A determined effort needed | Daily News

A determined effort needed

The Police were out in strength yesterday on the City streets to nab errant motorists and reckless drivers after the authorities apparently made a decisive move to check the growing spate of road accidents taking a heavy toll of lives each day. The Passara bus tragedy and the Pannipitiya incident where a Traffic OIC was knocked down through reckless driving, it is reported, proved decisive in the Police declaring all-out war against road fiends.

Tough laws are also in the pipeline to impose deterrent punishment against offenders. Police spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana told the media that the Police will look to amend the existing traffic laws to increase punishments against reckless and negligent driving. Referring to the Pannipitiya incident, he said the lorry had been recklessly driven and due to this the driver could not control the vehicle. As many as 18 Policemen have been killed in the first three months of this year from road accidents with 293 officers being injured, according to Law and Order Minister Rear Admiral (Ret.) Sarath Weerasekera.

Speaking at an event in Kalutara he appealed to the public to appreciate the pressure under which the Police officers had to perform their duty though not approving the incident at Pannipitiya where a Police Constable took the law into his own hands.

It is hoped that the current Police drive to nab errant motorists and enforce road discipline would not come unstuck with the passage of time like many other projects that began with much fanfare only to lose steam midway. For instance, the ban imposed on private buses from playing earsplitting music has now come a cropper with the Police none the wiser. So too with overloading. The operation launched by the Police to check vehicles with frayed tyres too has died a natural death after pressure was brought in from certain quarters. Vehicles with poor quality tyres which were thought to be one of the main reasons for road accidents and was deemed responsible for the Passara tragedy are allowed to run their merry way.

Are the authorities waiting for another major tragedy before restarting this operation? There is no gainsaying the importance of continuing with the current operations to ensure road safety. After all, what is at stake are precious lives. At least the large number of deaths of Police officers on the roads should galvanize the men in khaki to redouble their efforts in bringing to book errant motorists.

No opposition should be brooked nor influence stymie their efforts. Most traffic cops are reluctant to book plush vehicles fearing admonition from politicians or their superior officers who may have connections to the offender. It is invariably drivers of three wheelers and shabby contraptions that get penalized. If this is the case, the project is doomed from the outset.

This is because it is those at the wheel of the luxury vehicles, whether they are connected or not to VIPs, who are the worst offenders with large sized egos and a penchant to show off. They also know that they can get off with blue murder by generously compensating the families of their victims in case of any mishaps. The case of a national cricketer who took this route after fatally knocking down a cyclist, while driving under the influence of liquor, is well known. Strict instructions should be issued by the IGP to his men against being swayed by influence or the celebrity status of offenders.

If not, this well intentioned project is bound to meet with failure with road accidents multiplying and with it the body count. To encourage his men the IGP should also implement a rewards scheme in proportion to the number of detections leading to prosecutions. Road deaths are now said to have even eclipsed the numbers killed during the war years. Something drastic needs to be done to stem the rot.

Meanwhile, it is reported that the Police Constable who brutally assaulted the lorry driver in the incident in Pannipitiya has been remanded and also is said be under evaluation by a psychiatrist. According to DIG Ajith Rohana the PC had clearly lost his temper and reacted the way he did which was wrong. He said the police can arrest a person, file a case against him and produce him in Court, but force can be used only if there is proportionate resistance. If not, the Police officers cannot use force.

True, the PC concerned may have acted through sheer anger considering that the victim was his boss. But it is also not always that Police go into action only where there is ‘proportional resistance’. There could not have been any such thing in the case where a law student was brutally assaulted inside a Police station, recently, nor in instances where those in Police custody are roughed up. Of course, such methods are nothing new in the system, particularly to extract confessions from suspects. It happens elsewhere in the world too. Hence the need for a disciplined Police Force that would win the confidence of the public.