Beware of accident spike this festive season | Sunday Observer

Beware of accident spike this festive season

Most dangerous vehicles on roads are motorcycles- global survey :

Children and elderly most at risk :

Christmas Day dawns tomorrow. As devotees heading to church get caught up in a rush of traffic trying to beat the clock to get to their destination in time, the Accident Services Unit of the National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL) has reiterated its warnings on the safe road use.

“The festive season is the time when road accidents surge. We urge the public to be extremely cautious when travelling on the roads by adhering to the existing rules as far as possible”, National Coordinator for Training, Pushpa Ramya De Soyza told the Sunday Observer.

She said, the main culprits were motor cyclists, three wheelers, drunk drivers and speed maniacs. Pedestrians are also to blame she added, noting that many young people continue to use their mobile phones while crossing the road, not heeding the traffic.Traffic Police sources confirmed this saying , “We have conducted awareness programs and classes for offenders but they return to their old habits once they have finished with us”..,


A Traffic police officer said, “ People keep using the road as though it belongs to them. Even though we have warned them, it is the same offenders that keep doing this . “ Asked if there was a fine involved, he said, “ so far there is only a minimum fine, which is not a deterrent to drivers, especially. But no fine for pedestrians”. According to global figures, eight people die on the roads everyday, while those seriously injured are around thirty on a daily basis. Those who incur minor injuries are an estimated one hundred. “ When you consider the world wide percentage difference in all types of vehicular accidents, the number of people who die from road accidents compared to train accidents is 1: 3 due to the recent surge in vehicles on roads”, Ms De Soyza said.

She said, 285 persons died in accidents and 349 push cyclists, and 387 pedestrians also succumbed to road accidents worldwide. However, the number of motor bike riders far exceeded the others, totalling 1,167”, she said.

Did these global figures match those in Sri Lanka? We asked.

“ Sadly yes. Our figures are very similar” she said.

What were the consequences of such tragic accidents?

Again citing global figures, she said, “ For children who have either witnessed the accidents or lost their parents, it has caused mental problems among 80 percent of them. Forty percent of children have become orphaned.

What is even more shocking is that, in the case of bike riders, fifty percent of them died on the very first day of their experience of riding their bikes”.

Gender wise, she said, over 80 percent of males died on road accidents due to careless driving, speeding and showing off. This affects their families, society and the economy”, she noted.

Human factors

As she points out, over 85% of these accidents were due to human factors .

“”If you walk along the road you will see how three wheelers try to overtake other vehicles without any warning, cutting into their paths and forcing them onto the path of oncoming traffic, thereby causing a traffic jam or an accident.

Then, there are young motor cyclists trying to show off by driving recklessly, and many of them don’t have proper licences or carry more than the two passengers they are allowed and have faulty brakes as well.”

What about pedestrians? Are they also not guilty of breaking road rules that make them vulnerable?

“ Yes pedestrians are also to blame as many don’t bother to use the pedestrian and zebra crossings when crossing to the other side of the road. Others don’t stand at the bus stops but jump into buses while the buses are moving. All these put their lives at risk”

She said, awareness raising programs have been conducted in schools to teach children how to use roads safely. Parents have been invited to attend these programs as well and we have instilled in them the importance of accompanying their children while crossing a busy road.

Awareness raising

However, there have been instances when an active youngster suddenly lets go of his parents’ hands and runs off on his own to get into his vehicle parked outside the school, or to greet a friend.

This can be dangerous as an oncoming vehicle can knock them over if they jump into their path suddenly,” she warned.

On fire crackers she said, the number of incidents had diminished compared to previous years due to awareness raising. She warned parents to refrain from allowing young children to light fire crackers without their supervision and to ensure that the child’s eyes and face were protected.

We also asked Ms Soysa to give us advice on the Dos and Donts of lighting fireworks, and first aid if any injury was sustained. She offered the following guidelines:


Light firecrackers outdoors, as they are potential fire hazards

Light one firecracker at a time

Do not hold a firecracker while lighting it

Do not pick up failed firecrackers, they can still explode

When lighting fireworks like a fountain, do not bend directly over the pyrotechnic devices

Do not throw firecrackers at passing people or vehicles

Do not allow children to hold firecrackers, especially, the watusi and the piccolo

But accidents do happen and sometimes, an injury still occurs despite all your care. Here are some things you can do if it happens:

Standard for Fire cracker

Individual items must bear cautionary labeling giving a signal word, statement of hazard(s), and instructions for proper use.

All cautionary labeling must be located prominently and in all three languages in conspicuous and legible type, in contrast to typography, layout or colour with any other printed or graphic matter on the label.

The name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, distributor, or seller must appear on the label of each product.




1. Never carry fireworks in a pocket or shoot them off in metal or glass containers. Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

2. Always have an adult to supervise fireworks activities. Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks including sparklers. Only persons over the age of 12 should be allowed to handle sparklers of any type.

3. Avoid buying illegal fireworks packages . This is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.

4. Be careful when lighting the fuse. Never place any part of your body directly over a fireworks device when lighting the fuse. Light fireworks one at a time, then quickly back away to a safe distance.

5. Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap. After the fireworks complete their burning, douse the spent device with plenty of water before discarding it to prevent a trash fire.

6. Use common sense. Spectators should keep a safe distance from the shooter and the shooter should wear safety glasses.

7. Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Have a “designated shooter.”