More than 700 accidents – 42 of them fatal were reported during the Avurudu season. Of them 99 were major accidents while 282 could be categorized as minor, the Sunday Times learns.
According to National Hospital (NHSL) statistics 183 road traffic cases were treated this year while in the corresponding period last year it was 166 and in 2010, 245 . The sources said this year’s figures showed a nine percent increase.
|Sanjeewa Thilakasinghe recovering in hospital. Pix by Mangala Weerasekera
The majority of those hospitalized were victims of motorbike accidents that occurred mainly on April 15.
D.Judy from Pelawatte was one such victim. She was riding a motorbike with her husband and son on the 15th when the accident occurred. Father and son came to no harm but she sustained serious facial injuries.
“Our son was seated between the two of us and I was holding onto a basket of vegetables and some oil cakes. Suddenly the bike hit a hump near Pelawatte and I was thrown off the bike and hit the road,” she said, adding that her husband was speeding at the time.
Sanjeewa Thilakasinghe (23) from Weliveriya met with an accident while travelling on a motorbike with his brother on his way home from a relatives’ place. “We were travelling at normal speed and when we were negotiating a bend close to the relatives’ house we were hit by a lorry that was speeding towards us,” he said.
Sanjeewa further said he sustained a fracture in his right leg while his brother sustained a fracture on his back bone.
National Hospital Accident Service Director Dr. Prasad Ariyawansa said the majority of the victims were between the ages of 15 and 49. He attributed laxity on the part of the police during the season for the increase in accidents.
“Last year traffic police were deployed at every corner of the roads and stuck to a plan during the season. But this year I believe they would not have been as vigilant, leading to an increase in the number of incidents,” he said.
However striking a positive note he said the number of firecracker victims was very much on the decline.
He said the Motor Traffic Act defines a person as intoxicated if the level of alcohol in the blood is more than 0.5 per deciliter. But this can be challenged, because the hospital cannot test the blood alcohol level of each and every patient, since it is very costly.
“ When we say a person is drunk we go by our experience but not any scientific method. The only scientific way is to test the blood alcohol level. Most of the patients argue against our clinical findings,” he added.
Dr. Ariyawansa said that the authorities are in the process of amending this part of the Motor Traffic Act. “During any festival people have some extra money in their hands and they go home to their villages and celebrate with food and booze. This is always the trend leading to accidents.
Emphasising the importance of prevention he said road users should especially be alert to overtaking at the wrong place and not drive after a drink, which invariably leads to accidents.
Commenting on the accidents on the southern highway Dr.Ariyawansa said the majority of the incidents occurred during rainy weather. He said drivers should be vigilant when travelling on wet weather days at high speed as the vehicles can skid.
“We have been trying to educate the public about road accidents through many campaigns and programmes, but the public rarely pays heed,” he complained.
Meanwhile Director Traffic Administration and Road Safety K. Arasaratnam, said there was an increase in the number of vehicles plying the southern highway during the season.
Commenting on police being lax towards errant drivers during the season, he said this was not the case with many policemen being deployed on traffic duty
“We have identified drunk-driving as the main cause for fatal accidents, therefore we have formulated a framework where we constantly use the breathalyzer on drivers to test whether they are intoxicated. We have also conducted islandwide programmes for the police to look into this matter and I think we have been quite successful,” he said.
Southern highway: Reckless driving main cause for accidents
According to traffic police headquarters, 194 accidents were reported on the southern highway since its inception on November 27.Of them two were fatal.
During the avurudu week, the highest number of accidents were reported on April 15.
Most of these accidents were due to drunk-driving, speeding and negligence on the part of road users. The bad weather also contributed, traffic police said.
They said 1955 cases of errant driving have been detected since the inception of the highway of which 1484 cases were reported this year.
They said there were many reports of drivers overtaking vehicles and almost immediately veering to the left, paying little heed to the fact that those vehicles too are travelling at high speed. Motorists are being educated on this aspect through the distribution of handbills.