SL’s accidents rate on par with developed countries: One person killed | Sunday Observer

SL’s accidents rate on par with developed countries: One person killed

Two little children were playing in the garden when one of them began crying loudly. Rushing out of the house to find out what caused the little one’s pain filled cry, her mother noted with horror that the air rifle they had been playing with had accidentally misfired and a pellet had pierced the child’s head. After initial treatment at the Kegalle hospital he was rushed to the Peradeniya hospital where a trailblazing surgery performed by an expert team was able to remove the pellet from his skull and save the life of the three years nine months old boy.

A seven day old infant badly bitten by a dog while sleeping peacefully in his cot was not so lucky. He succumbed to his multiple injuries after being transferred from the Habarana hospital to the Dambulla hospital despite efforts to save his life.

Sigiriya September 19

Hambantota September 19

A housewife 27, was reportedly hacked to death with a sharp instrument by her husband, over a family dispute .

Bingiriya September 8

A 34 year old man, a resident of Bingiriya was hacked to death, suspects absconding.

Rathnanmehe Galle – September 19

A pedestrian walking along the Elpitiya-Galle highway was knocked down by a motor cyclist and killed after succumbing to his injuries.

September 2 night

Nineteen undergrads of the Sri Jayewardenpura Universiry were hospitalized following an accident that took place on High Level Road near Navinna Junction at Maharagama.

September 12

a young British journalist died from crocodile bites in a lagoon in the East coast.

* A popular film actress and MP for Galle district was reportedly admitted to hospital after sustaining burns from a gas leak inside her home.

* Another German tourist also drowned at Hikkaduwa while bathing in a red alert area.

That these deaths, and just missed deaths occurred during just one month is no co-incidence.

In a tiny nation, overrun by a rapidly growing population hitting 22 million, Sri Lanka’s rate of accidents on roads, railways, from drowning, attempts at suicides and poisoning from insecticides, and gas leaks has the dubious distinction of being almost on par with that of developed countries .

Take a look at some statistics unveiled by the Traffic Police division ASP W.D.A. Dhananjaya at a media conference at the Health Education Bureau:.

* About 45 -50 severe road accidents. Around ten to 12 or more people die daily from road traffic accidents that occur every day, and in general 100-125 road traffic accidents take place across the country. Last year, a total of 3,030 deaths were reported due to road traffic accidents.

* The number of road traffic accidents has leaped from seven or eight in the past to over twelve .

* Most victims are between the ages of 1 and 40 , while the most number of accidental deaths occur between the ages of 40-70, and more than 2-3deaths are reported daily.

* With regard to train accidents, last year alone 405 persons were killed, the victims ranging from schoolchildren, youth to elderly persons.

* One person is killed every hour and 27 die daily in Sri Lanka due to various accidents, Non Communicable Diseases ( NCDs) Director of the Ministry of Health, Dr Thilak Siriwardana noted.

He said, accidental deaths were the eleventh cause of hospital deaths, with around 10,000 persons dying from various accidents and 3,000 of them due to road traffic accidents. Another 1,000 drown.

Citing figures, he said, the highest number of accidents were related to animal bites, while the second highest number was due to falls.

Almost 90 percent of them are preventable, he stressed.

We asked who the culprits were apart from those injured by animals and falls.

“In the case of train accidents and road traffic accidents it covers the whole range of road and train commuters. Road traffic accidents occur due to four main reasons: Ignorance, carelessness, not paying attention to road signals and traffic movement, and not having the required knowledge on road traffic regulations,” Dhananjaya noted.

He pointed out that there are 3.8 million motor cycles and 1.1million three wheelers in the country. In addition, there were seven million registered vehicles, and six million run on the roads which are 98,000 kilometres long. “Around 40,000 road traffic accidents occur annually in Sri Lanka due to these vehicles and 2,500 to 3,000 die from them”, he reiterated..

