Halt this trend | Daily News

Halt this trend

No doubt, the New Normal concept spawned by the pandemic even amidst its deadly virulence brought with it certain positive features and also an orderly life including heightened awareness about the spread of diseases and other safety features.

A glaring observation during the lockdowns and the restrictions was a near total absence of road accidents where fatalities on the highways recorded zero levels.

Lamentably though, this situation has witnessed a drastic reversal with the decision taken by the authorities to open up the country, leading to a record number of road accidents and road deaths reported in the final week of December when most lockdowns were lifted for the festive season.

Newspapers during the past week gave prominence to the record number of road accidents and the highest number of fatalities ever reported in a single week resulting from reckless driving where in the majority of cases those behind the wheel were found to be Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of liquor.

In the 10 days leading from December 20, a total of 527 road accidents were reported resulting in 39 deaths (14 were killed in a single day) and 122 critically injured victims which to say the least is shocking indeed and a trend that needs to be arrested soon.

Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana in a statement to the media had admitted that this situation was certainly not a normal one. The victims also included pedestrians and other road users in addition to drivers. It is not known how many bread winners of families were among those killed or maimed and how many would be professionals and others with bright futures before them were cut down in the prime of their lives.

Hence, the issue of the road accidents cries out for a holistic approach in arriving at a lasting solution. Innocents and those in the first bloom of their lives cannot be allowed to be sacrificial lambs of road fiends and maniacs behind wheels. The recent deaths of a young mother and her infant daughter caused by a youth participating in a “drag race” on a busy highway in the City is just one instance where the law has been lenient on the offenders, allowing other would be killers on wheels to become emboldened. There is no further news on what exactly became of the case or the fate of the youth. This same approach was seen with regard to another hit-and-run road death caused by a prominent member of the Sri Lanka cricket team recently. No wonder road accidents keep multiplying when it is being made clear that errant drivers among the super rich can get away with blue murder, with the law enforcement going soft on prominent citizens, celebrity stars and sportsmen.

Drastic action is called for to check the large number of road accidents that has almost become commonplace today. Hardly a day passes without a bloody scene of a road accident shown on television. In rare instances entire families get killed and in others a parent or both parents perish, leaving behind the young children to fend for themselves. Therefore, road accidents and their aftermath has now become a social problem too. Hence the urgent need for the authorities to act to bring down the number of road accidents.

To begin with tough action should be taken against DUI. 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 be compelled to take care of the victims’ dependents.

As another measure in curbing road accidents, an age limit should be placed on drivers, particularly that of heavy vehicles. In this respect the recent decision taken by the Ministry of Transport to screen all heavy vehicle drivers for alcohol use every year and cancel the driving licenses of those having alcohol in their bloodstreams is a move in the right direction that would in some way put the brakes on horrifying accidents featuring heavy vehicles. In addition 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, many 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 others by speeding and attempts to ‘show off’ their driving skills.

Private buses, no doubt, are the worse culprits when it comes to road discipline and have lived up their dubious tag of being ‘killers on wheels’. Three wheeler drivers are the other such category. It will be a tall order to instill road discipline in errant drivers, but it is the only way out of the present mess.