Road discipline, a must to enhance safety | Sunday Observer

Road discipline, a must to enhance safety

4 October, 2020

The soaring road accidents have become a pressing concern in Sri Lanka with hundreds of incidents reported daily throughout the country. Media reports reveal that a traffic accident is reported every 10 minutes with over eight deaths per day. Experts say there are many reasons for traffic accidents, where road indiscipline has become one of the main causes. Specialists on the subject have identified over 25 different reasons for the increase in accidents that calls for urgent attention.

Recklessness, indiscipline, lack of knowledge of road rules, speeding, gross neglect of social responsibility, and the negligence of the pedestrians are some key areas that require the attention of the authorities. While some of the issues can be controlled by enforcing the prevailing laws, others require public understanding and participation. However, changing the attitude of road users is important to curtail road indiscipline.

Lane discipline is another important factor to be learned and obeyed by all drivers to avoid accidents, reduce travel time, and help the flow of traffic on the roads. The proper adherence of road rules can bring comfort to one’s driving. The violation of lane discipline could be detrimental in cities where more vehicles than the optimum capacity ply on the roads.

The strict enforcement of lane discipline introduced recently is not only an immense relief to the disciplined motorist, but also eases urban and suburban traffic congestion to a great extent. This is an important first step to inculcate road discipline in the motorists. The culprits, often motorbike riders and three-wheel drivers break the rules and regulations, with a total disregard for fellow motorists. These errant drivers create chaos in a traffic jam grossly disregarding lane discipline. Arbitrary lane changing breaks the flow of traffic and causes delay.

Common phenomenon

However, habitual lane law breakers have come under the scanner of the authorities relieving law abiding drivers from unwanted harassment. The police, in no uncertain terms, will bring down the hammer on the offenders shortly. This important task is spearheaded by Deshabandu T.M.W.D. Tennakoon, the senior DIG, Western Province, a versatile taskmaster who has produced many results. The task of identifying and fining these undisciplined drivers and riders who have irked the traffic police, was reinforced by introducing drone cameras and CCTV footage.

As a common phenomenon, some of the road users, motorcyclists and three-wheel drivers in particular are less than pleased with the new arrangement. They complain that with the re-introduction of the lane rules, the time taken to reach a destination has increased. However, they do not accept that the speed of the journey is disrupting the traffic, causing disturbance to fellow drivers, while increasing the chances of accidents. These misbehaving drivers suddenly and dangerously switch lanes without any indication, which can lead to a mishap. Therefore, the authorities need to keep reminding that good lane discipline is the key to reduce the risk and congestion on the urban and suburban roads.

A fact to remember is that over a year ago, the police tried to enforce the lane rule and even penalised hundreds of violators. Nevertheless, the action was short-lived and faded away due to various reasons. The public eagerly hopes that the enforcement of the lane rule will continue this time around permanently.

Over-speeding of vehicles

Fatalities and injuries due to over-speeding of vehicles is another key risk factor, particularly in suburban and rural areas. Death and severe injury due to over-speeding accidents are reported almost daily. Irrespective of the legal implications, warnings, and specifically media reports with images or video footage, road accidents due to speeding are on the rise according to the sources. Especially, with the development of main roads outside cities, over-speeding offences have become a common occurrence.

Speeding endangers the life of the speedster as well as commuters, bystanders and even law enforcement officers. Most motorists do not drive aggressively. However, the small percentage that drives recklessly with high speed costs not only human losses including, injuries and fatalities but also a substantial amount of money to the Government by way of legal expenses and property damage. Another menace on the roads is overtaking from the left side of moving vehicles. Mostly, three-wheel drivers and motorcycle riders are the culprits. Often, these errant drivers and riders overtake from the left even when they have plenty of space to overtake from the right side, which is legal.

The police, a few years back, attempted to impose fines on these offenders, but the move was short-lived, probably due to the difficulty in identifying the offenders.

This must be made a habit more than a law by educating the motorists although it may be a daunting task.

Some of the other reasons for accidents are lack of knowledge and understanding of road rules and laws, fatigue, stress of the drivers (especially private bus and three-wheel drivers), driving under the influence of liquor or drugs, disorderly pedestrians and unavoidable human errors.

The most appropriate stage to instil the knowledge of road discipline in drivers and riders would be during driving lessons conducted by a driving school or through personal coaching. Educating the drivers on the rules and regulations can be done effectively at this stage. However, the pressing issue is to ascertain whether driving schools in Sri Lanka are geared to provide such education. According to this writer’s knowledge, there is no regulatory authority to supervise or monitor the standards of driving schools.

Driving test

Most of these schools merely teach driving on the roads, other areas of the driving test and the trial, disregarding the moral and behavioural aspects of a candidate. Their sole intent is to prepare the students to pass the tests and obtain the driving or riding licence.

Most drivers and riders this writer interviewed were aware only of the basic road rules and signs, which are inadequate in the present traffic conditions.

The authorities should take steps to regulate and monitor driving schools. Steps must be taken to set minimum standards and provide strict guidelines on disciplinary aspects. A proper inspection of these mushrooming driving schools must be undertaken and the credentials of the instructors examined to establish whether they are suitable to conduct training.

A good mechanism in this matter would be immensely helpful to teach proper road discipline.

A sustainable solution to the lack of road discipline and safety must be identified as early as possible. The road discipline menace not only harms the public but also runs into staggering amounts of public funds according to police sources. It is the hope of every citizen that all Sri Lankan drivers and riders will adhere to traffic-rules and regulations.