As for train accidents, he specifically points out to several factors: “ Train commuters die because they are more interested in getting a seat on the train than safeguarding their lives. So they try to jump onto moving trains and fall and die. They also get injured when moving between two compartments and lose their balance, and topple over.

Others die or get seriously injured because they walk on the railway lines, not heeding our warnings. Since the sound of the sea drowns the sound of the train, they get overrun by the train even though the driver has warned them ahead and done his best to brake.

Others are busy using their mobile phones or listening to some music on their ear phones and don’t hear the on coming train”, he said. “ Sometimes, to escape the on coming train, they jump to the other track but get run over by an on coming train on that track.”.

Drunk driving

While the Accident service maintains that there has been a decrease in the number of drunken driving accidents after a heavy fine was slapped on for offenders, reports refute these claims.

On September 20 , according to a report in the Daily News, drunk drivers have caused 423 road accidents and 12 deaths in the Kurunegala and Puttalam districts, in the past 8 months.

This has prompted the Police Department to organize 800 awareness raising programs, especially at school level in the Kurunegala division this month with 12,000 school teachers and 12,000 parents participating in the program.

Blame game

While Accident Service authorities struggle to reduce this unacceptable high in accidents and injuries resulting from them, it seems that only a few really dedicated officers are fully committed to this formidable task. The others either take their role lightly, or, shift the blame or responsibility to another department or other officers.

“Talk to the Road Development Authority,” we were told when we asked a source whether the unmade damaged roads pockmarked with potholes were a contributory cause for road accidents, especially, in Colombo.

Another transferred our call to the local Municipal Council which in turn said we should get in touch with the road engineers .

To a question on school van drivers and how qualified they were, Education Department officers said, proper lists indicating the registration number of each driver, his previous driving records, and a medical record,were in the process of being compiled .

He refused to say when this list would be finalized, but said it would be completed ‘soon’ as it was a directive from the Presidential Secretariat.

Professional Drivers of school vans on the other hand blamed parents who dropped their children on pavements opposite the school instead of taking the children to the entrance, and forced them to cross the road alone. “ I was reversing my van when I spotted this little child running across the road and just managed to brake before I ran over him. “ Parents are just as much to blame as careless drivers”, R a private driver said.

Interventions by Police, Health Ministry

The Traffic Police when asked what they could do to penalize such parent drivers, said, there were no laws on this as yet. Asked if they could arrest jaywalkers using mobile phones while crossing roads, Police sources replied in the negative. “ We can only charge a driver for not wearing a seat belt or phoning while driving, but not pedestrians using mobile phones, although this phone culture is on the rise’, a Police source said. Meanwhile, in a fresh welcome move to combat the high incidence of traffic accidents, the Police Department acting on the directions of IGP Pujith Jayasundera has reportedly introduced a new practice of selecting disciplined drivers and rewarding them.

As a first step of this program, a batch of 300 disciplined drivers were routinely selected in the Kandy city and presented gift vouchers, Rs 3,000 each, after a week long workshop held for them . In addition, they were also offered a free inspection of their vehicles.

The program was sponsored by AMW Pit Stop.

“ The next phase of the program will be held in Colombo and later extended to Kurunegala and Matara”, a Police release stated. As the program progresses, it states that added benefits would be given to disciplined drivers, including, free medical check ups and a discount for discounts on services in leading hospitals and hotels, as well as restaurants.

Public response

There was a mix of responses from the public . While many welcomed it and admitted that the Police were now much more friendly and courteous, there were exceptions during rush hours when Police had no time for little matters like courtesy. “ I was rudely stopped by a traffic policeman near Kanatte sometime ago and asked to hand over my driving licence because I was speeding. I admit I was a little over the usual speed limit but when the policeman said I was drunk as well, which I was not, I got angry.

When he insisted I hand him my driving licence I refused.” Mr B said , still smarting over the incident. He hopes that the new courtesy drive will put such behaviour in the past. 

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