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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2967

Lalin’s Column: RTAs and seat belts for three wheelers

By Major General (Retd.) Lalin Fernando

The Transport Minister thinks strongly that the over one million 3 wheel vehicles in SL should have seat belts fixed on them as they are a major cause of RTAs. That should be correct as it is so obviously less stable than 4 wheelers.

However one should not forget speeding buses, drunkards, speed fiends, motor cyclists driving with 3 to 4 passengers, many over taking on the wrong side, VIP escorts driving dangerously, rich businessmen’s brats showing off in SUVs, thousands of RTAs where the drivers including VIPs have fled and policemen being abused for cautioning politicians. Not to say rank maverick driving by the 3 wheel drivers that is the actual cause.

To begin with, does the Minister consider it is safe to ride in 3 wheelers especially on the rutty pot holed rural roads that politicians say they need luxury vehicles to ride on (instead of repairing the roads).Many think not. If he thinks it is safe he should first get the 3 wheelers fitted with metal bodies to replace the canvas covering. When 3 wheelers meet with accidents, they invariably bowl over, cracking the heads and limbs of the passengers. As the order to restrict passengers to three (for which the 3 wheeler was made for) has not been enforced, passengers riding on the laps of others get thrown out. Seat belts will be of precious help. Helmets and body armour may be a better bet.

Painting them yellow will help to identify them more easily in traffic and help to avoid collisions. Interestingly that wretched country of origin of the dreaded 3 wheelers, have not given a fig for 3 wheeler seat belts. They produce nearly a million such vehicles annually. Seat belts are still a novelty in that country, like helmets for motor cyclists. The good news is that they are now producing 4 wheelers with seat belts!

When about 4 years ago it was decided that like in the West, motor cyclists must have their lights on during day time as well, why were 3 wheelers exempted? They both weave in and out of traffic like roaches and are as unnoticeable. Is SL only capable of blindly copying the West, Chile, Costa Rica and South Africa?

What about banning 3 wheelers and giving the owners locally made Volkswagens that the PM offered at low prices from mid 2016? What happened to that promise? The Minister may remember the promises of gold necklaces and chewing gum for the masses to win elections while a raging conflict engulfed the nation.

What about enforcing the seat belts law for the exempted vehicles –those with older registrations? Generally except for the pre 1980s vehicles, the others had them in any case but were also exempted. Is safety of life and limb not important for those, especially children, travelling in the older seat belt exempted vehicles?

What about safety harnesses for infants? Can taking small children in the front seat of vehicles and helmetless children riding on motor cycles be outlawed? Should we not also have annual ‘fitness tests’ of all vehicles older than 5 years like in role model Singapore? Singapore also taxes vehicles heavily to reduce pollution and road congestion and encourage use of public transport. What about banning the importation of second hand vehicles too?

Will such measures not help reduce RTAs instead of believing seat belts for 3 wheelers are the required panacea?

What about restricting vehicle speeds to below 30 kph in built up areas that do not have pavements especially in the suburbs, small towns and villages?

The Minister may have also noticed bicyclists darting around at night without lights in addition to not having brakes. They all add up the RTA score.

The Minister must have given thought to the victims of RTAs too. Will they be compensated adequately? How much is a life, leg, arm or spine if not a head worth in SL? Can he not increase the vehicle insurance fees so that adequate and proper compensation for the victims or their NOK is covered without recourse to costly legal measures that are beyond the average RTA victims who are invariably from the poorer people? It will also prevent the driver from escaping manslaughter charges by buying off the victims.

Has he thought about confiscating vehicles involved in RTA deaths and serious injury? He should.

He, as a former Health Minister, must know how much it costs to treat RTA victims alone at all Government emergency and accident facilities across the country. The costs can be defrayed and the medical services improved by recovering such costs in full from Insurance.

Many RTAs occur near schools. Could the Minister not compel owners of all school vans and buses to have them painted an identifying yellow? He should also introduce laws to ensure that all vehicle movement ceases when school buses/vans stop to embus /debus children.

There are over one million RTAs reported, (Police statistics) of which there are nearly 3,000 deaths annually. Maybe the Minister will give thought to promoting maximum rail and more bus travel throughout the country to reduce the RTA figures and traffic congestion drastically. Attracting passengers with air conditioned compartments is long overdue in this 21st century. The people are told incessantly that they are sovereign but it is the servants that get duty free super luxury vehicles for travel.

Sadly, fitting 3 wheelers with seat belts will not be a solution to bring down the number of RTAs especially those related to deaths. Those getting ready to manufacture what will be worthless seat belts for 3 wheelers, will realize this wasn’t such a bright idea to save life or make money. Maybe someone may also get another brain wave and think of issuing aircraft passengers with parachutes for use in midair collisions.

- Asian Tribune -

Lalin’s Column:  RTAs and seat belts for three wheelers
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