Need for road discipline to prevent accidents | Sunday Observer

Need for road discipline to prevent accidents

8 January, 2023

With hundreds of road accidents recorded every day across Sri Lanka, the astonishingly and intolerably rising number of road accidents has become a critical issue. According to the Ministry of Transport and Highways, a report in 2021 revealed 2,414 fatal accidents (official figures for 2022 have not yet been published), highlighting the gruesome nature of the prevailing situation.

According to media sources, there are more than twelve fatalities every day in road accidents, with motorcycle riders being the highest number of victims.

Road indiscipline has emerged as the major cause of traffic incidents, according to experts, although other factors exist.

Recklessness, indiscipline, lack of knowledge of laws, speeding, gross neglect of social responsibility, and the negligence of pedestrians are some key areas that require the attention of the authorities, who are seemingly not paying adequate attention to the rising national issue.

Currently, the only way to prevent road accidents is to enforce the law against errant drivers. However, the expert opinion is that the remedies go far beyond mere law enforcement. The issue desperately requires public understanding and participation and changing the attitudes of road users is a key factor in curbing road indiscipline.

Overspeeding on roads is one of the most critical practices that cause road accident fatalities in Sri Lanka.

Regardless of the legal ramifications, cautions, and particularly media reports with photographs or violent video footage as evidence, trustworthy sources indicate that excessive speeding is one of the most contributing factors in the escalating number of serious road accidents. Over speeding violations are becoming more common, particularly with the expansion and widening of roadways outside of cities.

Speeding puts the lives of the speedster, commuters, innocent bystanders, and even law enforcement authorities in peril, apart from their own.


When considering Sri Lanka’s motor vehicle driver population, most drivers do not behave aggressively behind the wheel. However, the smaller percentage that drives carelessly and at high speeds causes not only human losses, such as injuries and fatalities, but also costs the Government a significant sum of money in property damage and legal fees.

Reckless driving is another factor that causes road accidents and collisions. Many of these collisions can be avoided if drivers adopt safe driving practices. However, errant drivers approach driving safety in another way. They drive recklessly, fail to signal, weave in and out of traffic, and use their cars as an outlet for their emotions. These careless actions lead to accidents and an excessive number of terrible, preventable injuries and fatalities.

With the significant increase in the number of automobiles in Sri Lanka over the past few decades, traffic violations have been identified as one of the major contributing factors to an increase in road accidents and fatalities. Speeding, unauthorised lane changes, and disregarding traffic signs are some of these driving infractions.

Unlike in more developed countries, most Sri Lankan drivers, particularly private bus drivers, three-wheel drivers, and motorcyclists, drive carelessly on purpose. Specifically, three-wheel drivers and motorcyclists slip through any available gap, completely disregarding the road rules, laws, and what they have learned at their driving tests.

According to experts, factors such as lack of sleep, medical conditions, alcohol and drugs, and excessive fatigue all contribute to driver recklessness. Nevertheless, irrespective of the reason, reckless driving behaviour poses an unacceptable and intolerable threat to other road users.

Driving while under the influence of alcohol or any other psychoactive substance raises the possibility of a collision that causes fatalities or serious injuries. When a driver is intoxicated while operating a vehicle, the probability of a traffic collision rises gradually.

Awareness programs

Although the prevailing laws are strong, no reduction in alcohol- or drug-related accidents is visible at this point. Hence, apart from tightening laws, the authorities must introduce awareness programs for the new drivers when they obtain their licenses.

On Sri Lankan roads, lack of lane discipline is another intolerable menace. As with many such irresponsible driving practices, private bus drivers, three-wheel drivers, and motorcyclists are the biggest culprits in violating lane discipline. The primary offenders are those who disregard traffic laws and regulations and act disrespectfully towards all other road users. These reckless motorists and bikers wreak havoc in a traffic bottleneck by flagrantly flouting lane discipline.

The implementation of lane discipline by law enforcement a few times not only brought some relief to the law-abiding drivers, but it also significantly reduced traffic congestion in the cities and suburbs. This was identified as a crucial first step in establishing road discipline. The police attempted to bring the offenders who disregarded the traffic laws to

As in many other spheres in Sri Lanka, this effort was short-lived due to multiple factors beyond its control. The biggest drawback came from the inadequacy of traffic police staff. Also, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent political incidents in the country have reduced the significance of lane discipline operations.

Taking driving lessons is the most appropriate stage for instilling a sense of responsibility when driving. Any driver learns to drive through either a driving school or occasionally through private coaching. This is the best time to educate drivers about laws, rules, driving ethics, social responsibility, and the fines and other consequences of traffic offenses.

The current practice is that most driving schools grossly disregard teaching ethics and social and moral responsibility. They merely teach how to drive on a road and get through the diving tests. Their intention is only to prepare their students to get through the tests. The drivers and riders produced by weak driving schools learn only the basic road rules and traffic signs.

Most often, they are unaware of the bigger picture. Most of these institutions use nefarious means to obtain licenses for their trainees. The most gruesome factor is that, at present, there is no regulatory authority to monitor or supervise the activities of driving schools.


The Government should take methodical, long-term initiatives to ensure road safety and the protection of all road users, including commuters. The country’s economic development was also hampered by the poor state of road safety.

Millions of rupees in unnecessary medical expenses are incurred because of traffic accidents. Also, other road users lose a tremendous amount of valuable time as a result. Therefore, it is direly necessary for Sri Lanka to significantly improve road safety through an effective mechanism.

The current system of driver licensing is extremely weak. Various types of existing corrupt acts inside the licensing authorities disrupt a clean process of licensing. Therefore, establishing a strong driver licensing procedure is desperately required to improve the present ghastly situation where driving licenses are issued through questionable processes. Also, as discussed previously, the practical tests and examinations must be more pragmatic and robust.

The authorities must find a sustainable solution to road discipline and safety as early as possible. The road indiscipline menace not only harms the public but also runs into staggering amounts of public funds, according to police sources, through accident damages to people and property, legal expenditures, and wasted human hours.