Death smell of a different kind!
Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
Sri Lanka experienced a ghastly time during the terrorist conflict where death smell was in the air incessantly. When we were children, the very sound of a ‘death’ or a ‘funeral’ brought apprehension and fear amongst people. Such shockability which became diluted with JVP murders, finally accelerated to an unprecedented level due to mass butchery by the LTTE. So much so, the word ‘death’ seemingly benumbed the human feelings to an extent that the revulsion too diminished whilst the most fearsome word at one time transformed into something inconsequential.
There are no more terrorist killings in this country thanks to our gallant security forces who managed to annihilate the most ruthless terrorist element in the world (The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) from the Sri Lankan soil. Contrary to such comforting thoughts, what the nation experiences at present is a different version of loss of life and injury due to road accidents.
Today everyone gets an eye full of disarray on roads and accidents of varying degree as a daily occurrence - private buses crashing into other vehicles and property, juggernauts carrying 40ft containers overturning, motorcyclists getting knocked down frequently, tut - tuts flying into the air with passengers, all of which making an immense contribution to the escalating nature of road accidents.
Safety awareness project
These mishaps not only cause misery to people but incur additional expenditure on the Health Ministry budget in treating accident victims, which could otherwise be easily utilised for nation building projects.
What are the key factors causing road accidents? Basically it boils down to indiscipline on the part of all road users, both the pedestrians as well as motorists. Many who sit behind a steering wheel today display complete ignorance on the Highway Code or road discipline whilst others espouse a mind-set of joining the rest with ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude.
Motor traffic law
Major responsibility unquestionably falls on the traffic police who are supposed to be the custodians of accident prevention by implementing the motor traffic law in this country to the very letter. To understand the gravity of this problem one needs only to glance through newspapers which are full of such misery on a daily basis which makes readers’ eyeballs go hexagonal! Undoubtedly the Police is making a desperate attempt to eradicate this problem, but one cannot avoid a common scene also on roads how solo Police officers (or groups of two-three) at various road junctions moving out of the traffic points during the hot sun and in pitched darkness either due to excessive heat during day or fear of their lives in the dark!
Unlike in other countries where mobile traffic patrol squads on motor cycles and police panda cars have the powers to indict offenders, Sri Lankan patrol squad (at least in the Colombo and its suburbs) is not seen engaged in the same tasks but seen rather escorting VIPs! If one may suggest some of the major areas that need attention to combat and reduce motor accidents, the following would help as a guide;
Let the Automobile Association, Traffic Police and other relevant authorities work in harmony and take immediate and remedial action with the sole idea of reducing road accidents and deaths on the roads.