Compliance with traffic rules and regulations reflects the discipline and culture of a country. Road discipline is a good indicator as to whether Sri Lanka is indeed a nation of disciplined people, manifested in our behaviour as motorists when we use roads. Unfortunately, we as a nation lack this, as in almost all other spheres of human activity. Lack of discipline is deeply rooted in our culture. Road discipline has reached such a low depth it is bound to leave a negative impression among first time tourists and visitors to our country. Most will leave our shores having second thoughts of revisiting the island, after witnessing the unruly and chaotic driving culture prevalent in this island. Almost everyone in society, whether he or she is a pedestrian, passenger or driver is affected by the problems associated with the erratic and undisciplined use of automobiles.
It is said that every year 1.25 million people die on the road as a result of traffic accidents in the world, and almost 20 -50 million others seriously injured. This is an alarming figure by any standard, and is preventable and avoidable to a great extent. In Sri lanka on average five to six people per day are killed on our roads, and many are seriously injured and partially disabled or incapacitated. Some of them are not in a position to live as they used to due to injuries sustained as a result of such accidents. Most of the people killed or injured belong to the young adult group, who are able to contribute productively to the economy and society. The impact on immediate family members in losing a loved one is tremendous, in terms of emotional and psychological trauma; and the loss of income and livelihood has life altering consequences for generations. This is particularly so when the sole breadwinner of the family is killed. Therefore, the ever increasing and alarming rate of fatalities and injuries resulting from road accidents has become a matter of serious concern for all.
Concomitant with the increased population and improved road network infrastructure in this country, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of vehicles during the last few decades. The increased vehicle population has brought in its wake a corresponding increase in the number of accidents in the country. In spite of numerous safety measures being put in place to reduce road accidents, the problem has continued to grow over the years. Therefore, now there is a dire need for strengthening the existing safety measures, with a view to minimising the number of accidents now taking place.
A combination of many factors has contributed to the large number of fatalities and injuries occurring on our roads today. The primary causative factor is the lack of discipline on the part of the motorists who use our roads. Today, most motorists drive their vehicles with utter disregard of the traffic rules and regulations. The number of accidents and the resultant fatalities and injuries could be halved, if the motorists simply act in a responsible manner showing care and concern for other road users. Excessive speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, lack of concentration, the use of mobile phones, text messaging while driving, and the non-adherence to demarcated lanes while driving, are some of the major contributory factors for accidents. In addition, factors such as visual, cognitive and mobility impairment have also been associated with some accidents.
Among the diverse forms of transportation, buses, cars, ubiquitous three-wheelers and motorcycles account for nearly fifty percent of the total number of road accidents in the country. Number of fatal accidents involving buses has increased in recent years. In 2019, it is alleged there were as many as 2688 fatal accidents involving 184 private buses and 34 SLTB buses. It is common knowledge that most bus drivers do not conform to road rules and regulations, and other vehicles are virtually at their mercy. There is also stiff competition among bus drivers to capture as many passengers as possible, and their primary motive is to maximise earnings. Instead of making stops at designated bus stops, most buses stop right in the middle of the road for ad hoc passenger collection, with no consideration for other road users. Quite a few bus drivers lack the necessary skill and competence to drive, and it is alleged some drive under the influence of alcohol and other psychotropic substances. The recent tragic collision which took place between a private bus and an Army vehicle on the Nugegoda flyover, killing a young soldier and injuring two others, exemplifies the errant and reckless conduct of some of the drivers in Sri Lanka.
The high rate of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from the road accidents warrant urgent attention of the government, police and other law enforcement authorities. There should also be a strong political will and commitment for an effective and long-lasting solution in this regard. While appreciating the President’s commitment and the enormous efforts to stabilise the country, I hope he will make concerted efforts to safeguard innocent road users of the country as well.
Can we return to English medium?
Goolbai Gunasehera (GG) wrote in The Sunday Island (June 19) under the caption, “We need to return to the English medium”. When summarizing her long article, my conclusion is that what is necessary is not returning to English Medium of instruction in schools, but improving the teaching of English in schools. In the article she writes “Many of that 16.5 million people barely speak English and the majority certainly cannot read or write it, despite English being taught (appallingly badly) in all schools”, and “I quote from a WhatsApp message I received from a former maid now in Kuwait. She writes, “yers madam iam gud,” in response to my query, “are you well?” She has an O L pass in English. This would be funny if it were not so pathetic”. If the conditions are such, what would be the result if we return to English medium?
We have thousands of Sri Lankans who had their primary/secondary education in Sinhala/Tamil media, employed (even at highest levels) all over the world/in Sri Lanka effectively using not only English, several other world languages as well. Every effort should be taken to improve the ways and methods of teaching English. Another important thing is to encourage all levels of students to read books written in English, as it is not happening now. What Kumar David (KD) queried recently was whether English should be Lanka’s National language (“Should English Be Lanka’s National language?” Sunday Island, June 12), not about medium of education as GG mentions. [That would also be a different issue as KD wrote about (a) Lanka not Sri Lanka].
