IN less than a day, 200 drunk drivers have been arrested on the roads after the Police launched a special programme to arrest those getting behind the wheel while under the influence. The sheer numbers attest for the danger that people are in when they step onto the road and bring a new perspective on how road rules should be implemented.
According to National Transport Commission statistics, the first quarter of this year witnessed over 1,000 motor traffic accidents, which had been mainly due to fatigue, high speed and driving under the influence of liquor. According to Traffic Police figures from 1 January to 31 March this year, there had been 1,011 road accidents that resulted in 3,446 persons being injured and 598 deaths.
The number of road accidents in Sri Lanka during 2011 had reached 40,887, with 2,471 deaths and 13,410 suffering injuries. Over half (51 per cent) among those killed had been pedestrians, bicycle and motorcycle riders.
Other main causes of road accidents have been violation of road rules, reckless driving, and negligence by pedestrians, according to National Transport Commission Chairman Roshan Gunawardene. In 2011, 225 school children had been killed and another 4,100 injured in motor traffic accidents.
The numbers speak for themselves. According to the Health Ministry, about 80,000 road accidents occur in Sri Lanka annually and on average six to eight persons die per day from road accidents. 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. A major road accident occurs in Sri Lanka every 10 minutes.
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.
At a time when public wellbeing is being challenged, this step to give everyone a fair deal will certainly be applauded by empathetic people. Putting together laws that can arrest this menace, finding resources to implement them and creating more awareness are the only sustainable solutions that will protect lives.