Higher Fines Don’t Reduce Traffic Accidents
By Senior Professor T S G Peiris
Road safety is recognised by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by WHO as a precondition to strengthen the well-being, healthy lives and to create inclusive, sustainable, and resilient cities. It further indicates the disabilities and injuries that take place due to Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) influence other issues related to community well-being as these factors contribute to hindrance of human activity of preventable deaths.
Thus, RTAs are indeed a prominent healthcare problem which has a major influence on the universal health situation. However, in Sri Lanka, less attention has been given to impose various decision and laws related to RTAs based on the analysis of past data. This analysis was carried out to find impact of different attributes on RTAs in Sri Lanka and give some recommendations and suggestions based on RTA data from 2005 to 2019 obtained from the Sri Lanka Police Department (SLPD).
RTAs during 2005 – 2019
The annual trend of total RTAs and the types of crashes of RTAs are shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 respectively. Based on the trend in Fig. 1, the duration from 2005 to 2019 was classified into three periods for the purpose of statistical analysis: 2005 - 2008 (decreasing trend), 2009 - 2012 (increasing trend) and 2013- 2019 (decreasing trend)respectively. Type of RTAs has been classified into fatal, grievous, minor and damage (Fig. 2). Of those, damage category represented the higher proportion followed by minor category. The rate of the grievous and fatal accidents shows an increasing trend.
The results in Table 1 indicate that the percentages of fatal and grievous have increased over the years. The percentage increases of the mean number of fatal and grievous during 2014-2019, compared to 2009-2013 are 9.8 per cent and 79.2 per cent respectively.
The total number of deaths per year has increased from 2,283 in scenario I to 2,824 in scenario III. The rate of increase is 24 per cent. In all scenarios the pedestrians and motorcyclists represented the highest rate of all deaths followed by passengers. The death rates of both pedestrians and motorcyclists have increased from 51 per cent to 60 per cent. Based on the percentage of death, the type of death in RTAs can be ranked as: pedestrians > motorcyclists > passengers > cyclists > drivers> back-riders >others, irrespective of the scenarios.
Main Reasons for RTAs
The SLPD has identified seven reasons for RTAs including others, which is not well defined. The impact of RTAs to the socitey due others is less, compared to the main.
Results in Table 3 indicate that about 80 per cent RTAs were due to overtaking, diversion, and speed driving. These types of accidents are mainly due to the fact the drivers in Sri Lanka have no discipline when they are driving. In Sri Lanka, signals are hardly used by the drivers, even in highways when overtaking. The purpose of use of signal is to inform other drivers and pedestrians that you are intending to change the direction you are currently moving in. This could be either when you are turning, emerging, overtaking, and changing lanes. The lane driving has not been practised in Sri Lanka, even in one-way roads with 3-4 lanes. If lane driving and use of signals are correctly practised, no doubt, the number of RTAs can be reduced. Furthermore, brake lights are incredibly important, so it is essential to check that they are working regularly. In Sri Lanka, most of vehicle, particular buses, lorries and even cars brake lights are not working. Therefore, higher fines should be imposed for those who do not use signals and who do not drive in lanes properly. It should be noted that RTAs due to alcohol consumptions of driver is 8.7 per cent. The ranking order for the reasons for RTAs can be taken as: overtaking > diversion > speed driving > alcohol consumption of drivers > negligence of pedestrians. Same trend was found when data were analysed separately for three scenarios.
Influential Factors on the Severity of RTAs
In the database of SLPD, the severity of accident has been classified as, ‘fatal’ and ‘non-fatal’. Of various factors, the Chi-square analyses found that road surface, light condition, weather condition, and the age of the driver are the main significantly influential factors on the fatal accidents (Table 4).
The rate of fatal accidents in wet surface (7.7 per cent) is significantly higher than that in dry surface (5.5 per cent). The fatal accidents during night with improper street lighting (8.4 per cent) is significantly higher than that of during day light. The percentage of fatal accidents due to drivers exceeding legal limit of alcohol consumption (3.2 per cent) is significantly lower than that of use of below legal limit or not tested. These results further justify that rate of fatal accidents due to alcohol consumption is also lowest compared to the corresponding rate in other categories. However, it should be pointed out that even at low doses, it may significantly affect driving-related skills such as time to think, vision, braking behaviour, etc. depending on the person.
• Of the four types of RTAs (fatal, grievous, damage and minor), both fatal and grievous accidents have increased while damage and minor accidents have reduced since 2005.
• 83 per cent of RTAs are due to overtaking, speed driving and diversion.
• The RTAs due to alcohol consumptions of driver is (8.7 per cent).
• The average number of fatal accidents per year has increased from 2,283 (2005-2008) to 2,824 (2013-2019). The percentage increase is 24 per cent.
• The condition of road surface, light condition of roads, weather condition, type of vehicle and age of the driver are significantly influential factors on fatal accidents.
• With respect to deaths, pedestrians, and motorcyclists (60 per cent) were more vulnerable road users followed by passengers and cyclists.
• Strict enforcement of lane driving and use of signals would impact to reduce the RTAs.
• This would also help for a significant time saving for drivers.
• The fine for violating lane driving and not use of signals need to be increased.
• The stop signs should be introduced in almost all roads leading to main road.
• Pedestrians should be educated to be more watchfulness while crossing roads
• The fine for alcohol consumption can be reviewed.
• The funds collected from fines from drivers need to be used effectively for properly maintenance of road condition, lanes, lighting conditions, etc.
(Writer is a retired Senior Professor of the University of Moratuwa)