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Duty of police to make roads safer for users - DIG, Traffic

It is the hope of the each and every person who comes to the roads to go on a journey to reach their destination safely whatever the mode of vehicle they use for their journey. However, having a safe journey has become a major problem for the people due to unsafe and undisciplined driving habits of motorists.

Lucky Peiris, Deputy Inspector General of Police , Traffic Administration and Road Safety of the Police Department says the task of the traffic Police is to enforce the traffic laws for the safety of the people although people see them as their enemies.

He says that road users must respect the others when using the roads and also should abide by the road rules and above all they should be civic minded if they are to reduce the number of road accidents. He says that new systems are being introduced to take into account the driving experience of the person when issuing licence by the Motor Traffic Department for the heavy vehicles transporting public as a measure to rectify shortcomings in the system. He also says that the Police Department is taking all initiatives possible to improve the professionalism of the traffic policemen when handling traffic. Following is the full excerpt of the interview the Sunday Observer had with the DIG Traffic, Lucky Peiris.

Q: Vehicle registrations have gone up this year and with the duty reductions, more vehicles will enter the roads. What are your plans to cope with this increase in vehicle number ?

A: You see the fleet of vehicles has increased tremendously over a period of nearly 30 years. So even these duty free concessions given we have to face it. It is not only the Police, the other relevant agencies concern also should work towards this. As you see the population increases the vehicle fleet increased. Naturally the other agencies should also be prepared for this. Police is always there, our numbers have increased. The IGP Dr. Mahinda Balasuriya is taking all the initiatives to control the traffic and also the congestion of traffic. We have to go into new methods to face this situation.

Vehicles are there for the people to travel. Public transport system has to be improved and expanded and other mode, of transport has to be increased. This is a democratic country. People can go anywhere, travel anywhere. Now, the war has ceased. But the fact remains is that all of us have to civic minded. My travelling alone in a vehicle where four occupants can travel is not civic minded. We have to think a lot. Some doesnít like to travel with other people. This is something that people should think in a positive manner to ease off the congestion. In this case if a bus can take 60 people, 60 individuals driven cars will go off the roads. This is where people are civic minded. We all have to get together in easing off the congestion. It is not only the Police. Police is there to enforce laws. Actually the present IGP Dr. Mahinda Balasooriya had taken lot of interesting initiatives in this regard. The vehicle fleet may increase, naturally but we are facing it along with other agencies.

Q: Fatal accidents are on the rise. What are the main steps being taken by the Police, together with other relevant departments such as the RMV to reduce accidents ?

A: The number of deaths from accidents in 1980 was six per day. Every four hours there was a death. In the year 2000, you must see the increase of the population and the vehicle fleet in the country. Compared to these figures the death rate due to accidents has not seen much increase. Police have controlled the number of accidents. Today the death rate is nearly seven per day. Therefore, compared to increase of the population and the vehicle fleet the death rate has not increased that much. We have controlled the accident rate with other relevant agencies. The Judiciary is controlling this by giving deterrent punishment for those who are responsible for these accidents. Only thing one would see the interest on the fatal accidents has increased after the war ceased.

Q: Motorcycles, threewheelers and private buses have often been cited as being responsible for the majority of accidents. Any special plans to deal with these errant drivers and to educate them as a whole ?

A: If you take the accident statistics in the Western Province and other provinces you would find a vast increase of accidents. If you take six or seven fatal accidents a day you would find at least four people are motorcyclists. There are reasons for this. Indiscipline riding. When I mention indiscipline riding, just because you could balance a motorcycle by holding the handles itís not sufficient. You must follow road rules. I was amazed to see recently, motorcyclist head on crash with motorcycle and riders being killed and pillion being killed. The reason that we find is most of these motorcyclists does not follow road rules and regulation. Whilst entering from by road to the main road, whilst overtaking they overtake from the wrong side, on seen vehicles they overtake and they meet with head on collision and they die. They donít wear helmets like protective gear.

