18 Nov 2017 04:30am IST
Jose Maria Miranda
We have been rightly and stiffly opposing and fighting issues which could seriously affect our health, livelihood, environment and the future of our Goa and Goans. But we have silently and perhaps helplessly been watching the regular and unusually frequent avoidable road accidents, which continue bringing pain and desolation to numberless families nearly every day. For a civilized lot that we consider ourselves to be, it ought not to be necessary to debate this issue so very often in newspapers columns and elsewhere. But unfortunately it is. I myself feel despondent in writing on this topic again and again because either very few read and even fewer act or we have turned so irresponsible and insensitive that we prefer to ignore what is being said, written or happening. It is no gainsaying that it is the explosion of vehicles and absence of effective public transport that are the main causes of accidents, but had we been in lesser hurry in reaching our destination, which may eventually never happen, or been more cautious and concerned or thoughtful of others, things would have surely been different. Needless to say that speed, recklessness and hazardous overtaking are the biggest menace on our roads and the cause of major accidents. It is common experience that where the vehicles involved in accidents are at moderate speed, they are unlikely to be fatal or cause major injuries, except in case of freak mishaps, which are rare.
If the Government is really sincere and serious in reducing road accidents, the first step to be taken in this direction is to fix maximum speed limits both inside and outside our cities. But then the usual explanation is that the Police are not equipped with gadgets to check the speed. If that is the case, then where is the seriousness in curbing road accidents? When even the Dy. SP Traffic rightly asserts that it is the vehicle explosion and rash and negligent driving that are the main causes of serious accidents, what steps has the Government taken in this regard? Is it only by increasing fines for violations to make funds available, perhaps to fill potholes…? Will this cash starved Government ever consider bringing some controls on vehicle population? And what kind of violations are the Police and Transport Dept looking at? Only absence of crash helmets, seat belts, pollution certificates and documentation? Will these violations really prevent accidents? Another excuse given for not curbing speed and recklessness is that they are unable to stop such vehicles at the spot. Surely, that should never be done lest the Police themselves provoke an accident. Registration No. needs to be noted, wherever possible and over-speeding drivers summoned. That would also send strong signals of Police alertness and also be a warning to the drivers that they are being watched. Unfortunately that does not happen and road maniacs have a field day.
Will Minister Dhavlikar explain why are dividers, at least the rubberized ones, not being erected on broad stretches like in Nuvem, Verna and Borda in Margao? Wouldn’t they ensure more traffic discipline and help pedestrian crossing? Also absence of proper lighting near dividers and failure to paint them, have caused many vehicles to crash on them. Surely all traffic rules need strict enforcement but let traffic discipline, particularly reckless driving be the main focus. The Police in Goa have now introduced a Traffic Sentinel Scheme whereby citizens can provide the Police with pictures/videos of traffic violations on watsapp and get rewards. Apparently around 350 people have enrolled for the Scheme and several traffic violations already reported. The Scheme may ensure some discipline on our roads, as far as parking and other minor offences are concerned. But it may not succeed in curbing road accidents, as rash driving will not be captured on mobile phones. I recall that many laudable references were made by the Press when the present Director General of Police took charge over eighteen months back, as he was responsible for bringing some traffic discipline in Delhi. We had expected him to do likewise in Goa and direct his subordinates to act tough with unruly drivers in Goa. Unfortunately that has not happened, as the traffic situation in Goa is in fact worsening by the day, with sometimes more than one death a day and more than one person dying in a single accident, as it happened in Curti, last Thursday, where three people died. There is urgent and pressing need to put an end to this massacre on our roads. Road users cannot be at the mercy of road maniacs. If the Police are really sincere and concerned about road accidents, then there has to be a main single point agenda and that is to chase and be ruthless with reckless drivers.
One added reason why major accidents have become so common is that drivers and riders have turned selfish and insensitive, as they know that even a fatal accident is punished just with an arrest followed by bail. Therefore, it is imperative that the Government changes the laws to make rash and negligent driving causing death a culpable homicide. This will go a long way in curbing road accidents, as people will turn extremely cautious realizing that they could be behind bars for long. Even now Police can apply sections that will make reckless maniacs shiver. But the will is needed. We must bear the consequences of our actions particularly when they take away so many precious lives and bring so much suffering and trauma to so many of our families.
(The author is a retired banker)