A picture they say, is worth a thousand words and with the vital role of social media coming into play, this has only become amplified. With millions of users logged on to social media platforms like Facebook, twitter and Instagram among others, all it takes is one perfectly captured picture to turn the tables.
The transport strike held on the 02nd of December 2016 has remained a hot topic for the past few days. Many opinions have been speculated upon and many have tried to defend the view of the transport unions while others have opposed their actions. The strike was held in way of opposing the traffic fines that would be imposed at an increased cost of 25,000 LKR, should a driver fail to comply with seven specific traffic regulations. The regulations include drunken driving, overtaking from the left and driving without a valid license.
The strike saw private buses stay off the roads while tuk tuk unions joined the strike. Many tuk tuks were seen bearing a red poster which opposed the imposing of fines.
The strike no doubt inconvenienced many of the general public who had no choice but to make it to their offices on time, with the aid of crowded CTB buses that took to the streets in an effort to offer transport services to stranded passengers. The railway strike that was to happen simultaneously was called off, after the intervention of the President resulted in satisfactory grounds for both parties.
In the midst of all this, social media resumed its role in the form of a single picture that grabbed the attention of many in a matter of minutes. The image on Facebook showed a very orderly looking Galle Road (usually the congestion on the Galle Road reaches migraine-inducing levels) where several CTB buses could be clearly seen travelling along on the bus lane only. The bold and humourous caption was well worded and the post garnered many likes, comments and shares.
From the start there have been a few popular sides of discussion to the topic. One has been that private buses are the root cause of much of the traffic owing to their driving techniques which have been said to lack discipline. Another has been the fact that the increase in fines would dramatically reduce the amount of accidents that happen on a daily basis. This was seconded to a certain extent by a post that indicated a statement released by the National Hospital of Sri Lanka.
This seems to be echoing a statement which the government stated saying that the increase in fines has been considered in order to lower the risk of vehicular accidents that happen almost on a daily basis all around the island.
There have also been many views and stances taken up on social media where many have said that if one is to drive in a safe and ethical manner, then they should not be concerned with the increased rates of fines. Some arguments have even gone on to state that the government should remain firm and private bus owners would have no choice but to resume their jobs after a few days at worst.
On the other hand, there have also been many arguments to say that most drivers cannot afford to pay such a hefty amount and that mistakes are bound to happen at some point unintentionally. The arguments have also pointed out that many Sri Lankans earn 25,000 or less as their monthly salary, which insinuates the massive financial crisis that they would fall into if such a steep increase in fines are imposed.
The truth however remains that the traffic in Sri Lanka is heavy, especially during rush hours and the number of accidents that happen on a daily basis have been increasing gradually and significantly over the years. It is also no secret that the biggest harbingers of such accidents are drunken driving, driving in a reckless manner and driving without a valid license. The increase of traffic fines is a bittersweet reality that would come into action should the Motor Traffic Act amendment be approved.
However, the single click that displayed the orderly nature of the usually congested Galle Road is something that will always remain the elephant in the room and pose a big question to all of us… “What if?…”