Monday, September 26, 2011

Why the driving on Sri Lankan roads is so bad

Just had a chat with someone who will be sitting for the driving test next month. I asked her if she had read the Highway Code. She said no, she had heard that it exists but no one told her to read it.

She has already sat the written paper where road signs and rules are tested. I asked how she studied for the paper, apparently the driving school provided the answers to the questions, which she memorised. The Department of Motor Traffic apparently has only three standard papers and answers were provided for all the papers.

The driving school charges Rs.15,000/- which includes a bribe of Rs.1,000/- to the examiners. What they seem to be teaching is control of the vehicle and whatever minimal knowledge (which side of the road to drive on etc) is necessary to get on the road.

I was wondering why the driving on Sri Lanka's roads was so bad, now I know why. I have noticed a spate of fatal accidents on outstation roads of late, one needs to be extra cautious when driving long distances, especially with long distance buses.

Perhaps we should use the train more frequently. Then again, perhaps not.


Lady divine said...

This has been going on for a while.

How I got my license is, my dad used to teach me in my younger days.. so when I went to the learners, they got me to drive for about 2 days and said I knew all I had to know and put me for the exam and trial straight away.

I did not pay any bribes. I went through the little handbook that was given and did the exam.

At the time I did it, it only took me 15 mins to finish it and I walked off. the others were staring at me and answering as if they were doing their degree!! lol

but this was about 10 yrs ago...

Money talks. Safety seems to be secondary.

Dee said...

Why does there always always ALWAYS have to be a cheap, sleazy way to get things done here? sigh. -_-

Jack Point said...

Quite right LD. It was the similar when I took my driving test. Things have gone downhill since then.


Bit depressing, isn't it :(

Donald Gaminitillake said...

Main problem is lack of responsibility.

Culprit is Insurance Companies

They do not pay any compensation to accident victims unless you go to courts. This will take at least 10 years or more. Who is going to pay the legal costs!!!

If you meet with an accident and break your bone. You will have to spend your own money and get the medication.

Drivers liability is to take you to a hospital and dump you. Go to the police station and make a complaint.

Police will take action against the driver if he has violated any highway code. Drivers liability is to pay the fine or go to jail or go home.

Sri Lanka's Insurance Laws have to be amended. No news paper will publish these comments because the NEWS PAPER will lose the ads from the insurance company. It is an insurance mafia which has to be tackle first.

Lankan Kolla said...

I don't think bad driving mainly exists for these reasons. It is true that they contribute. I think the bad driving is mainly cultural. People drive around here as if they are always trying to catch a flight. Then then get to work and doze off and don't do anything. People also do not respect each other. If you want to turn into the main road, you can't just turn on your signal light and wait until somebody gives you room. You have to slowly nudge forward and forcefully enter the main road. People just don't care about others so they drive as such. I think that is the main reasons...

Bimal said...

One of my friends at work told me recently that the highway code is no longer published due to some dispute between RDA and some other party (can't quite remember who). All a part of this lovely island life I guess :-)

Jack Point said...


so now no one can learn the rules even if they want to. I suppose. Someone has put this online, not sure if its uptodate:

Lanka Kolla, yes lack of courtesy is also a problem, but this is also supposed to be taught.

DG, thanks for dropping by.

sbarrkum said...

About 20 years ago my ex failed her written test in the US. New York state to be exact which has fairly stringent on testing. Probably fair enough given the ex had studied in a Central Madya Maha Vidyalaya and hadnt even passed her O'L's (long story that, not for the want of intelligence for sure).

Anyway, got hold of sheaf of past examinations thru the Immigrant network and the ex studied off those papers. Passed with 80%-90% if I recall. Then we passed on copies of those papers (free photo copying in grad school) to our neighbors and colleagues in grad school, ranging from East European, to Orientals.

I have really no idea if the local native population also has access to the same set of past examinations. Most probably they do, if they look around.

This is really no different from taking tests, be it Driving Test, O/L's, A/L's or an MBA. Just because you passed the test does not imply you have a understanding of the subject matter. i.e. if you were posed a question or problem in slightly different form would you be able to answer or have a solution.

While writing this recalled a very personal experience. US GRE exams to apply for grad schools has a section called Aptitude Test (Logical Reasoning) a section no longer used. Example Logical Reasoning Question. I had practiced off the study books at the American Center (Barrons and the like). When I took the exam, the questions were all structured quite differently. Ended up scoring only 75% (percentile to be exact) whereas I was doing 90% on the old format. Went home and looked at the booklet sent by ETS and they clearly showed examples of the new format. I just had been too lax to read the brochure (ever since them read brochures (that matter) very carefully).

So I think two morals.
a) Regardless of how much preparation you have had, if the examination structure changes you can be thrown off balance.
b) Just because you passed a test does not mean you have ability. e.g. A MBA probably works for someone whole barely went thru school. e.g.some of the Old lorry/Truck drivers will probably dance rings around reaction and anticipation of problems on the road.

Jack Point said...

Interesting perspective Sbarrkum, thanks for that.

Rahul said...

I visited to most of places you have mentioned above when I came to Sri Lanka in the last 2 year.Sri Lanka Driver in a poor state of roads and 200 km ride is like a day. 40 km per hour on the highway, even if the map is very large - a long distance with an average speed of about 30 can be specified.