whopping 16,295 accidents were reported in Goa from 2017 to 2021, in which 1,446 persons were killed, shows the official data recorded by the Government of India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
These are not just accident numbers. These are the number of broken families, who have lost their loved ones forever. Most of them have died very young, leaving only memories and mourning family members behind. These are irreparable losses. But, does anyone care?
There have been efforts to reduce accidents through awareness campaigns and penalising errant motorists. The traffic police Goa collected fines worth Rs 53.60 crore against 30.16 lakh challans that were issued from 2019 till April 1, 2023. Licenses of 17,821 people have been suspended since 2019 for various offences.
Yet, the State has remained perennially prone to accidents and innocent lives are being lost. In first four months this year, 951 road accidents have been registered in Goa, in which lives of 104 persons were lost.
Though the number of accidents in the State within these four months has reduced, the fatalities are increasing rapidly. In 2022 almost 218 persons died in fatal accidents while in 2021 the number was higher (see table). The authorities have lost the count of persons who have been grievously injured in the accidents that were recorded in the State.
Many have been permanently impaired due to road accidents. Over 90 per cent of the cases coming to the emergency ward of Goa Medical College (GMC) pertain to road accidents.
The Goa State Interim Compensation to Road Accident Victims Scheme 2020 provides for financial assistance to the victims/families of victims against accidental death or bodily injury caused by external, violent visible means in road accidents.
In 2018-19, 23 accident victims from Goa got Rs 45.50 lakh. In 2019-20, 22 victims got Rs 44 lakh, in 2020-21 the number of claimants rose to 45 victims who were given Rs 90 lakh. In 2021-22, Rs 68 lakh were given to 34 accident victims. In the 2022-23 fiscal, till December 31, 2022, 27 victims have been given Rs 54 lakh as compensation.
The Superintendent of Police North Goa, Nidhin Valsan reiterated his request to the people of Goa not to ride motorcycles without helmets as there is a rise in accidental deaths, mostly due to head injury.
He also requested the two wheeler riders to compulsorily wear helmets as pillion riders have also died in accidents.
Even after enforcement and various corrective measures the accidents in Goa are unending. In order to make the road infrastructure accident proof the State government through the Traffic Cells, Transport Department and the Public Works Department (PWD) who are the overseers of the road infrastructure and the enforcement said they conducted independent surveys.
The Goa Police identified 39 accident-prone zones and black spots on the roads across the State. According to the police, there are 10 black spots on National Highway and the rest on State highways and other roads.
Road safety stakeholders had called for proactive efforts from the licensing authority and the PWD to resolve the problem of increasing fatalities on the State’s roads.
With one death reported on State’s roads due to accidents daily, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had held a meeting with all agencies with regard to road safety. During the meeting, a report of 39 accident-prone zones and black spots that witnessed fatalities was placed. Ponda had a maximum of 11 such spots followed by Calangute with 6 critical zones. Though the National Highways of Goa make up for 5 percent of the roads accidents that are recorded are maximum on these roads.
The Supreme Court has issued strict directions to all the State governments to put efforts and reduce the number of road accidents and fatalities in the country to half. The SC has set a deadline of 2020 to the States to design a policy and notify it in order to reduce the number of accidental deaths. However, the number seems to be increasing with every passing day.
In furtherance of the meeting held by the Chief Minister, an open forum meeting organised by government departments and agencies was held in October 2022. The meeting was held in order to design a road safety plan with suggestions from NGOs and other concerned persons. However, the meeting has not borne any fruits till date.
A highly placed police official informed that they have compiled all the suggestions and given the action plan to the government. But there has been no response ever since.
Convenor of Road Safety Forum Dilip Naik said, “I have been trying my best from 2017 through Goa Road Safety Forum to convince the Government that these road accident fatalities can be controlled. I had also met the former Chief Minister Late Manohar Parrikar in 2017. He had assured us to take us on board to solve this issue. I also met present CM Pramod Sawant along with GRSF members. However nothing much has happened after that.”
“The CM had taken public opinion through the public open forum programme. I have been waiting for a call from the CM office to hold further discussion and take necessary steps,” Naik added.
Not a moment of silence or remorse was seen or heard from any responsible government department in acknowledging the deaths that took place over the last four months.
Rather, the officials have chosen to keenly elucidate facts and statistics of post facto road crashes as a way to pacify the justifiable queries of the media outlets. The Road Safety Council meetings headed by the District Collectors of North and South Goa are held regularly with NGOs and other stakeholders providing suggestions to reduce road fatalities.
However, fatalities on Goan roads continue to occur because of the lack of implementation of road safety laws. Road safety laws stand on a different footing in comparison to traffic offences under the Motor Vehicles Amendment Act, 2019.
The Traffic Police personnel can be observed standing attentively at every curve in all eagerness to halt and fine the errant road users, but it is almost impossible to witness Traffic Cell personnel taking the time to educate the road users of safe practices while on the road.
Easy approach cannot be the order of the day on Goan roads when so many people are losing their lives to road crashes which were otherwise preventable.
Author of the book titled ‘Practice Traffic Yoga’, Advocate Moses Pinto said, “The most important lesson that the authorities, functionaries, planners, leaders and activists can take away from the present day road accidents and fatalities is the profoundly negative impact that the fatality has incurred on the family members of the victim.”
“The endeavour should be to prevent a similar fate from being faced by the next generation of vulnerable road users,” said Pinto.
“It must be upheld in the minds of the authorities that the vulnerable road users have to face the dangers associated with unsafe roads as a matter of necessity and not out of their own choice. The primitive instinct of human nature dictates self preservation to be the norm and hence no vulnerable road user would subject them to avoidable peril unless their needs absolutely dictated their actions of being on the road,” he added.
While explaining the agony and pain of the accident victims and their families Adv Pinto said, “It could be illustrated that a father whose limbs have been amputated due to a road crash involving his two wheeler while he was on the commute of returning home, would not want his child to grow up and face the same risks on the road when his next generation takes to using the road for their further studies or to reach their workplace.”
“He certainly would wish for safer transportation systems which would drastically reduce the uncertainty of travelling on the road and make a safe arrival more predictable,” he said.
Adv Pinto said that one of the ways that the victims can be honoured is by learning the effects that the fatality has had on the victims family and pledging to ensure that a similar fate shall not be faced by the rest of the surviving family members who also would be expected to use the same road in their lifetime.
“Preservation of future generations’ interest from using the road should serve as a guiding factor for present decision making and planning of road safety regulations and road engineering” he said.