Compliance with traffic rules and regulations reflect the discipline and culture of a country. Road discipline is a good indicator as to whether Sri Lanka is indeed a nation of disciplined people. It is manifested in our behaviour and conduct as motorists when we use the roads. Unfortunately we as a nation lack this, as in almost all other spheres of human activity. Lack of discipline is deeply rooted in our culture. Road discipline has reached such a low depth it is bound to leave a negative impression among first time tourists and visitors to our country. Most will leave our shores having second thoughts of revisiting the island after witnessing the unruly and chaotic driving culture prevalent in this island. Almost everyone in society whether he or she is a pedestrian, passenger or driver is affected by the problems associated with the erratic and undisciplined use of automobiles.
The high rate of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from road accidents warrant urgent attention of the government, police and other law enforcement authorities.
It is said that every year some 1.25 million people die on the road as a result of traffic accidents in the world, and almost 20 to 50 million others are seriously injured. This is an alarming figure by any standard and it is preventable and avoidable to a great extent. In Sri Lanka on average five to six people a day are killed on our roads and many are seriously injured and partially disabled or incapacitated. Some of them are not in a position to live as they used to due to the injuries they suffered as a result of such accidents. Most of the people killed or injured belong to the young adult group who are able to contribute productively to the economy and society.
The impact on immediate family members of losing a loved one is tremendous in terms of emotional and psychological trauma and the loss of income and livelihood has life altering consequences for generations. This is particularly so when the sole breadwinner of the family is killed. Therefore, the ever increasing and alarming rate of fatalities and injuries resulting from road accidents has become a matter of serious concern for all. Concomitant with the increased population and improved road network infrastructure there has been a tremendous increase in the number of vehicles during the past few decades in this country. The increased vehicle population has brought in its wake a corresponding increase in the number of accidents in the country. In spite of numerous safety measures being put in place to reduce road accidents the problem has continued to grow over the years. Therefore. now there is a dire need for strengthening the existing safety measures with a view to minimising the number of accidents now taking place in the country.
The number of fatal accidents involving buses has increased in the recent years. In 2019, it was alleged that there were as many as 2688 fatal accidents involving 184 private buses and 34 SLTB buses
A combination of many factors has contributed to the large number of fatalities and injuries occurring on our roads today. The primary causative factor is the lack of discipline on the part of the motorists who use our roads. Today most motorists drive their vehicles with utter disregard for traffic rules and regulations in an irresponsible manner. It should be stated that the number of accidents and the resultant fatalities and injuries could be halved if the motorists simply act in a responsible manner showing care and concern for other road users. Excessive speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, lack of concentration, the use of mobile phones and text messaging while driving and the non-adherence to demarcated lanes while driving are some of the major contributory factors for accidents. In addition factors such as visual, cognitive and mobility impairment have also been associated with some accidents.
It should be stated that the number of accidents and the resultant fatalities and injuries could be halved if the motorists simply act in a responsible manner showing care and concern for other road users
Among the diverse forms of transportation, buses, cars, ubiquitous three-wheelers and motorcycles account for nearly fifty percent of the total number of road accidents in the country. The number of fatal accidents involving buses has increased in the recent years. In 2019, it was alleged that there were as many as 2688 fatal accidents involving 184 private buses and 34 SLTB buses. It is common knowledge that most bus drivers do not conform to the road rules and regulations and other vehicles are virtually at their mercy. There is also stiff competition among bus drivers to capture as many passengers as possible and their primary motive is to maximise earnings. Instead of making stops at designated bus stops, most buses stop right in the middle of the road for ad hoc passenger collection with no consideration for other road users. Quite a few bus drivers lack the necessary skill and competence to drive and it is claimed that some drive under the influence of alcohol and other psychotropic substances. The recent tragic collision which took place between a private bus and an army vehicle on the Nugegoda flyover killing a young soldier and injuring two others exemplifies the errant and reckless conduct of some of the drivers in Sri Lanka.
The high rate of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from road accidents warrant urgent attention of the government, police and other law enforcement authorities. There should also be a strong political will and commitment for an effective and long-lasting solution in this regard. While appreciating President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s commitment and the enormous efforts to stabilise the country, I hope he will make concerted efforts to safeguard innocent road users of the country as well. Over to you, Mr. President for your necessary action.