2500 lives a year:
The Hidden War on Our Roads
Sri Lanka is suffering from an accident epidemic. With an average of
six fatal road accidents a day, the country's lanes and highways claim
almost 2500 lives a year, the figure rivals that of a small war.
This year the Sinhala and Tamil new year saw a further spike in road
deaths, according to the Traffic Division of the Sri Lanka Police, in
2016 between April 10 to 18, a total of 80 people died in road
accidents, averaging 10 fatalities per day. This in fact represents a
slight decrease from the 96 fatalities recorded over the same period
Police Traffic Division DIG Amarasiri Senaratne expressed
satisfaction with the reduction in deaths, "We are extremely pleased
that the number of accidents has reduced this year, as the safety of
road users is of paramount importance to us," he said.
With a large proportion of Sri Lanka's population travelling during
the traditional new year season, there has long been a spike in
fatalities over the period. This year the police launched intensive
campaigns against drunk driving, with a total of 1,797 drunk drivers
arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol over the period.
Despite this effort, over 77 fatal accidents and 213 major accidents
took place over the new year fortnight. Speed not alcohol the main
killer DIG Senaratne maintained that driving under the influence of
alcohol was not a major cause of accidents in Sri Lanka. "Many accidents
and deaths occur due to sheer carelessness of road users. Drunk driving
is not a major reason for accidents like in other countries," he said.
In Sri Lanka, only one percent of accidents occur due to drink- driving,
while in many nations the figure exceeds 80 percent.
According to research conducted by the National Council for Road
Safety (NCRS), speed and not alcohol was the main cause of serious
accidents on our roads.
An NCRS study conducted over the first weeks of April, with data
gathered from over 100 fatal accidents. NCRS Chairman Dr. Kodagoda
concluded, "Excess and inappropriate speeds are clearly the reasons for
a high proportion of mortality that results from road accidents."
While the speed limit on Sri Lanka's A class roads is 70 kmph, the
law is flouted with the most common victims being pedestrians, who,
according to research done by the Peradeniya University account for more
than 40 percent of victims.
In addition to speed, reckless driving has also been identified as a
key contributor to road fatalities. Data from the the National Hospital
of Sri Lanka indicate that 23 percent of the total number of patients
admitted to the National Hospital over the new year were on account of
"A majority of road accidents could be prevented if people are more
careful and law abiding, in most cases accidents take place when drivers
try to overtake other vehicles," National Trainer Coordinator for the
National Hospital's Accident Service Pushpa Ramyani Zoysa said. "Over
short distances, there is only about ten minutes difference between a
person who is driving at a speed of 100kmph and a person driving
60kmph," said Dr Kodagoda of the NCRS. Yet, the road death toll in Sri
Lanka has remained persistently at near critical levels.
Given the scale of the problem a combined effort is now being made by
the Police and National Council for Road Safety. The focus is to
increase understanding of basic road rules and safety.