A prudent move | Daily News

A prudent move

The latest move by the Police to arrest the alarming trend of road accidents, it is hoped, would put an end to the mayhem on our roads. According to Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana, beginning on April 10 they would be checking vehicles to detect those driving under the influence of liquor in round-the-clock operations. He said so far this was being done in the evenings and nights since it is reasonable to assume that alcohol is consumed mostly in the late hours of the day. However, now it has been decided to extend this to the daytime as well considering that during the New Year season drinking bouts could take place even in the early hours.

It has also been decided to check drivers for drug use. The DIG said a law has been in place since 1979 to arrest those driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol as well as drugs, but the lack of expertise and equipment for the detection of drivers who are after drugs has stymied this effort. Now special teams have been trained to look for signs of drug use by those at the wheel, which would go a long way in arresting the rising incidents of road mishaps. Perhaps, the Police could start with drivers of private buses and they are sure to net in a rich harvest of drug addicts at the wheel. The president of the country’s main private bus operators union himself has confessed that as many as 60 percent of the private bus crew in the Western Province were drug addicts. It is also more likely that bus drivers on long distance services are deeply into drugs. Fatigue and drudgery may well induce these men to seek solace in the oblivion of drugs to keep them going.

Taking drugs could also induce sleep while at the wheel and the police who are now equipped to identify drug users among vehicle operators should look for such signs. It is not known if the truck driver who knocked down a Traffic OIC in Pannipitiya was into drugs. But he has confessed to Police that long hours on the road transporting fruits and vegetables from the hill country on a daily basis without a break left him over-fatigued which made his head slump over the wheel moments before the mishap.

Here lies another recipe for disaster. A majority of road accidents involve heavy vehicles such as tippers and monster trucks on long haul non-stop journeys. The drivers of these vehicles perhaps are forced by the owners to make the maximum number trips per day to earn more profits like the Pannipitiya truck driver. A law should be introduced to make it compulsory for drivers of all long haul vehicles to break journey for a rest and recommence only after being fully awake and refreshed.

The Odometer should tell the Police checking such a vehicle the number of Kms travelled and if the time taken for the journey fits with the mileage indicated. Business owners deploying such vehicles too should be compelled to maintain regular hours and stiff penalties levied for any breaches. There is no knowing how many lives were lost and the numbers maimed due to drivers falling asleep during long journeys. Equally there is no knowing how many road accidents resulting in fatalities have occurred as a result of driving under the influence of drugs with the police only now acquiring the expertise to detect such offenders.

Now that the Police have taken another positive step in their quest to arrest the steep rise in road accidents they should go the whole hog and look for other aspects that contribute to the mayhem on our roads. For instance, the road worthiness of vehicles too should be looked into. Needless to say, faulty mechanisms too are responsible for accidents and vehicles losing control and going down ravines. All rickety jalopies should be removed from our roads and put to pasture. An age limit too should be imposed for driving, for poor reflexes too lead to drivers losing control of their vehicles ending in disaster. This is not to say that the young are safe drivers. Recent incidents where youth barely out of their teens being responsible for countless deaths by their reckless driving tell a tale.

This brings us to the whole business of driving schools. Some of these so-called driving schools are hastily put up affairs one could encounter at almost all street corners in the cities and suburbs. Their competence has been called into question countless times. They are known to send their students for the driving exam after a few cursory lessons. This is seen mostly in cases where youth are in a hurry to leave for foreign jobs as drivers. All such driving schools should be brought under scrutiny and made to fall in line. It is hoped that the latest drive by the Police to check the rising spate of road accidents in all earnestness would bear fruition and our roads will be made safer for the public – both motorists and pedestrians.