After the war, the highest number of deaths is caused by road accidents. As the number of vehicles on the road increases on a daily basis, there is growing concern that the streets are getting more dangerous and little is being done about it.
Sri Lankans are terrible drivers. This is a statement that many people would reluctantly agree with. Rules are there to be broken, lanes are painted to be skipped, consideration for fellow drivers is nonexistent and the increasing accident statistics are there to be ignored.
It is as if all the pent-up frustration and aggression that Sri Lankans have is vented when they are behind the wheel.
As expected, car purchases rose steeply over the past year after high taxes which curbed citizen’s trade freedoms were reduced, leading to pent-up demand being met, especially in motor cars. Taxes were raised again this year, though not to earlier levels.
In the seven months to July, Sri Lankans have registered 292,297 vehicles up 57.5 per cent from a year earlier. Car registrations rose 741 per cent to 34,221 in the seven months from a year earlier, three-wheeler registrations rose 69.1 per cent to 76,185, motorcycles rose 26.3 per cent to 143,976 and dual purpose vehicles rose 534 per cent to 5,514.
Registrations of new vehicles in Sri Lanka dropped in July 2011 to 43,725 from a high of 48,157 a month earlier, while 12-month growth slowed to 30.8 per cent from 55.8 per cent in June, official data showed. In July, new car registrations fell to 4,338 from 5,069 a month earlier. Three wheeler taxi registrations fell to 12,799 from 13,753; motor cycle registrations fell to 20,828 from 22,690 a month earlier.
As incomes increase and lifestyles change the numbers are only going to keep increasing. For many people owning a vehicle is now a status symbol that they are adamant to achieve. The downside of this is that accidents are going to become the norm as roads cannot handle the amount of traffic.
There is a need for the Government to step in and do more than increase taxes so that vehicle prices increase. As a country that is looking to grow economically, it is imperative that the public transport system improves. The longer one spends on the road, the more detrimental it is for the economy.
In tandem with the building of highways, there must be concentrated effort to introduce ‘park and ride’ systems to ease the heavy flow of traffic. A competent metro transport system is essential incorporating bus, railway, three-wheelers and cabs so that more convenience is available.
Instilling road discipline is a challenging but important part of traffic management. All Police officers should have a comprehensive knowledge of traffic rules and be vigilant in enforcing them. Simply handing out tickets by the traffic cops will not be sufficient. Over 250 people died in road accidents in 2010 and the numbers are piling up this year. If the stakeholders do not get their acts in gear, a greater tragedy will be the journey’s end.