- DRINK. DRIVE. DIE.There’s death wish on Goa’s roads
DRINK. DRIVE. DIE.There’s death wish on Goa’s roads
Goa is perhaps one of the few destinations in India where there is neither the fear, nor the sense not to drink and drive. With accidents and deaths as a result of drunken driving increasing, the culprit is also the victim, VIBHA VERMA takes stock of the situation
While reckless driving and haphazard parking continues to be a menace in the State that has around 13 lakh GA-registered vehicles, drunken driving has taken an alarming proportion in the recent past.
But police records, won’t quite give you the picture because the process to qualify an accident as a case of drunken driving, especially when the driver and occupants die in the accident is tedious. At the same time due to sensibilities involved regarding the deceased and their families, most of the cases, aren’t pursued along these lines. It is absolutely unbelievable that, according to the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, just two deaths were reported between 2008 and 2015 and several thousand offences of drunken driving were registered.
However, while death or serious accidents become the focus of attention, the number of cases that are actually registered against motorists who do not meet with a serious accident, are on the rise and this is how this trend plays out.
A whopping 2000-odd cases of rash and negligent driving, and another 200 offences of drunken driving were registered in September alone indicating that bad roads or sudden faults in the vehicle are not the only things that can always be controlled to avoid accidents.
The death of two college students in a deadly self-accident at Assagao in the wee hours last weekend didn’t come only as a shock but it pained everyone in Goa, as one of the victims was returning home in the wee hours of the morning after celebrating her birthday at a popular nightclub. While we are not even remotely suggesting that this could be case of driving under the influence of alcohol, since there is no evidence of it, self accidents to this nature raise worrisome questions. Four occupants Ethan Viegas, Lee Ann Rocha, Lioney Pereira and Zahid Shaikh, all aged between 19-21 years met with the horrific accident while returning from a night club, resulting in the death of the first two while another victim was left grievously injured.
A study by the Goa Traffic Department shows that 35 percent of road accidents are self-accidents which in many cases, are due to the driver’s state of extreme tiredness or even partial inebriation.
The Department has recorded an increase of drunken driving cases by 25 percent in the first eight months of the year, as against the corresponding period of last year. Superintendent of Police Devesh Mahala said that a large number of drunken driving cases are reported in Calangute, Vagator, little Vagator and Canacona areas. Incidentally all these places are tourist hot spots but the fact remains that not only the vacationers, but also locals are largely involved in traffic related offences.
“We are booking more cases from Calangute, Vagator, mini Vagator and Canacona. The cases of driving under influence of alcohol shot up by 25 percent this year till date. However, we are carrying out an intensive drive during long weekends, holidays and peak season to control the menace,” Mahala said.
Data shared with Herald by the Police Department is an eye opener. A total of 1800 cases involving drunk people were reported on State’s roads between January-August 2016. But the number skyrocketed during current year with corresponding period of this year witnessing more than 2,000 cases.
The month of September this year saw Traffic Department registering 200 cases which reveals that drunken driving still remains a menace on the road.
The department has repeatedly pleaded for very strict judicial action against those guilty of drunken and reckless driving.
The officer pointed out to the Supreme Court’s directions on taking strict action against the violators under Section 185 of the Motor Vehicles Act. “We will be bringing to the notice of the concerned that even a committee of the SC has directed checking on traffic rules and accidents. The SC is heavy on this,” he added.
While it contemplates this move, the department said they are ensuring strict patrolling along the areas where there is a cluster of night clubs. “Our more concentration is in the areas where there are more pubs/clubs. The deployment is extensive and we carry out checks,” he said.
With cases of drunken driving booked on a daily basis, the SP has instructed the traffic cells to conduct and an intensive drive across such areas from Friday-Sunday between 11 pm and 3 am. Other places like Calangute will nevertheless have checks on other days too.
The locals are undoubtedly involved in drunken driving but a major menace comes from the tourists who are either novices to drinking or are extra high on booze.
Herald spoke to a couple of tourists who claimed that while back in their state, drunken driving is taken seriously, when it comes to Goa, they are more at ease at the steering wheel in an inebriated condition.
Talking about their State, they said, the enforcement in our state is stricter than Goa. “No one can dare to dodge a cop but in Goa, we see that. We have seen that violators of drunken driving are penalised in our state,” they added.
Kunal Sinha, a Delhi tourist, says, “I have learnt that wearing of helmets is made compulsory however, there are still many who don’t wear. Similarly, tinted car glasses, tourists touring on bikes and cars holding liquor, are usually overlooked.” Denying allegations, Mahala reiterated that the enforcement and smooth of flow of traffic has been maintained by the force despite being short staffed and stressed.
According to a survey on the total number of accidents carried out by the department for the last five years, 35 percent constitute self accidents that also include driving under the influence of alcohol. The analysis also indicates that most accidents in Bicholim involve trucks, Margao has more of two and four wheelers being a congested urban area. Similarly, 40 per cent accidents in Ponda are by trucks.
In order to inculcate good traffic habits among the youngsters, the department has its traffic cells adopting at least three schools in their jurisdictions where awareness programmes are carried out. The colleges and private industries are covered by the deputy superintendents of police and SP.
But as we will see, this isn’t a battle which can be won by the police alone though they indeed have a big role to play. Owners of bars, restaurants and nightlife stakeholders have to get sensitised and in turn sensitise Goa’s revellers so that the virtual death wish on Goa’s roads does not become a reality with alarming regularity.