S K MUTHUKUMARA
MP Namal Rajapaksa’s (NR) name was recently mentioned in two instances where his official presence was not required. The most recent was when he appeared with Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera, when the Minister addressed the press about the fuel crisis. The earlier instance was when Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani, was in Sri Lanka in October, to meet the President and Prime Minister.
Although NR – a Minister at that time – had no connection with the subjects Adani Group is involved in, he had been attending their meetings and involved in other aspects of the Adani visit. Whose interests are looked after by NR and why?
A national strategy to alleviate suffering at fuel queues
Dr B. J. C. Perera
MBBS(Cey), DCH(Cey), DCH(Eng), MD(Paed), MRCP(UK), FRCP(Edin), FRCP(Lon), FRCPCH(UK), FSLCPaed, FCCP, Hony FRCPCH(UK), Hony. FCGP(SL)
Specialist Consultant Paediatrician and Honorary Senior Fellow, Postgraduate Institute of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.
The country is in turmoil. In addition to all of the other problems, our people are really suffering at these transport fuel queues. Tempers flare at fuel stations. Undesirable elements, thugs and all kinds of nefarious elements are making hay while the sun shines at these fuel sheds.Enough is enough. Given below are a set of strategies to alleviate this suffering, at lest, to a certain extent, for consideration by the powers-that-be:
Maintain law and order at ALL fuel stations with the help of the police AND the armed forces with a contingent of officers under one higher ranked Commanding Officer at EACH fuel station. All trouble-makers would be promptly dealt with by using minimal force. A few will need to be arrested and dealt with under the laws of the country. If this is instituted without fear or favour, these undesirables will soon disappear.
All fuel stations should be provided with adequate supplies of fuel, starting from 6.00 am, and ALL fuel stations to be kept open 24 hours a day for six days a week. ALL fuel stations will be closed on Sunday from 6.00 am till Monday 6.00 am. The security forces and police should be strictly instructed to prevent any unauthorised issuance of fuel during these times. That will prevent the general public reacting as it is the same for all.
From Monday to Saturday, ALL ambulances will get priority at ALL filling stations at ALL times.On Fridays, SELECTED fuel stations right round the country, will entertain ONLY the four-wheel vehicles of essential services. Two bowsers for petrol and two for diesel to be provided for these selected fuel stations for 24 hours, from 6.00 am. ALL envisaged recipients of fuel for essential services should provide proof of serving in such a service. Times should be allocated to different services as follows:
Nurses – 8.00 pm to 10.00 pm
Doctors – 10.00 pm Friday to 02.00 am Saturday
Other healthcare personnel, except Doctors and Nurses – 6.00 pm to 8.00 pm
All other essential services – Suitable times to be allocated within the 24 hours, from 6.00 am Friday to 6.00 am on Saturday, outside the allocations made for the Healthcare Services. Vehicles of police and the armed forces too should be given specified times.
ALL OTHER FILLING STATIONS, NOT INVOLVED IN THESE DEDICATED ESSENTIAL SERVICES PROVISIONS, WILL PROVIDE FUEL TO ALL OTHER PRIVATE VEHICLES AND TRANSPORT VEHICLES, INCLUDING LORRIES.
On Saturdays, from 8.00 am, ALL fuel stations will provide fuel ONLY for vehicles involved in passenger and goods transport, including buses, school buses, school vans, three-wheelers and lorries. These vehicles will not be entertained on any other day.On Mondays and Wednesdays, ALL filling stations will provide fuel to all private vehicles, including three-wheelers and motor cycles with Vehicle Registration Numbers, with an ODD number last digit.On Tuesdays and Thursdays, ALL filling stations will provide fuel ONLY to all private vehicles, including three wheelers and motor cycles, with Vehicle Registration Numbers with an EVEN number last digit. A zero is considered to be an EVEN number.No fuel will be supplied to cans and large containers. Fuel will be pumped only to in situ tanks of vehicles.Of course, all these arrangements will depend entirely on the ability to provide adequate stocks of fuel to the sheds. It is up to the government to make sure that this is done.
IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE MINISTER AND THE MINISTRY INSIST ON ALL CEYPETCO AS WELL AS ALL INDIAN OIL COMPANY FILLING STATIONS COMPLY WITH THESE STIPULATIONS. This is the time to use the power that is given to them.
If there are any abusers of these proposals amongst the filling station staff, arrest them, and just seal and close the shed for a few days and they will learn their lessons.
The scheme proposed above is a carefully thought-out strategy. Drastic changes in it will only defeat the purpose for which it was formulated. The writer hopes that the authorities will take note of the contents written with a lot of goodwill.
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