On this basis an average of 7 persons die due to road accidents every day, about 16 persons are seriously injured and 34 persons receive minor injuries. In recent years from 2005 onwards there has been a considerable reduction in damage only accidents according to statistics. This reduction is no reason to rejoice, this drop is due to new insurance procedures in vogue where damage only accidents are settled directly through Insurers without being repored to Police Stations.
According to sources from the University of Moratuwa, road accidents cost the country in the range of Rs.25 billion and traffic congestion costs the country around Rs.35 billion or more.
A study by the University of Moratuwa shows the risk factor of a Sri Lankan facing death on our roads has doubled from 1977 to 2005. The risk of the next generation could be trebled by 2020 unless we take remedial measures.
In 1977 the risk factor on roads was 1 death to 116 whereas by 2005 it was 1 death to 51 normal deaths and by the year 2020 it may well be 1 death to 25 normal deaths.
Traditionally over the years Pedestrians remained the highest category of victims of road accidents in Sri Lanka, as in most developing countries. They will continue to be vulnerable until the roads are structured by means of traffic calming and segregation measures by way of design features to enhance their safety.
In developed countries the pattern is totally different where drivers and passengers form the highest category of those killed in road accidents. Pedestrians are not significant due to numerous reasons, such as respect for pedestrians’ rights, segregation of pedestrians from moving vehicles, inbuilt safety features and higher order compliance of road rules by drivers.
Sri Lanka, similar to other Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taipei and China Motorcycles now, forms the largest fleet of motorized vehicle segment and ranks also as the category most vulnerable among road victims.
To arrive at a logical conclusion on involvement one must consider the distances travelled and the number of vehicles in each category in operation rather than the number involved in fatalities, because it could be argued that there are more cars than busses. On the other hand if the number of buses and cars are the same, by reason of the fact that the bus travels more than a car in a year and it is larger in size, it may be more exposed to fatalities or accidents. Hence, vehicle kilo metres travelled by each category and the operational fleet is the most accurate measurement to determine the ranking of most dangerous category.
Statistically, the most involved categories in road fatalities in the year 2010 are Motor cyclists 722, Busses 392, Three Wheelers 227, Vans 212, Cars 157, Dual Purpose vehicles 122, Pedal cycles 59, Tractors 52, Jeeps 43, Containers 27, Land Vehicles 09, Hit and Run 89.
Comparison of 2009 fatalities does not make any significant difference with those of 2010.
To an outsider, respect and compliance with traffic regulations as well as enforcement of traffic laws is an index of respect for the Rule of Law in a society.
The main objective of traffic law enforcement is to make road use safer and more efficient, The overall objective of traffic law enforcement and traffic regulations is primarily to serve as a deterrent for drivers from committing traffic offences. It is primarily meant to increase road user’s perception of the risk of being apprehended and its dreaded consequences.
Effective Law Enforcement does not mean maximizing the number of infringement notices issued to motorists. Much of today’s enforcement regrettably is directed towards maximizing infringement notices and not directed towards the overall objective.If traffic law enforcement is to be effective, all citizens must be “Equal Before the Law”. Today certain strata of our society seem to be above the law and the society in general has very little respect for the law, so in such a scenario effective law enforcement seems doubly difficult in the foreseeable future.
Traffic Law Enforcement needs to be directed more intensely on offences which have a direct bearing on road accidents such as excessive speeding, overtaking dangerously, aggressive driving, misuse of horn, turning or changing direction without signals, driving without due consideration for others, driving after alcohol and failing to stop at crossings and signals. In the enforcement arena the police should implement the compulsory wearing of seat belts for front seat passengers and on expressways in the rear as well, this law unfortunately was in abeyance since 1994.
Effective Police presence and patrolling in marked and unmarked police vehicles using high tech equipment such as automatic fixed speed cameras and use of calibrated speedo meters in unmarked police cars would have a profound effect on driver behaviour. For the time being engaging traffic officers in mufti armed with radio communication sets to detect moving violations would bring about a similar impact on road behaviour.
Research shows benefits of speed reduction are particularly high where pedestrians are concerned, the probability of pedestrian fatality reduces by about 80 per cent at impact speed of 80 Km/h or above to less than 10 per cent at 30 Km/h. If speed enforcement is to be effective by whatever measures adopted, it needs to be uniformly spread out for the day and must be intensive.
Road safety should no longer be the domain of the Police alone; all those responsible for road construction and management have an equal responsibility. If those in the business of insurance along with professional advertising & marketing should support the efforts of the Police enforcement and road safety strategies by offering the necessary resources the benefits will be substantial and enormous to the insurers in the longer term.
The writer is Former Deputy Inspector General of Police. By Camillus R Abeygoonewardena