Sri Lanka: Accidents don’t happen, they are caused

27 Jan

LXinfoImage1224-Ahungalla Sri Lanka January 1989The following letter appeared in the January 26th, 2014 edition of Sri Lanka’s Sunday leader:

The worst rail-road tragedy in Sri Lanka took place at the unprotected level crossing in Ahungalla 25 years ago on January 17th, 1989.

A bus from Ambalangoda CTB depot collided with a train at Ahungalla killing 38 on the spot and fatally injuring 75 people. Of those who got injured, 62 were children and 13 were adults. During the period, I was the general manager of the Southern Region Transport Board evaluating, mentoring and supervising bus services of 10 CTB depots in Galle- Matara and Hambantota Districts.

According to a comprehensive study of the tragedy at Ahungalla, we have to agree with the comment that accidents do not happen but they are caused.

No one can predict when an accident will occur. The loss happened due to some road accidents is immense and unbearable. Even though the loss of property could be assessed and compensated, loss of human lives is beyond compensation. The loss of a father or a mother, the only breadwinner of a family or the only child of the family could not be compensated in rupees and cents and the vacuum cannot be filled forever.

The following passage quoted from the book Accidents Happen published in 1978 in the United Kingdom is an eye opener to all interested in preventing road accidents. “My son shall learn to sail a boat before he drives a car. In a sail boat he gets power only through his discipline and his ability to master nature. But in the motor car he gets power without discipline and without control” (Josiah Royce).

According to the Traffic Gazette – Sri Lanka Central Transport Board – a driver has to stop the vehicle at an unprotected level crossing and must ensure safety before driving at the lowest gear across the unprotected level crossing.

In view of the 25th Anniversary of the Rail – Bus Tragedy at Ahungalla, I would like to draw the attention of officials at the Ministry of Transport to bring in regulations, which are already included in SLCTB. traffic gazette.

To enforce highway discipline and to evolve a programme to eradicate this social menace we need every official of police, education, health, highway departments, non-governmental organizations and all concerned to take an active part.

E. Shelton de Silva
Former General Manager,
Southern Region Transport Board”

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