic congestion as a result of no proper vehicular traffic in Greater Colombo areas and in 2009 this loss was estimated as Rs 32 billion per annum. “The main reason for congestion was poor city planning, inappropriate public transport facilities and an insufficient traffic system, which leads to a waste of time, fuel and wear and tear of vehicles”.
The country was losing 1.5% of the GDP due to traffic congestion. Sri Lanka’s road network in the city is not capable of handling increasing traffic flows at the rate that is demanded which will be around a 10% increase per year.
Drivers who use mobile phones while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free, are four times likely more to meet with accidents, according to retired traffic DIG Camillus Abeygunawardena.
Most collisions occurred on A-class roads because they carry mixed traffic. The ex-DIG believes building more highways would prevent fatalities as pedestrians would not be found on such roads.
He says many traffic police officers work from 6am to 7-8pm and such long shifts exhausted them and affected their work.
“Traffic police officers should be given two shifts from 6am to 2pm and then from 2pm to 10pm,” he pointed out.
Every day more than 10 motor traffic accidents were reported, 45 per cent of them fatal, with one death being reported every four hours. They were mainly caused by reckless driving.
What is An Accident?
1. An accident is an undesired or unintended happening. Inevitable accident falls within the concept of ACT OF GOD OR DAMNUM FATALE OR AN Unfortunate harmful event, event without apparent cause unexpected occurring.
2. A Motor Traffic Accident occurs on highway collision with Vehicles, persons or with property.
i). What is a Vehicle (MTA – 240) defines what a vehicle is
Vehicle is defined in section 240 of the Motor Traffic Act.
Vehicle includes bicycles, tricycles, motor vehicles, vehicles of every description, pedestrians, processions, and bodies of troops, and all animals being ridden, driven or led.
3. An Accidents may occur
i. between a vehicle and other vehicle.
ii. Vehicle colliding with a person
iii. Vehicle colliding with movable or unmovable property
iv. When a Vehicle goes off the road
v. A person being knocked down with another person.
vi. Due to natural or manmade disaster
Reasons for Accidents
1. Recklessness of the Driver
2. Negligence of the Driver
3. Indisciplined driving
4. Lack of knowledge
i. Road Rules and regulations
ii. Road conditions
iii. Weather conditions
iv. Conditions of the vehicle
v. Knowledge regarding apparatus, controls, equipments
5. Human error
6. Fatigue or stress
7. Road infrastructure defects.
8. Not planning the trip.
9. Poor health condition.
10. Lack of driving experience and skills.
11. Driving under the influence or alcohol.
12. Failure to check power.
13. A Speeding.
14. Not wearing the safety belt.
15. Pedestrians not following road rules.
16. Jumping colour lights.
17. Not knowing the meanings of the different road signs markings signals etc. etc.
18. Lack of skills driving during rains winds fog mist
19. Failure to obey road rules and regulations
20. Driving after taking medication.
21. Trying to beat up time.
22. Failure in respecting the rights of others.
23. Failure in recognizing civic responsibility.
24. Unsatisfactory enforcement by some Police officer
25. Not keeping the proper distance.
Recommendations to prevent accidents
1. All road users to act with civic responsibility.
2. To educate infant’s children high / junior school students / adult’s elderly people on traffic safety
3. Safe driving programmes to be conducted to drivers / riders and also conductors to be educated on safety
4. Road infrastructure defects to be identified and rectified by RDA, and all other stake holders
5. Disciplined driving method to be taught to examine driving knowledge skills and also the knowledge of rules and regulations and medical fitness before issuance of driving and riding license
6. Identified risk drivers and to cancel/ suspend / their licenses by judiciary or by demerits systems by the CMT
7. To increase insurance premium of risk drivers
8. Deterrent punishment for offenders committing fatal grievous and serious accidents
9. Renewal of driving license every three years having rechecked the knowledge on rules and regulations health and driving skills and driving records.
10. To include traffic road safety as a major in school curriculum
11. To have special driving programmes for school leavers
* Advance traffic management and road safety centers on mobile for education / enforcement purpose on highways.
* Reflectors and other accessories to be fitted to peddle cyclists.
* Educate to wear reflective materials at night it increases the visibility of the driver in avoiding accidents.
* Use of modern technique
* Promotion drives to support elderly / young / novice drivers
* Practice courtesy
* Improved enforcement by police and other agencies more moving violations to be detected.
* Public transport systems to be improved and necessary recognition
* Black spots to be identified and remedial action