Halt this trend | Daily News

Halt this trend

The nation’s preoccupation with the Coronavirus has blinded us to an equally death dealing agent in the form of the phenomenal rise in road accidents that keep on exacting a heavy toll of fatalities with each passing day. According to Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, the number of road accidents has risen to 120 per day from which an average of 10 to 11 deaths and 40 injuries are reported.

In fact, 11 road deaths were reported during the 24 hours from February 15-16, nine of which was from accidents and two cases from previous hospitalization. Five motorcyclists and four pedestrians were among the dead during those 24 hours. It is said that the cumulative death toll from road accidents in this country has now exceeded the number of deaths during the war period. The authorities need to do something about this.

Drastic steps should now be taken to arrest this dangerous trend. There is no knowing how many among those killed in road accidents were breadwinners and how many families were rendered forlorn and destitute due to such loss. Among the reasons attributed to road accidents are speeding, drunk driving and ignoring traffic signs, according to DIG Rohana.

One has also to a large extent lay the blame on the Traffic Police for failing be firm on errant drivers. Speeding over the prescribed limits continues while traffic cops remain mere bystanders. There is also reluctance on the part of the traffic police to book drivers of luxury and super-luxury vehicles violating speed limits obviously for fear of getting on the wrong side of some politico. Only vehicles with shabby appearance and three-wheelers come under their scrutiny.

Television is full of chilling scenes of road accidents captured via CCTV cameras where callous driving and also carelessness on the part of pedestrians are evident. There is also the recent harrowing incident where a youth barely out of his teens knocked down and killed a mother and her three-month-old infant while participating in a drag race. There was also the case of the involvement of a national cricketer in a fatal road accident. In these instances the individuals concerned were found to be under the influence of liquor. What became of their cases is anybody’s guess as also with the incident where the daughter of a SSP driving without a licence rammed through a car showroom in the city.

Not much publicity is given to the aftermath of fatal road accidents and the fate of the suspects involved as with the same intensity the original accident is reported. This too may have contributed to the road fiends getting emboldened. Hence, the spotlight should be focused on the legal action that follows a fatal road accident so that any punishment would act as an effective deterrent to would be offenders. Besides the penalties imposed by the law, the perpetrators should also legally be made to adequately compensate the family of the victim(s). More teeth should be added to the prevailing laws to make the offenders suffer harsher punishment than is presently prescribed.

Most accidents occur due to the lack of knowledge of highway rules and being in the dark on signals often resulting in collisions. The driving schools that have sprung up like mushrooms in every street corner should also come under the scrutiny of authorities. Some of these so-called driving schools are hastily put together affairs to rake in the shekels handing out competence certificates before their charges reach the required standards which obviously contributes to the rising level of road accidents. Drastic measures are now called for to come to grips with the problem. Ironically the vast development of the road network has lent itself to speeding that ends in tragedy.

Hence what is needed is stepped up policing and rounding up of all errant motorists without fear or favour before more deaths are caused. Besides a majority of road accidents involve heavy vehicles on the long haul such as monster trucks and tippers carrying heavy loads. In most instances the drivers of such vehicles tend to fall asleep during the long journeys which start in the wee hours. A rule should be imposed for long distance drivers to have breaks at intervals so that they could rest and restart the journey afresh. Ideally an age limit should also be imposed for driving particularly heavy vehicles since unlike in the past with a vast number of vehicles on the road today one will need sharp reflexes and an alert mind to avoid mishaps. A driver of advanced age, needless to say, could be hardly expected to fit the bill. The drivers of private buses are the worst offenders where speeding and breach of road rules are concerned but they carry on regardless under the very nose of the traffic police. The sooner we take stock of these issues, the better it will be for the overall health of all road users.