By Nishthar Idroos –
Two-year-old Oshada Savindu Shasmika from Weligama was one of the latest victims of our killer roads. The fatal accident happened recently and continues to contribute in significant number to the unstoppable fatalities. It seems our roads have got used to devouring victims with aggressive and renewed rapacity. Gallons of dark, thick red blood have consistently meandered our well macadamized roads only to be washed away at the behest of officials representing the law enforcing agency and mother nature clearing it for us at no extra cost.
The nation may have lost a scientist; a daughter may have lost a father, parents a very precious child. These are human lives that are being snapped-up at regular intervals, they’re not mere numbers for the statistician to manipulate. They’re heartrending and distressing. Narratives that coalesce a strange malaise, intriguing a nation’s intelligentsia but strangely the administration remains oblivious and in deep slumber. The daily inflow of gory accident sites brought to our living rooms by courtesy of the local and social media has somewhat desensitised the psyche of the nation.
Man cannot prevent pre-destiny but is ably endowed to shun insanity. It’s high time some authoritative task force took a close look at the northbound statistics in traffic related fatalities in the country. The experts should be able to impute some sense to those many colorful charts that embellish walls of cabins occupied by traffic OICs in various police stations around the island. These charts ominously confront the public each time they visit them but the public has no clue why they remain there and any action taken thereof.
Should the tragedy of this kid be just another entry in the police log book until another macabre site enters the public domain by way of a frantic 911 call from some distant village or town? It would contain horrific details of victims being painstakingly extricated from mangled wreckages, maybe with the assistance of an automatic saw and dispatched to a nearby hospital. The hospital in turn would pronounce a victim or two as deceased upon admission and would send the bodies to a morgue where loved ones would converge and inconsolably weep, wail and whine before eventually identifying the bodies and make preparations for final rites. Doesn’t this sound so atypical? An unmistakable sequence of events, so easy to write, so profoundly predictable.
No one is acting though endowed with good faculties. No one is listening yet they have good, sound ears. “They would not listen, they’re not listening still. Perhaps they never will” with apologies to Don Mclean. In the meanwhile our roads with its well seasoned and gluttonous appetite, roar with frightening frenzy and crave with insatiable desire for more. It’s as if watching a Hollywood blockbuster animation with its main character an outlandish and grotesque chimera fuming and raging, emitting tonnes of smoke, angry and voracious. It seems these hideous and ghastly creatures haunt our roads and highways with self-imposed authority, keenly and calculatingly watching to gobble the next victim.
In the absence of a well participated and a sound culture for safe driving characterised by poor implementation of traffic laws, inadequate funding, police apathy, corruption and other vagaries collectively ail proper administration of our road and vehicular traffic management system. Killer accidents are taking place without a cessation on our roads and rail tracks around the country. Its estimated that last year alone close to 2,413 people were killed in road accidents compared to 2,362 the previous year, with the number of fatal accidents rising. On average, six to seven people are killed daily on our roads.
A multitude of driving sins contributes to the exponentially rising accidents on our roads. Driver error or reaction by way of Illegal speeding, entering a bend too quickly, failing to look properly, loss of control, poor turn or manoeuvre, failing to judge other person’s path or speed, travelling too fast for the conditions, disobeying give-way or stop sign, careless, reckless, inexperienced, impairment or distraction, alcohol distraction in vehicle. Bus drivers and conductors use mobile phones to communicate about the presence of traffic police on the roads. They obey the rules in the area where policemen are present but violate them soon after they pass that area. All this happens because a culture of impunity exists and of course it’s deeply entrenched as well.
Sri Lanka must implement a graduated licensing like in the west with strict adherence to the law? This process should allow new drivers to earn full driving privileges in 2 stages. In the first stage, G1/M1(car or motorcycle) Level 1, drivers learn and practise under conditions that reduce the risk of collision. Once new drivers/riders have gained more experience, they must pass a road test to enter the second stage, G2/M2 Level 2, with more privileges. At the end of Level 2, a second road test must be passed to earn a full G or M driver’s licence. Graduated Licensing has helped to significantly reduce the number of collisions of novice drivers in North America. In Canada a comprehensive evaluation covering the first five years of the program showed that the fatal and injury collision risk of novice drivers was reduced by 37 per cent. Graduated Licensing is one way of reducing the risks new drivers’ face – a way to prevent collisions and save lives.
Four factors contribute to the vast majority of collisions.
- Equipment Failure
- Roadway Design
- Poor Roadway Maintenance
- Driver Behavior
Over 95% of motor vehicle accidents in the USA and in Europe involve some degree of driver behavior combined with one of the other three factors. Drivers always try to blame road conditions, equipment failure, or other drivers for those accidents. When the facts are truthfully presented, however, the behavior of the implicated driver is usually the primary cause. Most are caused by excessive speed or aggressive driver behavior. Its high time something was done to save innocent lives.