Thursday , 17 October 2019
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Instill Fear Of Law In Vehicle Drivers

Eight people lost their lives in three road accidents in the state on Monday.  While two youth died in a head-on collision between two motorcycles at Neura, five persons, including two pedestrians, were killed and four others injured in a mishap at Old Goa involving a car and a truck; yet another accident at Khandepar claimed a life in a collision between two-wheelers. More than 100 people have died in 1,200 road accidents in the state in the first 108 days of the year 2017. Scores of others have been injured with some crippled for life. A majority of victims were in the most productive stage of their lives. Following eight deaths on Monday Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has directed the police and transport officials to act strictly against violators of Motor Vehicle rules.

Parrikar has to make the police and road transport officials work really hard, for lawlessness among drivers has only been increasing. Overtaking from the left has become the norm, against the rule of overtaking from the right. Two-wheelers continue to move in snaking ways. They have been unable to deter heavy vehicles or trolleys which are driven on the extreme right hand side of the roads against the set norms for them to drive on the left hand side creating hindrance for the movement of other vehicles. Had there been fear of law, many deaths could have been prevented. Overtaking at high speed is common even on bridges where speed limits are fixed and overtaking prohibited. But you will never see policemen watching and catching any of the violators. Leave aside over-speeding, they have not been able to clear squatters on the roadsides or deter parking of vehicles on the roads. The police have been found wanting to act against those parking vehicles even on zebra crossings and entering no-entry zones. The lackadaisical attitude of the authorities has only resulted in law breakers becoming bolder by the day and resorting to even more brazen lawlessness. The main targets of the police have been young tourists who ride rent-a-bike vehicles.

Parrikar needs to examine why for years together the government failed to provide the police and the road transport department officials vehicles and equipment to check on speed and impose penalties on violators. The traffic police are still using more than a decade old interceptor vehicles which have outlived their utility. How can the government expect them to deter over-speeding without providing them the vehicles and equipment? The Chief Minister needs to ask the high officials of the transport department why they have not sent requisitions to the government for vehicles and equipment. He should immediately provide them vehicle-mounted radars and hand-held radars to measure speeds and act against errant drivers. Parrikar should know that after three years of planning on acquisition of speed measuring devices, the transport department has now decided to opt for stand-mounted radars which are easy to carry and deploy.

To rash and negligent driving, which has been the main cause of accidents, are added the problems of road widths, lack of dividers and faulty road engineering. With the state set to have wider roads in a few years from now with the completion of ongoing road construction projects, the authorities could do well by ensuring that speed recording electronic devices are installed at regular intervals as also road dividers. Presence of electronic devices will help government record data without deployment of police personnel which will not only prevent graft but help the officials to take action against law breakers with indisputable record. The services of the traffic police personnel could be used to bring in traffic discipline elsewhere. There should be signal lights installed everywhere.

Given the fact that penalties for rash and negligent driving and breaking of traffic rules and discipline are small, it is necessary that the law is amended to provide for higher and harsher penalties to violators. The state should move the central government to amend the Motor Vehicle Act without further delay. The rules must be applied without discrimination against drivers of all kinds of vehicles: trucks, cars and jeeps and motorcycles and scooters. Let us hope Parrikar’s new push for safe driving is taken to its logical conclusion to instill respect and fear for the rules in the drivers. As of now, the presence of the policing is not felt at all. If Parrikar can make drivers fear that should any of them break the speed limit or overtake from the left or drive in the wrong lane there would be a policeman to stop them and make them pay a heavy penalty including cancellation of driving licence, many lives could be saved.

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