Ensuring Drivers’ Rights | Daily News

Ensuring Drivers’ Rights

Drivers should possess physical and mental fitness.
Drivers should possess physical and mental fitness.

Driving a vehicle is considered to be one of the most complicated and complex activities performed by humans. When a vehicle is manoeuvering it is important to understand that many organs of the driver should be in active for a safe and an effective operation. Therefore, a driver should be in proper physical and mental fitness to manoeuvre a vehicle to reach the destination safely and efficiently.

Unfortunately, this condition is neglected on many occasions, specially in developing countries, drivers are treated as lower class employees and very often their basic requirements are neglected. It can lead to careless and reckless driving and end up with traffic congestion and traffic accidents.

The process of respecting the driving profession should start from the licensing process. It is of paramount importance for both the applicant and governing bodies to understand that, once a driving license is obtained, they enter into one of the most complicated professions in the world.

Driver licensing process

The driving licensing process has many lapses and as a result, inadequately trained and in-competent people enter this profession. In many technically and economically advanced countries, driver licensing is closely monitored by responsible authorities without any political or other kind of influences. They consider it as a highly responsible job rather than earning some quick money like any other business. In addition to training on manoeuvering a vehicle, comprehensive awareness programmes are conducted on different aspects of driving, maintaining vehicles, rules and regulations.

Driver behaviour and attitude are considered at a very high priority during the training period. Respecting other drivers/road users and the importance of sharing the road are highly stressed in such programmes. Number of hours for training is strictly monitored with due consideration on adequate training fulfilled in difficult conditions such as nighttime driving, driving under bad weather, crossing railway level crossings, behaviour at traffic signals, respecting pedestrians etc.

Many countries need around six months of thorough training before obtaining a driving license. The process itself makes the driver license applicant discipline. Very often in countries where driver behaviour is high, the professionally qualified experts have the freedom to introduce and implement suitable laws and guidelines to train driver license applicants.

After entering the world of driving profession also the recognition for the services is minimal. Specially drivers in the professional category should have more privileges than today to deliver their services better. Though drivers are blamed for traffic congestion and traffic accidents frequently, no organisation takes care of driver rights and privileges. Often drivers of the public transport sector do not get a reasonably suitable place to rest until they are assigned to the next journey.

Since there are no designated parking places for many overflow buses, those who are waiting for the next trip have to park by the side of roads. During such waiting time, they neither have good food or refreshments nor decent toilet facilities etc. Depending on the driving timetable, very often drivers do not get an opportunity to return home after the last journey. At the end of the day’s work, while some drivers sleep in the bus itself and other drivers look after various alternatives which may lead to family problems in the long run. Addicting to alcohol and other illicit drugs is also a side effect of this matter.

Drivers of taxi services are the worst. In many cases, drivers do not get more than two or three hours of sleep and rest to meet the demand. Many critical accidents were reported due to tiredness and fatigue of those drivers.

While talking about driver behaviour, congestion and accidents, Governments should think about monitoring these conditions and introduce new mechanisms based on latest technologies available in the 21st Century to control professional drivers. Considering the infrastructure facilities and knowledge of Sri Lankans introducing a monitoring mechanism and implementing to investigate behaviour, the working pattern of professional drivers cannot be that difficult. If there is knowledge and willingness among decision makers and freedom granted to professionals, this cannot be so difficult. Registering drivers on a cloud-based system and granting authority to monitor working times, habits etc., to responsible authorities may have some improvement. It should not be neglected the direct and indirect effect of these on traffic congestion and accidents. Possibilities of these were proven through various rider sharing systems.

Facilities allocated for drivers serving in Government organisations are not that bad. They have a place to rest while waiting and for driving a certain distance some drivers are entitled for an extra payment even during working hours. When they stay away from home some drivers are entitled for various payments such as overtime and staying ready to drive in an emergency etc.

Passengers very often forget or neglect the condition of drivers during long distance travelling. Compared to passengers, drivers are more stressed during long distance travelling. Even though passengers can rest or close their eyes for a few seconds due to tiredness, drivers are not supposed to do so. Specially in long distance travelling, all the passengers fall asleep without understanding the fact that, if the driver also falls asleep, everyone will go to sleep forever. Since drivers are more fatigued than others in the vehicle, there should be volunteers to accompany the drivers’ loneliness to make sure that driver maintains concentration on roads.

There were many incidents of accidents due to drivers falling asleep and none of the passengers were aware about it. After completing the journey, very often though many passengers get transport up to their doorstep, the driver will have to make arrangements to return home. It may be late at night without adequate public transport or under severe weather conditions making it difficult to ride a bicycle or a motor bicycle.

Therefore, all the passengers should understand that drivers are also human beings and their well-being is of paramount importance for the safety of everyone during a journey.

Adequate facilities

Drivers’ physical fitness as well as mental fitness are important to have a safe journey. The culture should be developed to treat drivers as friends and not to forget the drivers for completing the journey safely. To make the driver a companion or friend rather than a servant to assure his better service. Providing a comfortable stay for overnight stays should not be neglected by the responsible people on a trip.

Facilities and well-being of professional drivers should be the highest priority of responsible officers in organisations. There should be an arrangement to check and monitor the variation of physical and mental fitness of drivers. Many countries use to plot biorhythms of drivers on a regular basis to avoid possible mishaps or accidents. Biorhythm is to predict the variation of physical fitness which has a cycle of 23 days, emotional fitness which has a cycle of 28 days and intellectual fitness which has a cycle of 33 days.

Physical fitness is related to physical strength, durability, resistance, stamina and courage. Emotional fitness is related to emotional stability, feeling, intuition, mood, susceptibility, creativity etc. and intellectual fitness is related to thinking, analyzing, judgement, concentration, composition etc.

Since these values vary periodically at different cycles as indicated above, at certain days all three biorhythms can go below a minimum value. According to some studies, when all three biorhythm charts go below a certain value the chance of making mistakes including accidents are high. There are organisations monitoring the biorhythm of their drivers and assign them for alternative work or grant them paid leave on such days to prevent possible danger.

Therefore, rather than making the drivers the main responsible party for congestion and accidents, it is the responsibility of the society to understand the complexity of driving and take necessary precautions to ensure the well-being of drivers.

(Dr. (Eng) Jayalath Edirisinghe - Faculty of Engineering, University of Peradeniya)


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