With over 300 deaths in road accidents in the state annually, prevention of accidents has to become the top priority of the state government. Most of the safety measures – making use of helmets mandatory, action against over speeding and so on – are implemented without zeal, commitment and resources and hence it is no surprise to anybody that they have failed to reduce the number of accidents and deaths and injuries. The state has already recorded more than 150 deaths in road accidents this year and there is possibility of the figures going up before the year comes to a close. The state has constituted a lead agency to monitor the implementation of the road safety measures as directed by the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety of the central government. The new body will also coordinate with the departments of the state government to ensure implementation of the directions issued from time to time. The new agency will have to ensure implementation of the directions given by the central government from time to time to notify annual targets for reduction of the number of accidents and fatalities as fixed by the state and draw up annual action plan to achieve the targets.
The new agency is going to issue directions but it remains to be seen how they are implemented at the ground level. It is going to be the same sets of police and transport officials who will carry out the orders. These sets have proved to be ineffective not necessarily owing to their faults and it is unlikely that the situation will change unless the issues of their resources, training and deployment are overseen by high officials who should be made directly accountable for reduction in number of accidents and deaths. They must deal with rash and negligent driving which is a major cause of accidents and deaths. Bad road engineering has been the other main cause for accidents and unless this is corrected there is no likelihood of the number of accidents coming down. As accident-prone and trouble spots have been identified the first priority of the agency should be to ensure that the Public Works Department and the National Highway Authority of India take immediate steps to correct the defective roads. It should also ensure that the ground-level officials are equipped with gadgets to record cases of over speeding and take appropriate action.
The state observes Road Safety Week and other such activities year after year, but despite these routine drives there has been no let-up in the number of accidents and deaths. Not all the accidents are recorded, especially in which the ‘powerful’ and politically connected drivers and owners of vehicles are involved. The police sometimes encourage a ‘settlement’ between the parties involved in accidents. The matters get compounded due to lack of appropriate action against the errant drivers or riders of two wheelers and inability of the police personnel to book cases against unlicensed drivers. Will the new agency ensure that every accident gets reported and that the action against errant drivers and riders is time bound? Any failure by the agency and the ground-level officials of the police and transport departments would lead to compromising the safety of road users and pedestrians. It is necessary that the new agency look into the other issues as well, such as presence of stray animals on the roads. All the past measures of the government to deal with the stray cattle menace on the roads have failed and new measures have to be taken to tackle the issue and prevent accidents.
The agency should focus on creating safer roads and taking prompt action against those who disobey the rules and compromise with safety of road users. Deployment of officials to book cases against all traffic rule violators has failed due to various reasons, particularly due to lack of adequate staff. This failure can be overcome by using modern gadgets. One of the measures that could help record the violations is to have speed sensors and closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed on all the major roads and junctions of the state. These gadgets will help police capture the images of violating vehicles, which will help authorities in taking action against the errant drivers. Such facilities will lessen the burden on traffic police officials as well as that of transport department who could be deployed to track violations from the control rooms. Such provisions will help reduce graft and bring discipline on Goa’s roads as well as bring down the number of accidents and deaths. The lead agency should take upon itself the task of ensuring safety of road users and implementing the safety measures without delay.