Traffic fines discipline road users, but... : Law must apply to all | Sunday Observer

Traffic fines discipline road users, but... : Law must apply to all

Traffic policemen on the vigil

Earlier this week following a meeting with all stakeholders, the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation announced its decision to increase the fines for seven traffic offences to a thumping Rs 25, 000. Rescinding the previous budget proposal to increase the minimum traffic fine to Rs 2,500 amid opposition by transport unions, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva instead announced that a fine of Rs 25, 000 will be slapped on motorists for offences such as drunk driving, speeding, overtaking from the left, driving without a valid licence and insurance, driving across level crossings as well as assigning a vehicle to someone without a valid licence.

According to the Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake, the increased fines are a result of the government’s continued efforts to minimize road accidents and create safer roads for the public.

The Government has also decided to increase the minimum fine charged by a Magistrate’s Court from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 200,000 for putting a bus on the road without a valid route permit, to ensure passenger safety. Minister Karunanayake also revealed that all traffic fines will be reviewed and revised in the near future.

Following the announcements long queues could be seen outside the National Transport Medical Institute to receive medical reports to obtain driving licences.

However, while the date of implementation has not been fixed the new revisions have been met with mixed feelings and threats of strikes by stakeholders. The Sunday Observer spoke to several stakeholders to garner their opinions regarding the revised traffic fines.

Anjana Priyanjith, Secretary - All Ceylon Private Bus Owners’ Association

¨This is an extremely unfair decision,¨ says Anjana Priyanjith. According to Anjana while wrongdoers must be punished accordingly, a fine of Rs 25 000 cannot be borne by an average bus driver. ¨We operate to a road system that dates back to 1970 and face many difficulties daily¨ he says, adding that infrastructure should be improved to impose such steep fines on the offenders.

Anjana says the industry will be left with no drivers as many will be unwilling to face the proposed harsh penalties. ¨Therefore we have no option but to go for a continued strike starting December 1¨ he said adding that several other transport unions will also join, including those representing containers, three wheelers and school vans. According to Anjana the association will not call off the strike unless the government repeals the decision.

Lalith Dharmasekara, President - All Island Three Wheeler Drivers’ Union

¨My opinion is that if such fines are imposed the law must be equal to all,¨ says Lalith Dharmasekara.. According to him while Sri Lanka is a country that drives on the left, many VIP vehicles use the right lane while speeding and drive in a dangerous manner.

¨Increasing fines to ensure better road safety is a good move but it is well known that the Police do not take action against VIP vehicles¨ he says. ¨In 2009 when the fines were increased we agreed to it¨ Dharmasekara says adding that he has no intention to safeguard errant drivers. According to him higher fines can act as a deterrent and therefore he is in support of it. ¨But the Police should not treat people differently according to who they are, and the law must be applied in a fair manner, this is our request¨ he says.

Sudhil Jayaruk, Chairman - All Island Three Wheel Owners’ Association

Sudhil Jayaruk, however has a different opinion. While agreeing that some fines imposed are fair he holds a grouse against imposing a fine of Rs 25 000 for overtaking from the left. ¨This will cause problems for the drivers and the Police,¨ he says adding that implementation of such a fine is not practical in the current road system. According to him the fine proposed for speeding too is excessive.

¨This is a problem for three wheelers as it is difficult to continuously maintain a speed limit of 40 Km H” he says adding that discretion should be allowed if the speed limit remains between 40 Km H - 45 Km H. “We wish to propose that fines should vary between the different excessive speed limits broken by the driver” he says.

Chirantha Amarasinghe - Secretary, All Island Motorcyclists Association

¨The fine of Rs 25 000 for overtaking from the left is unfair,” says Chirantha Amarasinghe. According to him overtaking from the right can be dangerous for motorcyclists due to the low engine capacity bikes used in Sri Lanka. ¨It takes a longer time to overtake, so that it can cause major accidents¨ he says.

¨We will repeatedly ask the government to revise the fines so that fines are charged according to the type of vehicle¨ Chirantha says. While acknowledging that efforts to improve road safety are necessary he however maintains that it should be done in a humane manner.

Mal Sri de Silva - President, All Island Schoolchildren Transportation Association

Mal Sri De Silva too feels negatively about the proposed revisions. ¨Unfair¨ is how he terms the new fines adding that paying such fines will not be a problem for VIPs, the common man will have to face serious issues.

¨The law does not apply to VIPs but if a common man is unable to pay the fine he will have to face imprisonment¨ he says.

¨Rates of accidents should be controlled but fines also must be practical¨ he says.

According to De Silva his association too will join the upcoming strike. ¨We will drop the children in the schools as usual but will engage in the strike to voice our dissent¨ he says.