Sri Lanka is on a mission to discipline this nation and a major part of this endeavour is aimed at bringing some order when people are driving their cars, bikes and tuk tuks.
Recently we read that the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation had issued a gazette notification to increase seven traffic offenses. This news is music to the ears of disciplined drivers, because they are often inconvenienced when sharing the road with errant drivers and riders who thrive on breaching laws for motorists.
The subject minister will now present this proposal to parliament and the new changes would even call for several amendments in the Motor Traffic Act.
There have been days when decent motorists have had to grin and bear when they are overtaken from the left. We can’t forget the days when we saw on television how reckless and drunk driving took the lives of unsuspecting pedestrians. There have been days even when using the zebra crossing has been a nightmare. This is because reckless drivers fail to stop and allow pedestrians to cross over.
But these dark days could be over thanks to the initiative taken by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation.
According to the new proposals, fines would be raised to a minimum of Rs 25,000 for seven offences once the gazette notification is presented to parliament and enacted into law.
Some of the offences that would be delt with severely in the future will be overtaking from the left, driving while under the influence of liquor or drugs, driving without a valid insurance, causing injuries or bringing death while driving under the influence of liquor or drugs and the reckless driving through points where there are railway gates.
This initiative will bear fruit only if the sheer fear of paying huge fines makes these drivers observe rules that spell out the traffic ofences. There would be not much of an impact with regard to the new initiative if drivers and riders take the attitude of being willing to pay the fines, but being not so willing to discipline themselves.
We know how some arrogant members of the affluent society who along with some of the lawmakers drive so recklessly as if they own the road. It is interesting to see how lawmakers respond to this gazette when it is presented in Parliament for approval.
All efforts to discipline Sri Lanka are coming from the top with President Maithripala Sirisena leading the way with his narcotics eradication programme which has come in for praise even from the international community.
Sirisena is a mild individual and many mistook his silence for being weak, especially during the initial stages of the Unity Government when Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe began calling the shots.
But the president put his foot down on several questionable deals and has risen like a phoenix. Today he is a feared man in the war against drugs. This new initiative which is aimed at disciplining drivers and riders complements his battle against errant drivers who constantly flout traffic laws.
When foreigners take to the road our culture is exposed to them. Horn tooting maniacs, road hoggs and drivers who pass vulgar gestures at female drivers just show what an ill-disciplined nation we are. Some of the offences mentioned here might not come under the present reviewing, but citizens do hope such offences too will be eradicated if staggering fines are slapped on offenders.
Very recently we heard of a tuk tuk driver being remanded because he was behaving in a vulgar manner while transporting a female customer. Like with some of the new amendments in the traffic laws going to enforce heavy fines, there should be penalties for drivers and riders who misbehave while being behind the wheel.
The proposal by the transport ministry to increase traffic fines should make the task of driving on Sri Lankan roads pleasant.