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Keep to your lane and eye the police! - EDITORIAL


18 September 2020 12:03 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Sri Lanka needs stricter road laws and tough law enforcement officials to implement them. When ever an authority says this it underscores one major issue; a good number of Sri Lankan motorists, three wheel drivers and motorbike riders need to be disciplined. 
But the problem with implementing these laws is that such efforts often attract protests. The bottom line is that Sri Lankans oppose laws whenever efforts are taken to discipline them. 
Just a few days ago the Traffic Police was tasked with the implementation of lane laws which were initially introduced last year. These laws however couldn’t be strictly enforced during the time the country was experiencing the worset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now we see some order in the traffic in the morning because buses, tuk tuks and bikes have to use the left lane and cars the right part of the road. The police promise that there would be a reduction in traffic congestion, but only time would reveal the results of these efforts. 
These regulations would help in one thing and that is to reduce the number of road accidents. According to Traffic Police statistics 2019 recorded as many as 2851 fatal accidents. 61 deaths were recorded in the ‘hit and run’ category that year alone. 
The Transport Minister wants to bring the number of road accidents to zero by 2030. 

All these are lofty goals and require no nonsense law enforcement officials and committed lawmakers to be achieved. Right now President Rajapaksa is backing these efforts which are channeled through an initiative titled ‘Let’s Resume Road Discipline’.  
Sri Lanka decided in 1951 to make it mandatory for all vehicle owners to register their machines with the Department of Motor Traffic. Even back then the thinking behind the move was to make vehicles roadworthy. Just consider the accidents which are caused due to a faulty break system in vehicles. 
The establishment of the Traffic Police Division took place two years later, in 1963. The department was set up with the aim of increasing the number of traffic police officials and improve traffic law enforcement. 

But some years later, after the economy was opened in 1977, the roads were congested with traffic because there was a flux of vehicles being imported. However what the country was lagging at that time was a solid road structure to accommodate the increase of vehicles. Underdeveloped roads were one of the major causes for motor car accidents. In support of making the new initiative a success the country’s president has tasked the authorities with a goal which is complete 100,000 km of road development by the year 2024. 
But history has shown us that the absence of heavy fines was a negative factor which stalled the process of making drivers and riders disciplined. At present the imposing of a fine of Rs 2000 for lane violaters is supported by the law. 

But this fine doesn’t look forceful or intimidating. In the past there was a time when the regime imposed a fine of 25,000 with regard to seven traffic offenses. But the implementation process was buckled because there were strong protests made by bus and tuk tuk owners associations. The result was the regime appointing a five-member committee to study the feasibility of the fine. 
The morning hours are tough when it comes driving because children need to be dropped in school on time. Also there is a need to have male and female policemen to guide the traffic and most importantly the officials in khaki uniform must be friendly and should be able to handle stress. Some years ago Thailand introduced ‘dancing cops’ because that eased some of the pressure drivers were battling with when negotiating traffic on congested roads. 

From such a perspective the Sri Lankan authorities having plans to employ members of the Military Police attached to the Sri Lanka Army in this programme must be questioned.
All in all Sri Lanka’s initiative to reintroduce strict traffic laws must be lauded because this was at one time a country where as many as 10 people died and 20 people were disabled due to road accidents on any given day. 

  Comments - 2

  • Lokusalli Friday, 18 September 2020 10:13 AM

    I think you,LL find buses and sand lorries are the biggest culprits of dangerous driving .Even using the oncoming lane as their lane ,flashing you to get out of their way .The problem with the roads ,is that the surface has got better ,but the standard of driving hasn't. Plus the fact once you have overtaken one slow landmaster , there's always a three wheeler driving in the middle of the road.

    Tuan Friday, 18 September 2020 01:42 PM

    Sri Lanka roads are shittest in the world, but laws are above the roof.All to loot

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