A plea for life

Friday, 20 January 2012 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

THE Police Department is to install 100 more Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in Colombo to enhance surveillance, prevent crimes and detect persons who violate traffic laws. After the shocking school van accident, the state of Sri Lanka’s roads has hit headlines again, but the solution seems far off.

A total of 108 CCTV cameras worth Rs. 350 million were installed in 2010 in 28 locations and they are monitored by a special unit from the Mounted Police Division building situated in Olcott Mawatha. Clearly this and Presidential reports on accidents is not enough and the Government is splurging on more, but the results can only be found by the masses.

Accidents are rising alarmingly in Sri Lanka. As a nation that is aiming to become a developed country in record time, emphasis on the health of its citizens is important. Raising the standards of living in the country is directly linked to the physical and mental wellbeing of the people and the accident statistics of the nation prove otherwise.

Accidents of all types – including home accidents – are on the increase, according to figures from the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL), Colombo. The categories of accidents include road, train, home, medical and occupational accidents and injuries resulting from violence such as bomb blasts, gunshots and stabbing, as well as homicidal and suicidal actions.

Even though the end of the war was a huge relief, the untimely deaths in Sri Lanka have not decreased significantly. With the Government slashing taxes in 2010, there was a huge influx of vehicles into the country – so much so that even motor traders were admitting that the situation was getting out of hand as cars and other conveyances clogged up roads, increasing accidents. Earlier in 2011, Government data showed that imports of all types of vehicles to Sri Lanka rose by a staggering 75.9% to 359,243 in 2010.

Road traffic accidents account for the majority of the sudden deaths recorded by the Chief Judicial Medical Officer, Colombo. Most of the post-mortems conducted by the Institute of Legal Medicine and Toxicology (ILMT) relate to accidents and more than 50% of these are the results of road accidents. There has been a significant increase in such accidents since the beginning of the year. On average, 600 medico-legal examinations are conducted each month, of which around 350 cases are caused by road traffic injuries, it was reported.

This gives a bird’s eye view of the problem. Lack of discipline and attention while driving has given birth to a problem that is distinctly unhealthy. Interestingly, it is not driving under the influence of alcohol that is causing these accidents, but indiscipline and high stress levels. The suppression of stress creates aggression on the roads that result in loss of life and limb.

Discipline, public awareness and practice of simple manners on the part of the drivers as well as the pedestrians can avert many of these untimely deaths and injuries. The economic and social costs behind these numbers have not been traced, but it is imperative that people use their driving privileges more wisely for the benefit of all.