They do not know how to handle the apparatus, the brakes, the foot brakes, you got break not only by the hand brakes and not only by foot break but by cutting down the speed by lowering the gears so various things. There is a way of riding. They are carrying more than four people. Children are allowed to sit on the tank with the parents. Itís true we all love our children. But what is the use by taking your children without a protective gear. So they have to be disciplined riders.

Q: What about the situation with threewheelers ?

A: Threewheelers have become common vehicles for transport today. What happens today is that most of these drivers does not respect the others. They creep in where there is a gap. Because of the that accidents have increased. Most of them violate laws.

Q: What is your plan to educate them ?

A: We have started educating them. We have started massive programmes of educating them at Divisional level conducting seminars and workshops. Not all three wheeler operators, but many are breaking road rules. There are elements who obstruct the traffic which had resulted in accidents. We earnestly request them to respect the others who are using the roads.

Q: What is the situation with the private buses ?

A: Not only the three wheelers the private bus operators also doing the same. They have become main violators of road rules. If you go through the statistics you can see. They are doing a yeoman service to the public. Whilst appreciating their contribution in transporting people we request them to drive their vehicles in a disciplined manner.

Q: What are the steps now being taken to rectify the shortcomings in respect of traffic regulations ?

A: A new system has been introduced by the Commissioner General of Motor Traffic how to get driving licence and all that. But number of hours of experience should also be counted for specially for drivers carrying passengers in heavy vehicles. Those are things which are lacking in our system but being introduced now. In fact our IGP he wanted a circular to be issued to prosecute Police officer breaking road violations. That is a good start. We start from the home. If they take pursuit we are allowing them to drive the way they like.

Then we have educational programmes. We targets from infants middle school, upper school, youth adults and elderly citizens from Traffic Headquarters and Divisional level. We demonstrate, we teach them, we lecture them and we have educational stalls.

Q: Many of pedestrians also die on our roads

A: But there again drivers are responsible. When you drive at a speed you must be aware of your thinking time and the reaction time. You see suddenly a man jump across the road then you think of applying brakes. When you react you have knocked the man because you have travelled at a speed. That should be specially mentioned. Speed thrills but it kills. Everyone wants to drive fast, when you go and knock against a person a pedestrian who-ever the other person gets injured, you too win get injured if you donít wear seat belts and could die.

Q: Recently Kandy Police rounded up hundreds of jaywalkers. Are the Police empowered to take such actions under the motor traffic laws ?

A: The Police are empowered to take such actions. Why are pedestrian crossings being demarcated. That is for pedestrian action for pedestrians to cross the road from that particular place. If there are no pedestrian crossings there are other regulations in this regard. So we are empowered to do that.

What happened was due to various other involvements, these things were forgotten. But now it is being enforced. This is for the own safety of the pedestrians. Why should you cross from middle of the road, when there is pedestrian crossing closeby or if there is an overpass or underpass. They are their for their use for their protection.

Q: What is the position with regard to speeding motorists ? Is the Police again booking motorists for speeding ? Another complaint is that speed limit boards are not properly or uniformly installed at various roads, so motorists do not know the speed at which they should be driving. What is the position with regard to that ?

A: People say there are no sign boards as in a Supreme Court order. But under 151:2 of the Motor Traffic Act very specifically mentions that ĎNo person shall drive a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner or at a dangerous speed.í Therefore, the Attorney General has given clear instructions that Traffic Police can fine the motorists under this section. This is not be the speed limit. Vehicles are allowed to drive at a speed of 70 KMPH in the Nittambuwa town as stipulated. But, can you do that ? No you canít. Then take a school area can you drive at a speed of 70 KMPH. The motorists should have common sense. If there is a Sunday fair, can people drive that fast. Do you want people to drive speed and kill more people. So we have to enforce the laws. So people have to decide. That is why the civic responsibility comes in.

On the other hand why people are speeding ? Because they have not planned their trip. If I want to be at wedding in Kandy at 10 in the morning, start early. If you have to attend Courts start early. Then you will get to your destination in time. Most of the people speeds because they want to get to their destination whatever the function they have to attend.

Q: What are the main offences for which the Police apprehend motorists and with the increase in fines and court action for most offenses, is there a reduction in the number of accidents ?

