COLOMBO: Sri Lanka yesterday announced a sharp rise in fines for reckless driving, which kills nearly 3,000 people a year on the island. Transport minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the fine for overtaking from the wrong side-a key cause of accidents-would be raised to 25,000 rupees ($166), 50 times the current rate. The fine for drunk driving will rise from 3,500 rupees to a minimum of 25,000, roughly the monthly salary of a blue-collar worker. De Silva announced the move after talks with bus owners, drivers of three-wheeler taxis and school van operators, who police statistics show are among the worst offenders. They had protested a move earlier this month to increase the minimum fine to 2,500 rupees, up from 500 rupees for the most common traffic violations.
“The government stood firm and there is no question of giving in on the question of road safety,” a finance ministry official said. Bus operators had staged a work stoppage last week to protest the new fines, but they have strong support from the public and the media. Official figures show 2,817 people were killed in road accidents last year in Sri Lanka, which has a population of over 20 million. Almost 100,000 people are critically wounded in road accidents each year, causing a heavy burden on the state-run hospitals. Private surveys have shown that about half the 1.1 million three-wheel taxis are operated by drivers who do not have a license.- AFP