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Sunday, 29 June 2014

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Government Gazette

Jaywalking, a risk to life and limb

Motor accidents could occur due to many reasons-driver negligence, unfavourable road conditions, unroadworthy vehicles as well as insufficient display of road signs could be some of the main causes. Although most of these instances are credited to the account of motorists or motorcyclists, what cannot be ignored is the role played by pedestrians. It has been identified that irresponsible behaviour on the part of pedestrians also amounts to a large number of accidents today.

With the development of infrastructure and the town planning process, much consideration is given to the development of the road network in the city. Newly widened tarmac roads with spacious pavements and islands supported by Signal Lighting Systems (SLS) and pedestrian crossings have rendered a conducive environment for all road users to have a peaceful journey with less accidents.

Numerous road signs displayed on every road and at vulnerable points will help in lesser accidents for motorists but proper guidance on road usage is an absolute necessity. All this would come to nought, if pedestrians do not adhere to laws to maintain safe roads. According to Traffic Police statistics at least six persons die in road- related accidents on a daily basis and a person dies every four hours. Most of the fatal accidents are those of pedestrians who are run over by vehicles either on the pedestrian crossings or attempting to cross the road from an unsecure point.

Over 59 accidents were reported throughout the country last year, where 63 persons have been run over on the pedestrian crossings. the startling revelation is that pedestrians have lost their lives while using the Crossings . This is indeed an indictment on motorists and road users.

Over 32 pedestrians lost their lives on the pedestrian crossings from January 1 to date, while what is intriguing is that the number of lives lost while pedestrians cross the roads from unsecured points is still not accounted for. No statistics is available in this regard. It is appalling to learn that such a large number of persons were killed on the crossings because one would think that the crossings is the safest spot to cross. But there is a reason for this too.

Director Traffic Police Headquarters SSP N A M Ranasinghe told the Sunday Observer that most of these unfortunate accidents on the pedestrian crossings occur due to negligence of the pedestrian itself. It is essential for a pedestrian to use the crossing if there is one in the vicinity. Crossing the road on a pedestrian crossing alone does not mean that it is safe to do so without being cautious. Most pedestrians nowadays are under the impression that the crossing and could be used at their own disposal, without being vigilant.

Although most road rules are meant for motorists, there are certain rules designated to pedestrians which are hardly followed. Unlike in developed countries, local pedestrians have the notion that they are above the law and no road rules apply to them. This is why pedestrians are seen jaywalking disregarding road rules.

According to a special gazette notification of 18/444, there is a rule that pedestrians cannot cross the road within 25 meters of a pedestrian crossing. If a person crossed a road within this mentioned stretch except on the crossings, that person can be charged. It is illegal for a person to cross the road from an unsecure point, if there is a pedestrian crossing in the vicinity. However, in stark contrast to this law there is absolutely no mention if a person was to cross the road in the event there was no pedestrian crossing in close proximity.

Although these laws are not new, many road users do not seem to be familiar with the law. This is why the law enforcement authorities have decided to monitor instances when the law is breached.

Even recently media reports revealed how a number of pedestrians were brought before the law for violating road rules and jaywalking. Additional number of Traffic Police officers have been deployed in vulnerable positions in the city to monitor and apprehend offenders.

Close Circuit Television Cameras are fixed near almost every main pedestrian crossing not only to monitor jaywalkers but also to identify hit and run drivers who run over pedestrians on the crossing.

Pedestrians who violate these rules will be given a ticket by the Traffic Police officer after seeking personal information of the pedestrian such as his National Identity Card.

They will be asked to come for a special awareness program held every Sunday at the Colombo Traffic Police Headquarters in the Pettah.

At the awareness program violators will be given a full training on how to cross a road safely without breaching the law. And they will be warned not to commit the same offence again as legal action would then be taken.

If anyone fails to attend this awareness program for two consecutive weeks they will be tried before a court of law. This law applies to following signal lights on the crossings meant for pedestrians. If a person fails to adhere to the signal lights while crossing, they too will be dealt according to the law, SSP Ranasinghe said.

However, maintaining or breaching these laws are not that simple as many pedestrians expressed concern about certain vulnerable Crossings in Colombo. Using these Crossings prove to be a grave risk and has to be done with utmost care due to the length of the crossing and its location. Pedestrian crossings that run across recently made one -way roads in the Fort, are twice the length of a regular road and there are no islands in the centre of the wide road.

Therefore crossing these wide roads with at least four lanes of traffic moving in one direction is extremely risky even on a Pedestrian Crossing. Monstrously- driven private buses will scare the daylights of vulnerable pedestrians by continuing to taunt them to cross the road.

Responding to this scenario SSP Ranasinghe said that the police have identified several such vulnerable and high risk crossings such as the recently constructed Pedestrian Crossing near the Lake House roundabout, Hilton junction and the Telecom junction.

He pointed out the necessity to set up pedestrian overhead bridges at these spots instead of the simple Crossing because of the complicated movement of traffic.

He said that the Road Development Authority and the Colombo Municipal Council were working together to introduce overhead bridge schemes where necessary. A survey is being conducted by the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) at present.

He also admitted the risk posed by the vehicles which pass the Lake House roundabout that has been converted to a traffic light controlling junction, which is not yet operating due to certain technical complications. a large number of vehicles that come from three main roads meet head on at this junction where motorists operate on their own and at times a few policemen control traffic. Many pedestrians told the Sunday Observer that it was a grave risk to use the lengthy Crossing at this junction as there are neither traffic lights nor police officers to assure safety.

It is learnt that the handling of traffic in these particular locations are being done by the Colombo City Traffic Unit. When Director Colombo City Traffic SSP Chula de Silva was contacted , he said that all vulnerable points were manned by a sufficient number of Traffic Police officers to ensure the safety of pedestrians as well as motorists. However, it is the pedestrian's responsibility too to be cautious when using the road and pavements that would help reduce the number of accidents, he said.

There are a large number of Pedestrian Crossings compared to the number on Colombo roads about a decade ago. All these Crossings were set up to facilitate pedestrians, considering over 475, 000 vehicles entering the city everyday, the SSP said.

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