Goa is enamoured with the brand new infrastructure in the form of multi-lane roads and spanking new “eye candy” bridges. People used to visit Goa for its famed beaches and greenery. Now, while beaches still are a big draw, the bridges which replaced a lot of the greenery, have become selfie points.
However with the widened roads have come a higher accident rate. Just in 2023 we have already logged 40 plus deaths. The issue can be divided into two parts: hardware and software. Hardware is all the roads and road furniture and software is the human element.
The roads are no doubt broad, but the quality of the new roads leaves a lot to be desired. The second major repair of the famed Atal Setu is a case in point. The banking on some curves is also wanting. Watch the cars taking turns on the curves of the new roads and invariably the car will drift to the left if the road curves to the left, rather than stay in the lane. If one observes the area where the Agasaim flyover meets the Bambolim road, you will see the cars on the right lane finishing in the left lane and almost intercepting the traffic coming up from the old road. An accident waiting to happen. Road engineering needs some work.
What beats the imagination is why rumblers/speed breakers are put on the highways. Should the rumblers not be put on the inside roads to prevent that traffic from entering the main carriage way without stopping? In most countries where multi-lanes are the norm, there is no concept of rumblers on highways. They have speed restrictions in that area. On roads merging with a main road, a solid white line across indicates that at any time a vehicle has to come to a complete stop before entering the main carriage way. Discipline is lacking for sure. The elimination of speed breakers will reduce accidents. The other problem with the rumblers which have become a rage is there is no standardisation of the height, spacing or number. The impression one gets is the rumblers are put to ensure work for the machine rather than safety of the road user.
Speed limit boards are few and far between and arbitrary or confusing at best. The most recent is the addition of speed boards indicating different speeds for different categories of vehicle, Cars X, trucks Y and two-wheelers Z, but no sign asking the slower traffic to stay on the left. This forces fast moving traffic to zig zag and overtake from the left which has become a norm. This will result in an accident more often than not.
The software aspect or man is the most dangerous in this equation. We have signals including a smart signal coming up all over Goa. But at any junction, you will have “smart alec” who do not see the signals and dart across as if they own the road. The police are planning to restart the sentinel scheme but are worried about their image so most likely it will be used only by the men in uniform. If every citizen is supposed to be vigilant, the sentinel scheme is a good tool to arm the citizen and why only traffic should be extended to garbage as we have many vehicle users doubling up as trash disposal vehicles and dumping garbage all over the State creating what is commonly called “black spot”. It will kill two birds with one app, traffic offenders and garbage dumpers.
Then there is new and growing phenomena on Goan roads, the rent-a-car dudes who feel that Goa is where it is all allowed. The rent-a-bikes on the Atal Setu tell its own story. So a footloose and fancy-free attitude prevails unchecked. Unchecked because if the police pull them up it is harassment and if they do not, it reinforces the ‘Goa me chalta hai” thinking.
Underage driving is another bane and despite the stiff penalties and consequences it is unchecked, just like fancy number plates and tinted glasses. One can argue that surely number plates or tinted glasses cannot be causes, well if one can roam around the city in full view despite being in violation of the law, day and night and no one does a thing, surely it tells you that the law is asleep or can be managed.
Driving Under Influence (of alcohol) according to the CM, is a major cause of accidents, in major metros the concept of designated driver is fast catching due to strict enforcement, in Goa no one bothers. Can this change?
The Government has three departments viz, Traffic Cell, PWD and Transport Department working to make roads safer. This team work needs to be more visible as at present it is only press statements. The fact that there is a heightened discussion on road safety, means it is on the table. We need a focused effort to ensure road deaths are reduced by say 25% and what actions the Government, through the three nodal departments, needs to take to achieve that target.
Money makes the world go round and abroad everyone is cautious about getting a ticket, the reason is the insurance payable increases steeply even if you get a parking ticket. Here a newbie or experienced driver pays the same. This must change so as to inculcate good driving etiquette.
Lastly, each individual driving or riding, has to take matters in his or her hands literally, follow traffic rules and good driving etiquette at all times. Else you will not be reading about the statistics, you or your loved one will be a statistic. Safe driving.
(The author prefers to write rather than chat in a balcao).