A Leaf From Chennai

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Goa can reduce road mortality  by following Tamil Nadu model

Every year on an average 300 human lives are lost in Goa. But the state government has taken no effective steps to reduce the mortality. If there is government will, the number of deaths can be reduced. Tamil Nadu has shown the way. In Tamil Nadu about 15,000 persons were dying in road accidents every year. The Tamil Nadu government has reduced the number of deaths by 54 percent in the past four years. Tamil Nadu has become a model state for the whole of India. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari does not tire recommending to the states that they adopt the Tamil Nadu model. Goa has let too many precious lives be lost in road accidents. The reason is the state government has shown no commitment to reduction in the number of road accidents and deaths resulting from them. It is taken like a routine. Every decision regarding road safety gets stuck in the mesh of politics. The time has come for the state government to give up its criminal complacency.

Tamil Nadu has shown that road accidents are not only a matter of following traffic rules. They involve a number of government departments. Tamil Nadu succeeded in bringing down road mortality dramatically with a strong management of road safety regime. Goa’s Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and Director General of Police have to take the leadership of the road safety management. Without the leaders taking the responsibility, no change can be brought about. In Tamil Nadu the DGP had to review the progress of the road safety initiatives every month. A road safety council saw through the implementation of the road safety initiatives and analysed the causes of accidents. A team visited every accident site to study how and why the accident had taken place and came back to suggest measures to prevent such mishaps taking place at the spot. Such micro feedback did wonders. All departments got involved, including the public works department.

If accidents occur, the government departments and agencies responsible for road engineering are no less to blame. Gadkari has been talking about “faulty detailed project reports (DPRs)”. What he means is that roads are not designed with road safety in mind. Most of the DPRs are faulty. Quite often faulty road designs have been the cause of road accidents in Goa too. But the state government never asked the PWD or other concerned agencies to correct the designs or make new designs with road safety in perspective. The Goa government can take the help of engineering colleges in the state for road safety audits for a certain stretch. Faulty road engineering leaves accident-prone spots, which can be corrected with road safety audit by third parties.

Without built-in safety measures in road construction, Goa can never hope to bring down the road mortality. According to an international study, between 2014 and 2018, the Tamil Nadu Highways Department “spent almost $200 million on special road safety programs and on rectifying more than 200 crash hotspots.” About 2% of the capital expenditure under the state’s Core Road Infrastructure Development Programme has been earmarked for road safety. Tamil Nadu also effectively utilized the Central Road Fund earmarked to states for safety engineering works. One of the most significant things the state has done is to incorporate pedestrian footpaths, cycling tracks and fencing and crossing facilities into road construction.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant needs to follow the Tamil Nadu model. He must set up an apex team with heads of department of PWD, transport, police and health. A strong coordinated management with a strong leadership alone can bring down the number of accidents and deaths. The time taken to reach medical help to accident site has also to be reduced to save lives. Unless the government works as a whole the mortality will not come down. E-challans for traffic violations such as overspeeding and strict enforcement of helmet wearing rule are absolutely necessary for road user discipline and reduction in number of accidents. However, unless there is a strong coordinated management from the top with the engagement of all departments, nothing will change.