Herald: Roads to bloody deaths 5 days 11 deaths

Roads to bloody deaths 5 days 11 deaths

23 Apr 2016 04:54am IST
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23 Apr 2016 04:54am IST
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Who or what is to be blamed for the increasing number of road accidents? Is it those behind the wheel or is it a fault in road engineering, or is it the authorities failing to act stringently against traffic rule violators? VIBHA VERMA attempts to answer the questions.

Early April brought the shocking news that a government high school principal had been crushed under the wheels of a sewerage tanker at Campal, Panjim. Accidents, and deaths resulting from them, are not uncommon in the State. Nearly 80 persons lost their lives on the roads in the first three-and-a-half months of 2016, a statistic that is unnerving and of concern. And even before the State could overcome the trauma of the increasing fatalities on the road, 11 persons died in accidents in just five days, driving home the fact that Goa’s roads are just not safe.

Records indicate that Goan roads have largely turned into deathtraps. There has been a nearly 15 percent monthly increase in road accident deaths in January-February compared to the same months in 2015. The first two months of the year saw 59 deaths. However, the report of each road accident, prepared by the traffic cell reveals that rash and negligent driving and over speeding by riders/drivers are the main causes of 

the accidents.

Considering the rather alarming situation, the question arises whether the Road Safety Week observed twice a year – once by Transport Department and the other by the Traffic Cell – is actually taken seriously or is a mere formality. How far has it succeeded in curbing the increasing number of road accidents? The fact remains that road safety awareness campaigns are short lived especially as a majority of riders and drivers, including youth, continue defying the rules. This is even as the Traffic Education Cell claims imparting training to students.

“No government can solve this problem unless there is a ‘transport and traffic policy’ in place. Imposing challans and fines will not help tackle the menace. Once the policy is in place, everything will be streamlined,” Gurunath Kerekar, whose NGO Movement for Amity towards Roads in Goa (MARG) stresses on the need to inculcate better traffic sense, told Herald.  

Raising concerns over the risk to life owing to rising accidents, the Ministry for Road, Transport and Highways had recently in principle approved Rs 200 crore funds under road safety for development and maintenance of accident prone areas in the State. The Traffic Department has so far identified 55 accident prone zones of which 38 are on the national highways and 17 on the roads.

Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has said that the Public Works Department (PWD) has carried out rectification at a majority of the accident prone spots for short term measures, while long term measures require land acquisition, which would be taken up 

in phases. 

“The short term measures include providing sign boards, road markings, speed breakers, etc. Wherever possible where land is available, the roads have been and are being widened. Other speed calming measures like rumbler strips, speed limits, etc are also undertaken,” he said. 

So who is to be blamed for the accidents on the roads? Is it the riders or the drivers for violating the Motor Vehicles Rules, faults in road geometrics or the authorities for failing to act stringently against the violators? Ironically, the State government spends lakhs of rupees annually on awareness drives mobilizing officials and the people, but the money appears to have been spent in vain.

This is a complex question, Roland Martins of GoaCan – another organization that works towards creating awareness on road discipline – said, claiming that various factors contribute to road-related accidents.

“There is speeding wherever heavy vehicles are involved. Moreover, the scorching heat is another factor, which is usually ignored by many. The riders have to take precautions, not only in the summer but in the rains too. There is no lane awareness as rash and negligent driving, and over speeding are common among the motorists/drivers,” he said.

The PWD has denied that poor road conditions is one of the reasons for the rising accidents, stating that Goa’s roads are far better than those in other states. In addition to this, efforts have been made to ensure accident prone zones are made safer. 

“The road structure is comparatively better than any other state in the country. The main problem lies with the vehicle density. There is sudden surge in vehicle registration,” assistant surveyor of road works Nitin Neurekar said.

The authorities have also put the onus on bike riders claiming they are the biggest violators. At the same time, car drivers too fail in road discipline by parking their vehicles by the roadside and taking up road space instead of in a 

parking lot.

“Two-wheeler riders are the most dangerous. They do not wear helmets and also flout other rules. The violation is mostly reported by the educated people. They will park their vehicles on the roadside where there is no parking, and suddenly enter the lane posing a risk to other vehicle users too,” the 

official said. 

The road safety campaigners have demanded intensifying awareness programs and to activate the Centre’s Road Safety & Traffic Management in all the villages. Martins concedes that the implementation is not serious. Kerkar suggests replicating the odd-even Delhi traffic model with a slight modification. “Let two-wheelers and four-wheelers ply every alternate day. This will reduce congestion and accidents,” he opined.

The concern is not restricted to a particular year as the latest data shows that the State witnessed an increasing spate of fatal accidents every year. For the year 2015, a total of 316 deaths involving different vehicles were reported with rough calculations indicting 26 deaths per month. In 2014, 304 people lost their lives while 279 people died in 2013. 

“These accidents have left many families shattered. Some lost their parents, siblings or children. One should not hold the authorities responsible alone, but he/she should take every precautionary measure and diligently follow traffic rules while riding/driving,” young social activist Ruan Mendes said. 

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