Government is to compel both State and military establishments to obtain revenue licences and insurance for their vehicles.
Amendments to the Motor Traffic Act now being drafted, contains new provisions to that effect. A Transport Ministry official said the existing laws to exempt such establishments was through a gazette notification issued in 1995. As a result, victims of accidents caused by vehicles belonging to State establishments do not have any recourse to the law.
The move comes in the wake of a series of accidents involving military and Police vehicles where the victims have not been able to claim insurance, but need to initiate legal proceedings which take a longer period to obtain compensation, the official who did not wanted to be named said.
Commissioner General of Motor Traffic B.D.L. Dharmapriya, told the Sunday Times, “These laws are old, they need to be changed. There are more vehicles on the roads now”, he said. “Under the current system, whenever there is an accident, the aggrieved party has to go to courts to claim compensation, and it takes time”, he said.
Transport Manager of a private firm which has a fleet of over 100 vehicles in Colombo, said that, usually, when one of their vehicles is involved in an accident with an army or police vehicle, they claim their own insurance, as claiming compensation through courts is a lengthy process.
He said that compensation will be made available only if it is proved in courts that the driver of the military or police vehicle is responsible for the accident.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Ubaya Medawala said, “The army has vehicles which are insured, as well as those not insured. In the event of an accident, usually, a complaint is lodged with the police and the matter is taken up in courts. If the court decides that the driver of the army vehicle was at fault, compensation is paid”.
“Usually, the other vehicle involved in the accident will have its insurance and therefore, that vehicle will claim its insurance”, he said.
Some of the accidents have been caused by speeding army or police vehicles providing security for politicians.
“In one instance last year, a backup vehicle of a minister was trying to reach the destination before the minister took off by helicopter, and was landing in a nearby area in the Puttalam district. The vehicle overturned and the army commandos in it were injured”, a police officer in Puttalam said.
One of the main problems faced by the security backup vehicles is that they are forced to keep up with a luxury vehicle of a minister or politician, where the condition of the backup vehicle is not up to the same condition as the luxury vehicle”, the officer said.