Acknowledging growing accident casualties, Sri Lankan policymakers are considering allowing third party protection by law so that victims can also demand payment of errant drivers. In what will largely be viewed as a positive move, laws are in the pipeline to make it mandatory for motorists to pay compensation to third party or victims of road accidents departing from the current practice of settling the damage only between the two parties involved in the accident.
The issue of getting a majority of road accidents settled between the two drivers or the owners of the vehicles involved under the recently-introduced Vehicle Insurance Policy and On the Spot payment of compensation without any redress to the victims of the accident has been discussed in detail during the inquiry of the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka (IBSL) at the Committee On Public Enterprises (COPE).
According to reports, the amendment will empower the third party victim to be liable for compensation. COPE Chairman Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera hopes that this will give a fair deal to everyone. He has pointed out that, under the Motor Traffic Act, a motor vehicle cannot be put onto the road without a third party insurance. But with the introduction of the Vehicle Insurance Policy in the recent past, the third party or the road accident victims are neglected.
In many instances no compensation is paid to them. The matter is settled between the two parties and the victim is left in the lurch. The objective of bringing new legislations or introducing amendments to the Motor Traffic Act is to do justice to the road accident victims.
Given that around 2,500 people die of road accidents in Sri Lanka annually, this seems an ideal goal. Road accidents are also among the top killers in the country together with non-communicable diseases.
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 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.
Such laws will also have the added benefit of promoting better road behaviour – one can only hope. The free-wheeling, obscenity-yelling road demons will perhaps be more cautious now that their wallets are on the line. Obeying road rules and promoting better discipline and courtesy can only be a plus point given the ever-increasing number of vehicles.
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 challenged, this step to give everyone a fair deal will certainly be applauded by empathetic people.