Bring in speed guns, breathalysers

Editorial, Normal

FOUR young people, full of vitality and youth, returning from a sporting outing had their lives snuffed out most violently over the weekend at Kwikila in Central province.
The utility truck they were in was negotiating a corner when a 15-seater bus, with by a male driver and one female passenger, careered around the bend into the wrong lane and crashed full tilt into the ute.
Two teenaged boys and two teenaged girls perished on the spot. Two more people have been hospitalised with injuries and, so far as we can tell, others on the utility suffered varying degrees of physical injuries.
There are unconfirmed reports at present that the driver of the offending bus might have been intoxicated but we have been unable to verify this independently. He took off into the bushes when his misjudgment cost the lives of others.
We are reminded too about the fatal accident on June 29, also in the Central province but on the Hiritano Highway to the west in which 17 people lost their lives when two PMV trucks collided near Bereina.
On the same Hiritano Highway on Aug 16, a Toyota Dyna truck carrying a full load of passengers and travelling at high speed, failed to negotiate a corner properly and went off the road, rolling several times.
It is high time the road safety division of the Department of Works and Transport and the police act on the alarming rate of fatal accidents happening all around PNG.
The biggest cause of motor vehicle accidents at the moment appears to be drink driving and high speed and both combined.
Faulty vehicles come a close second as a cause of fatal accidents. Poor conditions of roads actually deter accidents by slowing down drivers rather than becoming a cause of accidents and when accidents do occur, it usually happens when a driver swerves dangerously to avoid potholes.
As a matter of fact, it is the good roads that are causing major accidents when drivers, drunk or otherwise, throw caution to the wind and drive at high speeds.
We have said this before and we repeat here that there is an unwritten rule on PNG’s major highways that drivers do not allow other road users to overtake them.
It calls for major road safety awareness campaigns and for drivers to be given a major dose of road courtesy and manners.
This calls for tougher application of road safety rules, for proper certification and licensing conditions, and for regular stringent checks on roadworthiness of vehicles.
We have it on good authority, for instance, that roadworthiness checks for vehicles are not as thorough as they should be.
We must also ask whatever has become of the big hue and cry about the police department introducing breathalysers and speed guns.
This was being talked about in the mid-1980s and indeed we recollect that a sizeable amount of money was expended to actually purchase both breathalysers and speed guns.
After the items were bought, somebody discovered that the traffic laws needed to be changed before they could be used.
Instead of making the simple amendments to the law, the items were allowed to gather dust and eventually they became obsolete and useless from aging without ever being used.
Both items are in regular use throughout the world by police forces and road safety agents of Government.
Speed guns, for instance, are placed at any point along a highway, without the knowledge of drivers. Any vehicle being driven at dangerous speeds is impounded by police at the next road block.
Because you never know where the speed gun might be and because speeding is so religiously policed, most drivers on major highways in Australia always stay below the speed limit.
This is the easiest way to police high speeds in the country without expanding limited police or transport department manpower in conducting regular road blocks.
The drink driving limit in Australia is 0.05 % of alcohol in the blood stream as measured using a breathalyser.
This is equivalent to two glasses of wine or a full strength measure of spirit or about two beers. If this were to be applied on the roads in PNG, all drivers who drink would be stripped of their licences.
Both speed guns and breathalysers must be introduced as a matter of urgency on the roads.