According to the Global Road Safety Report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, Sri Lanka has the poorest record for vulnerable road users in the South Asian region. South. In addition, a World Bank Group report reveals that the estimated annual number of road traffic fatalities per capita in Sri Lanka is double the average rate in high-income countries.

For multiple reasons, road safety has been an extremely critical issue for Sri Lanka over the past two decades. Police reported that despite multiple lockdowns, inter-provincial travel restrictions and other strict health guidelines, there have been 2,419 deaths and a total of 13,469 injuries, of which 52,363 were serious injuries in 2021. Among the fatalities were 697 pedestrians, 901 motorcyclists, 152 passengers, 246 passengers and 14 cyclists.

According to available data, the average number of annual accidents in Sri Lanka is 38,000, with 3,000 fatalities and 8,000 serious injuries. As such, Sri Lanka appears to claim the worst road fatality rate among its immediate neighbors in the South Asian region.

According to specialists, deaths and injuries in road accidents could cost more than 3% of the country’s GDP.

Growing number

The figures above show the severity of the prevailing problem. The ever-increasing number of deaths and injuries related to road accidents has become an extremely distressing problem for the government due to the heavy financial burden on health authorities, the police department, the judiciary and the general public. in general.

The data also indicates that unlike in developed countries where motorists are affected, in Sri Lanka pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists are the most vulnerable to road traffic fatalities and injuries. Experts say many of these deaths and injuries were caused by negligence and most of them could have been prevented.

The competent authorities also reveal that beyond reported traffic accidents, many small accidents are not reported to the police due to the ease of obtaining insurance after an accident. Thus, the actual number of traffic accidents is much higher than the number announced by the police.

As reported by law enforcement sources, the cost of a traffic death proceeding can cost the taxpayer up to one million rupees for the legal proceeding alone. Therefore, counting the 30,000 lives lost in the past 10 years, the cost to the government can easily exceed Rs 30 billion in legal fees and police investigation costs.

The challenge for the country to reduce accidents, fatal or not, is immense. Improvements in the road network over the past two decades, in fact, should have reduced road accidents.


Unfortunately, unlike many other countries where the accident rate has been reduced due to improved road conditions, Sri Lanka’s rate continues to rise. Speeding, ignorance of traffic laws, negligence, influence of alcohol, fatigue and several other reasons have been cited by experts as the main reasons for rock climbing.

The too rapid growth of motorization (67% between 2011 and 2018 according to the data) is another obstacle to accident control.

The roads are flooded with too many vehicles creating severe traffic jams especially in urban areas where drivers try to continue breaking any rule of the road. The trend has temporarily reversed with the recent ban on vehicle imports, although this decision has not led to any improvement in day-to-day accident rates.

Apart from the increase in the number of vehicles on the road, there are several other major reasons that complicate accident control. One of these reasons is improper, uncoordinated and arbitrary construction, expansions or repairs. The traffic jams created by such actions by the government and private sector contractors are numerous and can be observed every day.

In addition, poor practices, inefficiencies and overcrowding in the issuance of driver’s licenses are the other factors that need to be addressed immediately. More often than not, the intention of candidates is entirely based on passing the written test and the driving test to obtain their licence. It is constantly reported in the media that heavy corruption takes place in both tests.

Knowledge from limited practical training and memorization of road signs is insufficient to train a responsible driver. This writer’s brief interviews with several drivers engaged in public transport revealed that they were unaware of the rules or even of the signage except for very basic guidelines. After getting their driver’s license, most of them forget the rules or completely ignore them while driving.

Traffic regulations

The biggest and most horrible reason for road accidents is failure to follow the traffic rules and regulations in the country. In city traffic, three-wheelers and motorcyclists are the biggest offenders. The vast majority of them completely ignore almost all book circulation rules. A complete lack of interest in other road users is evident in these errant drivers.

The greatest threat to the prevention of road accidents in urban areas is the lack of attention of motorists to lane discipline. Time and again, the police try to reintroduce these traffic rules through various programs.

In 2018, the police traffic division attempted to impose lane discipline to minimize traffic jams and reduce accidents. Although everyone complied at the initial stage, a few weeks later the rules were willfully forgotten by road users and law enforcement.

The most dangerous lane violation in lane discipline is changing lanes without indication. Most three-wheelers and motorcyclists violate lane discipline by overtaking on the left, in complete disregard of the law. In addition, most of them constantly change lanes, endangering other drivers.

Private bus drivers are also serious traffic offenders. Due to fierce competition among private buses, traffic rules are constantly broken and reckless driving takes place all over the country.

Traffic Laws

They don’t respect the rules of the road and depress all other road users. These irresponsible drivers make arbitrary stops to pick up passengers, overtake dangerously without worrying about collisions, and race other buses to maximize their earnings.

Despite the heavy system of fines introduced in 2018 for many traffic offences, the number of accidents and deaths related to road accidents is on the rise.

This phenomenon indicates that drivers and riders are not affected by fines. They obey the rules only in the presence of the police. On the other hand, due to insufficient facilities compared to developed countries, to apprehend violators, traffic officers must be physically available at all times.

Fatigue, daytime sleepiness, speeding and drunk driving are also causes of road accidents. Fatigue encourages commercial vehicle drivers to consume illicit substances. Recent media reports have revealed that many private bus drivers even consume alcohol or other similar substances during working hours to avoid fatigue and boredom.

The demerit point system in practice in many developed countries has proven its effectiveness in influencing the behavior of drivers to comply with traffic laws. Some research shows a substantial reduction in road accidents with this effective monitoring system. The police recently announced that they will implement this technology-based system this year.

The demerit system, when properly in action, will be used to monitor traffic violations and keep unsafe drivers off the roads. In this system, points will be deducted from the license, depending on the type of infraction. When a driver’s demerit points reach 24 points in one year, the license will be suspended or revoked.

A sustainable and systemic approach to road safety is an urgent need for Sri Lanka. Better enforcement of road safety rules, education of all road users, including commuters, and perhaps a stricter system of fines outside of the demerit point system, could improve the situation. awful prevailing.

Improving deteriorating road safety is essential to the country’s economic growth. Road accidents create unbearable health expenses running into millions of rupees and a colossal loss of valuable time for many road users other than accident victims. With proper control of road safety through an effective mechanism, Sri Lanka can achieve significant welfare gains for the people.

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