Sense and sensorsApril 25, 2012, 12:00 pm
An alarming increase in the number of cyclists killed in road mishaps in the UK has jolted an engineers' association into calling upon the British government to adopt what is known as intelligent transport technology. Cyclists' deaths averaging eight a day are reported to have risen by 7 per cent in the past year. These tragic accidents are mostly blamed on the so-called drivers' blind-spots. As a way out, Britain has decided to equip all lorries and buses with collision-avoidance technology (sensors alerting drivers to cyclists and pedestrians they cannot see in mirrors) by 2015, BBC says quoting a report issued by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (UK), which also recommends automated emergency response systems to prevent road accidents.
In trying to curb the frighteningly high incidence of fatal road accidents that have snuffed out over 40,000 lives during the past three decades in this country, the government should be awake to the novel methods other countries are adopting to address the problem. The number of heavy vehicles is rapidly increasing and most roads are too narrow and congested to facilitate a smooth flow of traffic. The result has been an unholy mess where motorists, cyclists and pedestrians make a lemming-like rush, exposing themselves as well as others to danger. Metal behemoths thunder along and make sharp turns haphazardly with no concern for other road users. The government should seriously consider taking a leaf out of Britain's book.
The cost of the new British road safety technology is not known and our government worthies notorious for jacking up taxes whimsically should desist from making it as expensive as the autopilot system of a jumbo jet. They have created a situation where we pay for used cars the prices of limousines in other countries, as it were.
It may be wrong for us to blame drivers alone for the mayhem on roads. Most cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists seem to have a death wish. Many bicycles are not fitted with lights and reflectors and their riders wear dark colours at night thus risking life and limb. Jaywalking seems to be our national pastime and most people take strolls across busy roads yakking on mobile phones and giggling while motorists gnash teeth and emit expletives. Some motorcyclists in a mighty hurry––in most cases to do little or nothing at the other end––practise the well-of-death stunts on the highway only to return home with undertaker's stitches or realise how sickeningly boring it is to stare at repulsive-looking hospital ceilings. If road safety is to be ensured, besides sensors for heavy vehicles, some sense needs to be knocked into these errant road users.
Monitoring blood pressure
The government is to be commended for its decision to install free blood pressure monitors in public places. Most people are either too busy to go to hospital for blood pressure checks or just take it for granted until the Grim Reaper rattles the gate.
However, there are several other facilities that the government should make available for the benefit of the public. Drinking fountains and public conveniences are conspicuous by their absence in all parts of the country. The situation in Colombo is far worse than elsewhere. Sri Lankan commuters are apparently blessed with XXL bladders and extra-strong sphincters. But, when push comes to shove, some of them are compelled to cause pavements, wayside walls, trees and lampposts to stink. How does the government propose to solve this problem and bring relief to the public?
Hospitals are beset by severe shortages of essential drugs. People have to beg on roads to raise funds for life-saving operations as the state-run hospitals cannot clear long waiting lists due to lack of facilities and personnel. Why doesn't the government make a genuine effort to find a cure for the serious ills the health sector is afflicted with?
It may not be too cynical a view that besides blood pressure monitors, the government should set up facilities to check whether people have enough blood in them. Malnutrition is rampant and many people are anaemic as is common knowledge. If the government cannot make food available freely at affordable prices, it should at least test the public for anaemia. Fair enough, eh?
Government politicians are also responsible for some of the blood related problems of the public. They, more often than not, make people's blood boil and run cold. It was only the other day that a political windbag caused blood pressure of all Sri Lankans to shoot up by making an asinine claim that a person could live on a meagre income of Rs. 2,500 a month. So, while thanking the government for setting up free blood pressure monitors in public places, we suggest that it be considerate enough to help control people's blood pressure by making its cantankerous politicians with deep pockets and shallow minds keep their traps shut.