Sri Lankan roads are dangerous but slow. The new Southern Expressway promises to change that, so people really need to learn a new sort of driving. During the day in Sri Lanka, your maximum speed is about 40 kph, and during rush hour the average is probably 20. On the Expressway, the minimum speed is 80 kph and the max is 100 kph. I have rarely gone about 80 here, nor have many people. Could be trouble.
Current Accident Rate
If you’re going to die, it will be on the Kandy Road, or some interstate/local road between cities. The danger is that something like, say, the Galle Road is both a national highway and a residential street and a tourist strip. Many of these major roads are also two lanes (at times) and to overtake you have to take great risks. There are buses, people, bikes and trishaws on the road and it’s a bad scene.
In city driving, by contrast, it’s the same craziness at a much lower speed. Unless you get caught in an intersection you’re unlikely to get hammered at speed, though fender benders are likely. It’s also important to note that car sales have increased dramatically after the tax decrease and there are more, newer drivers on the road. For an idea of current accident rates, see the Daily Mirror:
Six people die daily in Sri Lanka from road accidents with a total of 1,750 people having lost their lives from 1,527 fatal road accidents reported up to September this year, the police said.
The largest number killed was 680 pedestrians. Police said 28,625 accidents were reported up to September with 13,463 being injured and 13,590 properties damaged.
They said most of these accidents had taken place in the third quarter of the year with a total of 632 fatal accidents which killed 72 cyclists, 220 motorcyclists, 73 drivers, and 315 pedestrians. (Daily Mirror)
The Southern Expressway is a proper highway (no cattle, roadside shops, tractors, etc), which solves the mixed market problem of, say, the Galle Road, but it also has people going at speeds where any accident is far more likely to be fatal. If you run into a motorbike at 90 kph it’s very different from doing so at 40, and I think even logarithmically different from doing so at 80.
Bleed For Speed
Since the expressway is new, the Chartered Institute Of Logistics And Transport has recommended phasing in its use along with education.
Users should understand that at high speed, a lapse will result in terrible tragedies that could be very serious and involve many vehicles and lives. Drivers must slowly learn the fine art of smooth merging and diverging at ramps. The ramp entry and exit maneuvers are likely to be difficult for drivers who have not used these before. The vehicles on the expressway should give way to entering traffic. It is necessary to establish correct pattern for this before allowing large numbers to use these. (via W3 Lanka)
In the same vein, blogger Serendipity says:
I believe that fewer vehicles should be initially allowed on this road for a gradual transition into the new driving style. So a 6month period of 300% of the proposed toll charge would be a way to control the numbers using market forces. A leaflet upon entry for the first month highlighting these issues must be given to the driver and specifically asked to study this as an added requirement. After all we are doing our best to reduce the cost to the State of accidents, and it is better to be “penny wise than be pound foolish”. Happy Motoring!! (Serendipity)
The government has put CCTV cameras along the road and cops with cars (a rarity, a street cop in Colombo will often use your car to arrest you), but they also made the lanes narrower to save money and there isn’t much of a shoulder to pull over. Nor are there lights for long stretches. Nor, incidentally, are their toll booths built into the original plan, so not sure how they even collect.
On the whole though, I’m impressed that they built a road in less than a generation and am looking forward to checking it out. Apparently you can get down to Galle in 1:30, which would make it almost commuting distance.