Remembering road accident victims | Daily News

Remembering road accident victims

Here is a sobering fact: Someone dies on the road somewhere in the world every 24 seconds. Here in Sri Lanka, around eight people die daily on our roads. The Global Status Report on Road Safety, launched by WHO in December 2018, highlights that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million the world over. Road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years.

Today we highlight these facts as tomorrow, the world will be marking the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, both the dead and the severely injured. More than half of all road traffic deaths are among vulnerable road users: pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Pedestrians, pedal cyclists, and riders of motorized 2- and 3-wheelers and their passengers are collectively known as “vulnerable road users” and account for half of all road traffic deaths around the world.

Indeed, drastic action is called for to check the large number of road accidents that have become commonplace today. According to statistics, there are more than 3,500 road fatalities in an average year in Sri Lanka. Hardly a day passes without a bloody scene of a road accident shown on television. Thanks to the proliferation of CCTV cameras, most accidents are now recorded, which gives police an opportunity to investigate them thoroughly.

The victims in the accidents are usually a breadwinner of a family or a student with bright prospects in his/her academic career. In rare instances entire families get killed and in others a parent or both parents perish, leaving behind the young children. Therefore road accidents and their aftermath have now become a social problem too. Another hidden problem is the massive health cost, as the State treats the wounded persons at Government hospitals.

Tough action should be taken against Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of liquor. A mere fine following a Court appearance is not effective. Nothing short of a lengthy prison term and/ or confiscation of the vehicle involved would suffice. If a DUI individual is involved in a fatal accident he/she should also be compelled by law to take care of the dependents of the victim/victims. A heavy deterrent punishment certainly would have placed all other would be reckless drivers on their guard. It has also been observed that sports personalities, politicians and celebrities often go scot free even in the case of fatal accidents. The law should apply to everyone equally.

As another measure in curbing road accidents, an age limit should be placed on heavy vehicle drivers. A majority of the accidents in recent times had occurred in the wee hours and reportedly when the drivers had fallen asleep on the wheel. While this could happen to any individual irrespective of age, those drivers of advanced age are more likely to be vulnerable. Besides, slow and erratic reflexes also lead to road accidents as a result of poor control of the vehicle. Here again, age plays a part. In addition, all vehicles of old vintage and rickety jalopies should be put off the road, since they are prone to mechanical defects than new vehicles, resulting in accidents. Fitness tests should be made compulsory for all drivers of motor vehicles at regular intervals to avoid disaster.

Not just the aged and alcoholic drivers, some of the young motorists who have just passed their drivers’ tests too are guilty of reckless driving. Most of these young men have brought grief to themselves and their families by speeding and attempting to ‘show off’ their driving skills. Sri Lanka is perhaps the only country in the world where one can obtain the driver’s license today and drive a Ferrari tomorrow without any “probationary” period. Some of them are ignorant of the basic road rules and the signals associated with safe driving.

In this respect a check should be carried out on the so called Driving Schools. Like the ubiquitous tuition classes, ‘Driving Schools’ too have sprouted in every street corner and like the former is doing big business. The credentials of the owners of these ‘Driving Schools’ must be checked. The authorities must ascertain whether the required criteria are being followed by the driving instructors. There are allegations that some of these driving schools have “arrangements” with the examiners to go easy on their students so that they can get the license swiftly. If true, it is a serious issue and may be one of the reasons for the rise in road accidents.

Private buses, no doubt, are the worse culprits when it comes to road discipline and have lived up the dubious tag of being ‘killers on wheels’. Along with three wheelers, they are responsible for most of the accidents that occur islandwide as a result of their drivers’ callous disregard for road rules and discipline. In their ‘drive’ to collecting more passengers, niceties such as road rules are often ignored. It is vital to rein in private bus and three wheeler drivers to make our roads safer for all.