2021 May 6
It is no new news that Sri Lanka is known for its wanton fury driving. A casual bump here and an accidental knock there are something of a common sight on local roads. In many instances, drivers must look to their quick-wit and fast reflexes, and anticipate when, where and how another vehicle might react. In this context, the common catchphrase “rules are meant to be broken” is taken quite literally.
The need to abide by road laws and regulations has never been more important, with the number of deaths and fatalities increasing each year. Yet, even the most fundamental rules that every licensed driver is educated with tend to be ‘overlooked’ or ‘forgotten’.
Such rules in Sri Lanka include:
Overtaking must be done from the right lane
As of 2019, a driver can be spot-fined LKR. 2,000 or have a case filed for not adhering to the rules when overtaking. In addition, if the driver attempts to overtake without a clear view of the road ahead, it is considered a common offence.
In addition to this, overtaking in Sri Lankan highways should be done using the inner lane (3rd or 4th lane) and the outer lanes should be only used for driving and not overtaking.
Maintaining the designated speed limit
The speed limit in Sri Lanka varies depending on the type of vehicle and the area. In urban areas and within city limits, the speed limit is 40km/h for motorbikes and heavy vehicles, whilst for cars and light vehicles, it is 60km/h. Beyond the city, the speed limit is 40km/h for motorbikes, 60km/h for motor coaches and heavy vehicles, and 70 km/h for cars and light vehicles.
Left lane discipline
Although one of the oldest laws in the book, many motorists violate the left lane rule, often worming their way onto the right lane through which on-coming traffic runs. Violation of left lane discipline can either result in a spot fine of LKR. 2,000 or having a case filed in court.
Parking in designated parking zones
In many areas, especially within the heart of Colombo, you would find motorists scrambling to find a spot to park, whether it be on the sidewalk, or simply in no-parking areas. Vehicles are often parked halfway onto the road, which can make it difficult for other motorists to maintain left-lane discipline. In accordance with the Motor Traffic Act, as well as the National Highways Act, any motorist whose vehicle is parked in an unauthorised zone will be at risk of having their vehicle towed or facing legal action.
Pedestrian Crossing Law
When it comes to ensuring road safety, there is a responsibility on the parts of both motorists and pedestrians equally. It is imperative that all motorists exercise caution and stop at the signal lights at pedestrian crossings.
Likewise, it is also essential for pedestrians to ensure that they only cross the road at marked pedestrian crossings when the pedestrian signal turns green. Attempting to jaywalk or cross at any arbitrary point on the road is highly dangerous to both the pedestrian and the motorists.
Crossing the solid line is illegal
Under no circumstances can the single white line or double white lines be crossed. In most instances, if there is a cop on the lookout, you are most likely to get caught. However, this violation still goes unnoticed.
‘Nose diving’ at traffic light signals
At red light signals, you can sometimes find motorists creeping in and moving past the assigned white line, and some of them even stop where there is moving traffic instead of waiting behind the designated marking.
Following road signs
Many road accidents are a result of not paying attention to road signs, markings or signals. On certain occasions, motorists voluntarily ignore such signs or are uneducated on the meanings of them. Examples of such instances are taking a U-turn when there is a sign that clearly states no U-turn, driving in the opposite direction of a one-way lane and not paying attention to a sign that denotes a ‘slippery road ahead’.
The extent to which these basic laws are observed by drivers is often put into question and suggests the need to ensure that all citizens are educated on local road rules. The first two months of the year 2021 alone had seen 3,556 road accidents, out of which 959 were vehicle damages, 1560 were minor injuries, 569 were serious accidents and 374 were fatal accidents. Then last month, in April, there were a staggering 1,959 road accidents reported. The number of deaths caused by these accidents stood at 205, whilst 1,259 people were injured.
The phrase “eyes on the road” has never been proven more essential than in such a setting here in Sri Lanka and only further iterates the need to follow all road rules and regulations for the safety of yourself and those around you.