By Lalith Dhammika Mendis
The auspicious period of Sinhala and Tamil New Year, the main traditional national festival annually celebrated by the majority in Sri Lanka was unfortunately marred by a host of fatal road accidents reported from several areas of the country. Despite repeated announcements made by police requesting the public to desist from driving under the influence of liquor, while also informing that a large number of additional personnel had been deployed to hunt sloshed drivers as a deterrent, statistics revealed a pathetic story of more than 1,000 people being apprehended for the ignominious offence of drunk driving, disregarding the catastrophic consequences and risks to themselves as well as many other innocent people, who generally end-up being the prime victims of sensational road tragedies. Recent road tragedies claimed the lives of some innocents representing all ages which included elderly as well as young ones of school-going age. These sad incidents devastated the kith-and-kin of the families of those who had to encounter untimely deaths caused by fatal accidents at times most unexpected, due to no fault whatsoever on the part of the hapless victims. It has been revealed that drunk driving is becoming one of the main culprits of road tragedies and hence well-thought plans of action to curb it have become imperative.
A plethora of road accidents reported every now and then indicates that motorists should be subjected to strict road discipline to avoid mishaps. For this purpose, measures should be designed to ensure that stern action is taken against those found guilty of drunk driving, flawlessly and on the spot, leaving absolutely no room for circumvention, with a view to preventing sinful and erring motorists who know the ropes, comfortably going scot free. It should be made mandatory that every driver detected by law enforcement apparatus on suspicion of being under the influence of liquor be referred to a medical examination by a recognised medical practitioner attached to a public health facility. The medical examination should define the level of inebriation detrimental for safe driving and provide an on-the-spot medical report confirming the drunken status of the suspect. This would form the documentary evidence admissible in a court of law, as the basis of an indictment where needed. Such a mechanism could deter crafty motorists given to take advantage of the laxity on the part of some conniving law enforcement officers on the take, going comfortably unpunished. To make the system fool-proof as far as possible, measures should be taken to implement stringent checks and balances on the officers deployed in operational duty to ensure their compliance with set rules & procedures in the enforcement of measures to the letter.
A plethora of road accidents reported every now and then indicates that motorists should be subjected to strict road discipline to avoid mishaps. For this purpose, measures should be designed to ensure that stern action is taken against those found guilty of drunk driving
Notwithstanding the deployment of a large number of officers and frequent action being taken against drunk drivers, it is evident that measures currently in force have not had an adequate moral and deterrent effect on the wrongdoers to curb their harmful anti-social habits. Hence what is needed is a scheme of exemplary punishment that would compel motorists to desist from violating road discipline. As a long term measure, drunk driving should be introduced to school curriculum as part of Health Science for students preferably at GCE O/Level stage, where it is highlighted as an anti-social phenomenon portending evil to society at large. Such teaching could inculcate wholesome social mores in the minds of adolescents who would one day step into society as grown-up citizens.
Besides, exemplary punishments should be meted out for drunk driving; which whilst including suspension and confiscation of driving licenses could also accompany the need to engage in compulsory public service manual labour work, such as sweeping of roads, cleaning of hospital premises, assisting transportation of garbage or similar labour work as part and parcel of the penal measures imposed.
In this regard, most importantly enforcement should be done without fear or favour, treating everyone alike irrespective of social standing or status. Culprits should made to carry out such work in public in a conspicuous manner enabling public to easily spot such people as wrong doers undergoing punishments for drunk driving. Also, wrongdoers could be asked to take measures where feasible to financially make good losses caused to property or compensate the next-of-kin of any victims affected by their senseless, abominable foolhardy conduct.
Liquor has become one of the most irresistible attractions that often feature in social gatherings. Irrespective of whether people are rendezvousing to have fun in a celebration or mourn at a bereavement, liquor is seen to play a prominent role in keeping them glued together. It is evident that people of all ages do consume liquor nowadays and there is a disturbing trend of young one s getting increasingly addicted to consuming this sweat position, which many seem to consider as a pleasant sin nowadays.
Those who consume liquor at gatherings thoughtlessly go overboard, little realising that recklessness induced by drunk behind the wheel could spell doom to an unfortunate innocent who finds him or herself at the wrong place at wrong the time for right or wrong reason.
So it is the bounden duty of every responsible citizen to come to terms with this stark reality and obey road discipline in the best interests of common wellbeing. People’s thoughtful action and necessary precautions undoubtedly go a long in way preserving many precious lives which would otherwise end up tragically.