Road courtesy – best solution for traffic accidents | Sunday Observer

Road courtesy – best solution for traffic accidents

Road traffic accident deaths in Sri Lanka reached 3,554 in 2017 or 2.80% of the total deaths. It means, on an average 10 people die per day due to accidents. Additionally, another 8 get severely or permanently injured and 50 more would suffer minor or major injuries each day.

These are quite high figures. Reports also indicate that the majority of those killed were motor cyclists, three-wheeler passengers and pedestrians. So, it’s time we sit up and ask ourselves: Is this loss of life really necessary? Cannot we do something to reduce it?


Sri Lanka has a safe motorable road infrastructure and a reasonably efficient transport system when compared to other South Asian countries. Therefore, when people die in unacceptably high level road accidents which could have been prevented, it is a reflection of a failure in the socio-political system.

Sri Lanka is also a signatory to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations adapted in 2015. The goal number 3 of the Resolution reads: “Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages.” Under this goal a target was set to achieve a 50% reduction in the number of deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents, by 2030.

So, we have a responsibility towards UN to cut down our traffic accidents by half in another 12 years. This is not an impossible task because road accidents in Sri Lanka do not just happen.They happen due to certain contributory factors.

The traffic consultants classify the factors that are present at the time of the crash under four main categories: (a) Unsatisfactory level of driver training, (b) Poor road discipline, (c) Attitude of drivers and pedestrians and (d) Poor maintenance of vehicles and roads.


All four factors are a result of the ignorance or non compliance of the law, leading to accidents and high fatality and injury rates. One could argue that road discipline cannot improve in a society where discipline has eroded in every sphere of activity. Though this could not be far from the truth, nevertheless, every attempt has to be made to improve road discipline.

It’s an accepted fact that discipline on our roads has deteriorated almost to the point of anarchy. The highest offenders are three-wheeler drivers and drivers of private buses. They are the people responsible for the transport of passengers. Due to their entrusted responsibility, they ought to be better disciplined because the comfort and fate of many lives are in their hands.

Billions of rupees are invested in our transport infrastructure and attempts are ongoing to create an efficient, user-friendly and safer road systems, countrywide. Sadly, it seems at present, we are far from achieving this goal of safety.

How can we begin to achieve safer mobility in the city? The fundamental problem is not just the transport infrastructure capacity. It is the inconsiderate mindset and attitude of road users, who choose to ignore traffic rules and regulations aimed at ensuring their convenience and safety.

Lack of courtesy towards other road users and a dismissive attitude towards the road code are now prevalent and is already becoming part of our national culture. To come out of this mindset and achieve a user-friendly, safe and pleasant mobility system and make the most of the Government’s investment, it is desirable to get back to the fundamentals by adopting radical changes.

A better appreciation of risks and the promotion of mutual respect and common sense is needed by all, regardless of whether we are a driver, passenger, pedestrian or public transport user. Curbing our growing selfish and impatient natures is an underlying factor required to make urban travel and city life more pleasant, less stressful and safer.

Safety culture

In the past, Sri Lankan culture was particularly admired for its warm and tolerant attitude towards others. Let us as a community make a conscious effort to prevent this from being eroded by a growing lack of courtesy. We can initiate the change.

Whether we are motorised or non-motorised, if we are road users, we should respect each other’s road space and driving rights in accordance with the common rules of the road. With proper respect, good driving practice and discipline, the entire traffic and living environment of the city can be changed for the better.

Let us avoid the danger of poor driving practices and the road rage we see reported in newspapers, daily. Let us pause for a moment to get a better perspective of our lifestyle as it manifests itself in our travel behaviour. There are still substantially large numbers of road users who are ignorant of the basic road rules as set out in the Code. An systematic training should be given to them by the authorities, when they are identified.

We must accept the fact that the current law enforcement system, which depends solely on the police to uphold the law, will not work efficiently unless road users are properly educated to gain the mutual respect of each other on the roads. More effective enforcement should be aided, backed up by a comprehensive electronic enforcement system, to ease the burden of the task we now face as a mobile society.

Another issue is our Driving Licence. The acquisition of a Driving Licence should be made more stringent. For example, in the USA, it is only after an objective test is successfully completed that a 3-week learner’s licence is issued, and thereafter a permanent licence may be issued, based on a difficult road test. Hence, obtaining a driving licence in the USA is a tough assignment.

Che Guevara once defined a revolution as a ‘Change of heart’. In Sri Lanka what we really need is a ‘Change of Attitude’ by road users. Good road user habits have to be engraved in the minds of the road users. That indeed would be a good revolution because, if it is practised, driving in Sri Lanka would transform into a pleasant experience.