Wednesday, 10 September 2014 00:00
THE curse of road accidents have returned to the limelight, as they inevitably do, when policies are inadequate and enforcement slipshod. Unfortunately, the cycle turns to claim more lives and create chaos while citizens collectively do little.
In the first five months of last year, 11,691 accidents have been reported, out of which 1,901 accidents resulted in severe injuries. An estimated 500 people were killed due to major accidents during the same period in 2013. According to the numbers released by Police, 25,578 road accidents were reported for the first nine months of 2012. This makes the average number of accidents per day an alarming 96.
However, the silver lining is that the total number of fatal accidents have reduced year-on-year, possibly due to massive awareness campaigns and consistent public warnings, as well as – dare we say it – better policing and adherence to road rules by drivers. Yet one of the biggest complaints is that the Police stands by or overlooks offenders, especially letting what it sees as “minor” offences off the hook. While judicious handling of situations is the prerogative of the Police, selectively applying the law can have adverse consequences.
In 2010 an estimated 2,630 people died from road accidents, which is a whopping seven people each day of the year. In 2011 that number increased to 2,684, keeping daily numbers at around the same levels. Perhaps as a precursor to more positive statistics, in 2012 the number of fatal accidents was 1,496. Nonetheless, the number of accidents causing critical injuries remains quite high at 3,465.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), South Asia has the highest number of road traffic accidents, with Sri Lanka high on the list. From 1977 to 2007, more than a million road accidents occurred, with over 40,000 deaths, at a cost of over Rs. 100 billion, according to a 2008 interim report by a Parliamentary Select Committee to “look into the alarming increase in traffic accidents”.
Road traffic accident victims amount to about 25% to 27% of all accident patients admitted to the National Hospital. The numbers speak for themselves. The Government spends between Rs. 1 million to Rs. 10 million to treat a road accident victim and the annual budget exceeds Rs. 3.5 billion.
Obeying road rules and promoting better discipline and courtesy can only be a plus point given the ever-increasing number of vehicles. Steps taken by the Government include the introduction of a point system for licenses so that accumulated offences are punished with the revoking of the privilege to drive.
Steps by the Government to introduce third party compensation should also be fast-tracked under this mechanism so that more people will be safeguarded under the law. This is especially important given that most of the casualties are pedestrians, some even knocked down on crossing lines, which makes the injustice even greater.
It can only be hoped that the VIP and VVIP convoys are also brought under the same law so that instances of people being knocked down or even killed will become a thing of the past. The inconsiderate and inconveniencing convoys need to be urgently controlled for public safety and this law could at least partially find a way to achieve this.
Enforcing traffic rules, competently and consistently should not have to be reminded to policy makers every few months.