A: Speeding is the most common offence committed by motorists. There is vast reduction in drunken driving. The number of accidents reported to Police was reduced due to the spot insurance schemes. But now there is a law that every accident should be reported.

Q: What about the new traffic signal systems which have been established in the cities. Are they effective enough in handling traffic congestions ? Does the Traffic Police have a better coordination with the relevant authorities who are responsible for installing these traffic light systems ?

A: Installing signalling system is not our purview. But we are part of it. But there are agencies who synchronise it with coordination with the Traffic Police. We are developing better coordination with the agencies concern. At times if there are road effect it has to be put right. Lighting of streets, all these come in under them. That is why I said it is not only the Police, but lot of other agencies and stakeholder involved. We have to coordinate with them. That is happening now under the new IGP.

Q: We have seen policemen directing traffic at traffic lights and sometimes directing motorists to go against the red lights. Is this necessary, as lights are there to control traffic ?

A: At emergency situations yes. Instructions have been given to them to cover the colour lights when they are doing that or to off the colour lights. But, those things can be applied only at emergency situations. Not all the time. Instructions have been gone to the effect by the IGP not to do that. But, if they are doing so according to new amendments if Policeman is controlling a junction with colour lights they have to take these precautions either to off or cover the colour light. It will be done only in an emergency situations to clear traffic.

Q: There are many allegations against traffic police personnel to the effect that they are corrupt. How is the Police addressing this problem ?

A: There will be few bad eggs. Because one Policeman is taking bribes or with corrupt practices every Policeman is not corrupt. In any organisations you find such people. Just because of a one corrupt officer others should not be blamed.

Then the people who are giving bribes, that is also an offence. They should not give. If some asking you bribe, you should shout and say that he is asking for bribe. Why not people are doing that. Man giving bribe is also not an honest person. Every Policeman is not bad.

Q: Is there a mechanism for the people to complain against those corrupt officers ?

A: Why not. From that point itself giving the number of the IDP and call the other officers concerned. Leave all that aside if someone ask for a bribe shout and say he is asking for a bribe. Or else complain to the 119. We earnestly request the people not to give bribe. Complain against them. Just because of one rotter or few rotter every Policeman is not a bribe case.

Q: What are the steps taken to improve the professionalism and courtesy level of traffic police personnel ?

A: Our Policemen may be having lapses in our part, the way of talking and all that. They will be corrected. The new IGP is taking all efforts to teach them the language how to greet people and all that is being done.

We give courses for our people to have well trained and professional Policemen. So you will find very soon like London they will greet you. But we expect the motorist to abide by and respect the law.

Q: What are your plans to improve overall road safety and discipline?

A: We have a thing called Action Plan. Every six months we analyse accident systems, black spots and we sent them out to our Divisions to plan out their operations and take preventive actions. Then we send copies to other relevant agencies also. Then we have bulletin that is being sent to every corner. So they study that and plan out various proposals.

We have conducted training programmes in Divisions. The Division itself conducting programmes. We as Traffic Headquarters we go bringing conduct courses organisations relating traffic and they lecture these people. The three Forces the Army Navy and the Air Force they come here and follow those courses.

We also conduct courses for Government departments. We do various things. What we do is not seen. Our main concern was war. Now that is over. Now we are fully focusing on various other Police related matters.

Q: What is the biggest challenge for the Traffic Police ?

A: To bring down deaths and injured and to create free flow of traffic without a congestion. It is a task not only for us for other agencies concerned. All should be coordinated. The coordination is improved now.

Q: What are the problems you are facing with relate to the traffic control in manpowerwise and other problems ?

A: Man power is not a problem now. The IGP has taken keen interest in getting traffic trained men. The others also join in this traffic control. The Policemen on normal duties also come and assist us specially in peak hours. Dr. Balasuriya is trying his best to do this. The Government is giving all the support to see that there is a free flow of traffic and to minimise the traffic congestions. Our duty is to bring the accident rate down and to have a free flow of traffic and to make roads safer for the road users. If the war could be won why we canít bring down the accident rates.

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