ROADS IN SRI LANKA DEADLIER BY THE YEAR

Statistics Reveal 3003 Road Deaths Last Year -A Road Death Every 3 Hours



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By Camillus R Abeygoonewardena


(Former Deputy Inspector General of Police Traffic Administration & Road Safety)


Police statistics reveal that our roads are becoming deadlier by the year. Last year road deaths reached a startling total of 3,003, when compared to 2,816 deaths in the previous year. There were 2,440 in 2014. During the last decade or so there has been a tremendous increase in mobility and motorisation in the country. There has also been a rapid influx of unsafe modes of transport along with heavy pedestrian movements.


For every person who dies several thousands are injured. The socio economic cost to the nation according to the Moratuwa University is approximately in the range of Rs. 25 billion. It is, therefore, imperative that the state give a very high priority for safer roads by introducing a comprehensive traffic and transport policy to reduce the risks of road accidents drastically; road congestion also costs the country whopping Rs. 30 to 35 billion annually.


The dangers faced by road travellers in the years gone by were from external sources like predatory beasts or bandits. This situation has changed with the modern means of road travel. Today, the greatest danger is by speeding vehicles. Compared to road deaths in the pre-1970s the risk of road death on our roads has trebled. There is a dire need for the state to develop the road network with added safety features and minimising conflicts among users and this to be backed-up with greater road discipline through tougher laws and strict enforcement thereof.


Road development authorities, planners and engineers need to redesign and re-structure the road system to reduce the probability of risks in accidents by eliminating or minimising some of the existing conflicts on roads. Perhaps, we should move away from the traditional road safety approach and adopt a more dynamic innovative policies and strategies with state intervention to reduce fatalities and injuries.


It is imperative at least at this late stage for the state and relevant road authorities step in and introduce a much safer road traffic system.


These consequences could also be attributed to the phenomenal increase in the number and kinds of vehicles on our roads. Our road network has become congested and unsafe. This is the inevitable result of rapid urbanisation, enhanced vehicle ownership for business and personal travel with increased incomes and opportunities, a shift from safer modes of travel perhaps more due to inadequacies in public transport and the availability of a variety of speedier modes of travel have all led to chaos on roads.


Another contributory factor is the lack of road discipline and respect for road rules and consideration for others. This to a considerable extent could be attributed to the absence of a systematic law enforcement policy at national and regional level backed by high-tech traffic management solutions.


Effective law enforcement strategies have been made ineffective in recent years with the available man power of the traffic police being fully utilised to regulate traffic at intersections and at critical locations to meet peak hour conflicts and demands.This has hindered and hampered the primary duty of law enforcement and the prosecution of offenders. More dynamic enforcement strategies should be the order of the day with the Police engaging unmarked police vehicles and plain-clothes observers at critical locations to apprehend errant drivers. Such measurer’s should be backed by hi-tech enforcement solutions and linked to deterrent penalties.


CLASS OF ROAD USER KILLED


MOTOR CYCLISTS- MOST VULNERABLE: Motorcycle riders and pillion riders comprise the largest segment killed in road deaths. Similar trends are observed in the Asian Pacific region as well. Last year motorcyclists accounted for 1,157 deaths ( 38% of road deaths in the country). There are 3,699,630 registered motorcycles in the country. Their growing popularity is probably due to its affordability and convenience. Motor cyclists will continue to be most vulnerable since the machine provides no protection in a collision. Another inherent danger is that motorcyclists are generally not conspicuous both by day and night to other users of the road. The use of headlights or wearing reflective jackets could help enhance their safety to a considerable extent.


Motorcyclists are exposed to other dangers due to wearing sub-standard crash helmets etc. Inadequacies in training and testing standards for their competency are also contributory factors. Their turning and overtaking manoeuvres are most unpredictable, incomprehensible and unconventional. It is high time that leading insurers, dealers of motorcycles and companies employing staff riding motorcycles conduct re-training classes as a corporate social responsibility project.


The next vulnerable category of road users are pedestrians (877 deaths in 2015 as opposed in the previous year).


Three wheeler are the next vulnerable category (405 deaths a year). Their road behaviour is most incomprehensible. Authorities should introduce and enforce rigid regulations to curb reckless driving which endangers all road users. Safety aspects of three wheelers should also receive the attention of the authorities, a specific colour code for three wheelers should also be looked at. Similar laws in New Delhi as regards trishaws including a ban on hailing should be enforced in Colombo and in other capital cities. Picking up passengers should be confined to trishaw stands only or to a pick up destination of the passenger. A proper dress code for trishaw drivers is also necessary.


WESTERN PROVINCE


The Western Province leads in road deaths (804). Most of the A Class roads are found in this region. The Police Division of Nugegoda recorded the highest number of deaths (146) followed by the Gampaha Division (139) and the Kelaniya Division (137).


The North Western Province, which encompasses the Police Divisions of Kurunegala, Kuliyapitiya, Nikaweratiya, Puttlam and Chilaw altogether has recorded 488 road deaths. This region has a large fleet of commercial vehicles, motorcycles and three wheelers compared to other provinces. Roads in this region should receive the attention of the Police and the road development authorities.


The Southern Province recorded 421 deaths and most occurred on the A 2 Road. This province also has a considerable number of motorcycles, three wheelers and commercial vehicles. There is a greater need for law enforcement strategies aimed at improving the condition of the A 2 Road with traffic to and from Kataragama, Yala and Resort areas.


WEEKENDS - DRIVE WITH CARE


During the last decade or so the number of fatalities has been high during weekends. These fatalities occurred on main roads which take mixed traffic.


Factors that could be commonly attributed to such fatalities are speeding, reckless overtaking, driver fatigue, driving under the influence of alcohol, blatant disregard for the rights of other road users, overestimating one’s skills/abilities and scant respect for road rules.


Concerned professionals from all disciplines must take cognizance of the deteriorating state of safety and security on our roads which has reached epic proportions. The issue also needs to become part of the civil rights discourse in the country and together galvanize the government in to action. Our vision in road safety should be that we must not hand over a road traffic system which is extremely hazardous and risky to the next generation.


For this we need to move away from traditional methods of dealing with road safety and adopt innovative measurers in road engineering to minimize existing road dangers and conflicts. There is an absolute need to promote a better driving culture among road users. For this a more dynamic approach to law enforcement in a uniform manner countrywide is essential.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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