Traffic accidents kill 6-7 people daily

In spite of enforcing the law, reckless and negligent driving leading causes, say police
Health officials say prevention should not be the responsibility of one authority alone

Reckless driving snatched the lives of five people in a road accident in Pothuhera, Kurunegala last Sunday adding to the increasing number of traffic accident victims islandwide. According to police, the passengers–three males and two females were travelling in a three-wheeler after attending a wedding in Ranjanagama. The driver of the three-wheeler had attempted to overtake another vehicle when he lost control and collided with a private bus.

A bottle of alcohol was found in the three-wheeler and a post-mortem confirmed that the three-wheeler driver had been under the influence of liquor at the time of the accident, police said.

All that remained of the three wheeler that was involved in the Pothuhera accident that killed five

The driver of the three-wheeler was a retired soldier,  Sumith Chandraratne(52) and the others were identified as Vijayamuni Arachchige Sarachchandra (54), Thusitha Nalaka Ranasinghe (30) , W.A. Vijayalatha (52) and Mahika Yasodara Dharmaratne (21).

Police said the private bus driver who was remanded was given bail and ordered to report to the Kurunegala Magistrates court on July 22.Police Traffic Administration and Road Safety Director SSP  K.Arasaratnam, said both the bus driver and three wheeler driver were at fault.  “It was an unfortunate situation because the three-wheeler driver had lost control since he was under the influence of  alcohol and the bus driver had been speeding,” he said.

According to Traffic Police statistics 15,982 road traffic accidents of which 991, were fatal, were reported from January to May this year. The highest number of accidents and deaths were reported in January with 3834 accidents and 228 deaths. (See graphic for more details).

He said in spite of tough traffic laws being enforced the increasing number of vehicles have added to the high rate of accidents. He said of the vehicles on the road  50 percent of them were two wheelers.

He said many youth travelled in two wheelers and many of the recent accident victims were youngsters.
SSP Arasaratnam said the high accident rate cannot be blamed on the poor enforcement of road laws as police officers are on 24-hour duty and are posted at regular intervals. “But road users are negligent, they don’t follow road rules and are selfish. Some do not wear helmets when they are on motorbikes. I think this carelessness can be controlled only by increasing spot fines.”
He said suggestions have been made to introduce a point system based driving licence. This would be the best method to enforce discipline on the roads, he said.

Meanwhile National Hospital (NHSL) Director Dr. Anil Jasinghe  said many factors contribute to road accidents.
He said one found an assortment of people including pedestrians, drivers etc. using the roads and they had different attitudes and negligence by road users was one of the main reasons for traffic accidents.

He said the prevention of accidents cannot be brought under one ministry or authority, but it was a complex issue that involved various authorities like transport, road safety, health and police.

“Awareness and education alone is not enough to prevent accidents. These activities should be carried out along with law enforcement authorities,” he said adding that he felt that the law was being enforced successfully.
T. Perinpanayagam, retired DIG for traffic and Director General, Institute of Road Traffic Accidents told the Sunday Times that the increase in the number of accidents was mainly due to the inexperience of motor cycle riders and three- wheeler drivers.
He said in 2011 some 40, 887 road accidents were reported and among them 9414 accidents involved motorcycles and 6427 three-wheelers.

“There are inexperienced drivers who do not have a basic training in driving. I think authorities must look into this and take action to avoid such incidents. The department of motor traffic should take this into consideration,” he added.
He said in the past, traffic police deployed mobile patrols islandwide to detect violators of road rules. This is not carried out as efficiently now due to the lack of trained traffic policemen.

National Council for Road Safety Chairman, Gamini Ekanayake said police alone cannot curb the mounting number of road accidents and there were other government stakeholders who should look into the matter.

“We have already implemented a provincial structure to curb the number of accidents. This is the 10 year Road Safety Plan. We have implemented the plan in districts like Kalutara, Colombo and Gampaha,” he said adding that road users should be more vigilant as the number of deaths a day has increased from about five to six to six to seven on average.

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