The road to disaster
Number of vehicles roars to 2.8 m. but highway network inadequate
The number of motor vehicles in the country has gone up rapidly in the last few years despite the road infrastructure not being developed to cater to the increasing flood of vehicles.
According to statistics from the National Council for Road Safety, which coordinates road safety activities, the number of motor vehicles in the country at the end of last year was 2,827,902, which is an increase of over 1.1 million when compared with the figures for 2000.
Motorcycles topped the list with 1,422,140 of them being registered in the Motor Traffic Department by 2006 end. Last year alone 156,626 motorcycles were registered.
A notable increase has been recorded in the number of three-wheelers imported in recent years. There were 101,965 registered three-wheelers in Sri Lanka in 2000 while the number has shot up to 318,659 by the end of last year.
Statistics show there were 338,608 motorcars, 77,223 buses, 188,187 dual purpose vehicles, 244,176 lorries, 199,980 tractors and 38,919 trailers by end 2006.A National Council for Road Safety official told The Sunday Times though there was a considerable increase in the number of motor vehicles, road infrastructure, including road expansion, showed very little improvement.
He said the failure of successive governments to improve road infrastructure had resulted in a greater number of road accidents, especially in the recent years.
He said the uni-flow traffic system introduced on some roads in Colombo city was one measure taken to ease traffic congestion while it was proposed to build seven flyovers in the capital, though it was a very costly exercise.
2,141 fatal road accidents have been reported in 2005 while there were 2,116 such accidents in 2004 and 1,933 in 2003. 4,968 cases of serious injuries to people due to road accidents have also been reported in 2005.
There were also 14,376 cases of minor injuries and 21,686 cases of damages to vehicles and property as a result of accidents in 2005.
Some of the main causes for road traffic accidents in recent years have been overtaking, fast driving and accidents that occur while turning.
11,175 cases of overtaking have occurred in 2005 while there were 10,593 and 9,241 such cases in 2003 and 2004 respectively. There were also 9,868 cases of fast driving in 2003, 8,859 in 2004 and 9,523 in 2005.
The number of cases where accidents occurred when turning was 6,905 in 2005, while 8,072 such accidents occurred in 2004.
Two of the main causes for failure by applicants to pass the medical test for drivers were defective vision and diabetes. In 2005 there were 4,874 cases of defective vision while the number in 2006 was 6,503. There were 2,483 cases of diabetes in 2005 and 2,174 in 2006.
A senior Motor Traffic Department official said the country soon needs to build a road network to cater to the ever-increasing number of motor vehicles or face even serious repercussions in future by way of fatal accidents.
He said narrow roads including those in Colombo could not accommodate too many vehicles and alternatives should be sought at least to ease traffic congestion.