Published on: April 9, 2024

Government Urges Public Caution to Reduce Road Accidents and Firework Incidents During the New Year Season

  • Fatal Accidents on Expressways Expected to Increase in 2024.
  • The 1955 Hotline Operational 24/7 for Reporting Traffic Violations by Drivers.
  • Rest Areas for Fatigued Drivers Implemented to Prevent Expressway Accidents.

The government is urging the public to exercise caution and minimize road accidents and firework-related incidents during the upcoming Sinhala and Tamil New Year season. Reports indicate that a significant portion of accidents during this festive period, approximately 36%, are attributed to the use of fireworks, along with 17% of eye injuries reported during this time are due to the use of firecrackers and fireworks.

In response to these concerns, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Health have collaborated on a special program aimed at raising awareness and reducing incidents of road accidents and firework-related injuries during the festive season.

Meanwhile, a special press conference was convened today (09) at the Presidential Media Center (PMC) by the Ministry of Transport and the National Council on Road Safety. The purpose of this media briefing was to inform the public about measures being taken to mitigate road accidents during the festive period.

Dr. Sajith Ranathunga, a consultant surgeon at the National Hospital Colombo, highlighted the concerning increase in fatalities resulting from head-on collisions, three-wheeler accidents, and motorcycle accidents. He emphasized that many individuals injured in these severe accidents have yet to fully recover, underscoring the long-term impact of such incidents. Dr. Ranathunga noted that a significant proportion of fatal accidents occur outside of expressways, with approximately ten deaths occurring daily as a result. He urged the public to exercise caution and take proactive measures to mitigate road accidents.

Acting Director General of the National Transport Commission Ms. Nayomi Jayewardene provided insights into ongoing efforts to address road safety concerns. She outlined an awareness program targeting bus owners and drivers aimed at reducing accidents involving buses during the festive season. Additionally, Ms. Jayewardene highlighted the operation of a dedicated hotline, 1955, available round-the-clock to report drivers violating traffic regulations. She assured prompt responses from officials to address complaints received through this hotline, thereby enhancing road safety measures.

Eng. Priyantha Sooriya Bandara, Director General of the Road Development Authority, addressed the media briefing, emphasizing the preparations underway to manage the influx of vehicles on expressways during the festive season. With an estimated two hundred thousand vehicles expected to utilize the expressways, arrangements are being made to keep toll booths open at all gates. Additionally, cashiers stationed at these toll booths are advised to ensure they have sufficient change available for the convenience of drivers, thereby mitigating traffic congestion. In an effort to enhance safety on the expressways, plans are in place to establish resting areas for fatigued drivers ahead of the New Year Season. Eng. Sooriya Bandara urged all drivers to exercise discipline and adhere to traffic regulations to minimize accidents during the festive season, particularly on the expressways.

Dr. Chamod Hettiarachchi, a member of the Advisory Committee for Expressway Safety Actions provided insights during the media briefing, highlighting key statistics and factors contributing to accidents on expressways. He emphasized that 56% of accidents on expressways are attributed to driver negligence, underscoring the grave consequences of such incidents. Among these accidents, 35% resulted in fatalities or permanent disabilities, illustrating the severity of the issue. Over the thirteen years since the construction of the Southern Expressway, a total of 9,375 road accidents have been recorded, with 5,292 attributed to driver negligence. Tragically, these accidents claimed the lives of 66 individuals and left 637 permanently disabled.

Dr. Hettiarachchi further noted that survey reports have identified three main reasons for accidents on expressways: driver negligence, vehicle maintenance issues and accidents caused by third parties. These findings underscore the importance of addressing these factors comprehensively to enhance expressway safety and mitigate the risk of accidents.

Senior Superintendent of Police Mr. Mayura Perera, Director of the Southern Expressway Police Division, provided an update on expressway accidents during the briefing. He highlighted that in the year 2024, there have been 07 fatal accidents on expressways thus far, indicating an increase compared to the previous two years. In 2022, there were 17 fatal accidents recorded on expressways, while in 2023, the number reduced to 04. In light of these statistics, Mr. Perera urged all drivers to prioritize road safety and adhere to disciplined driving practices, especially during the festive season, to contribute to reducing accidents on expressways.

Mr. Thushara Suraweera, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Highways, addressed the need for updating regulations in the Motor Traffic Act to address accidents caused by distracted driving due to the use of new technological communication tools. He emphasized the importance of adapting rules to current conditions to enhance road safety. Furthermore, Mr. Suraweera highlighted the intention to standardize driver’s license requirements through driver training programs. This initiative aims to cultivate disciplined drivers by instilling a change in attitude towards road safety and responsible driving practices.

Director General (Technology) of the Ministry of Transport and Highways Mr. J.I.D. Jayasundara, along with Chairman of the National Council for Road Safety Mr. M.K.R. Gunaratne and other officials participated in the event to address road safety concerns and initiatives for the upcoming festival season.

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