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All Speech And No Action On Road Safety

A fatal accident on Sunday morning at Naibag in Pernem taluka claimed two lives on National Highway 17. Two other people had died in the vicinity on March 25 this year. More than a dozen people have died in various accidents on the NH17 stretch in Pernem over the last three years. Accidents on the stretch of the NH 17 in Pernem are routine, though not all are fatal. There are several other spots in the state which are accident-prone, including one at Raia where 17 people have died over the last four years. The reasons are obvious: there is no speed or traffic control. The trailer truck that killed two persons at Naibag on Sunday was not fitted with speed governor. There was no road divider, either. With as many as 145 deaths in 155 days of the current year (as on June 4) the state has witnessed a death a day in the current year. Though the government has been promising measures to save lives, nothing has been done. Over-speeding and bad road engineering are two major causes of accidents, yet corrective measures have not been taken.

It is mandatory for all heavy vehicles to be fitted with speed governors; however many ply without any. Absence of speed governors helps drivers to drive the vehicles at higher speed. Lack of safety measures like road dividers and barricades on edgy roads also have been contributing factors for rising number of road accidents and fatalities in the state. Rather than making promises, the state authorities should take concrete action to put safety measures in place, take cognizance of safety violations by the drivers and provide safer and wider roads with dividers.

Every time a fatal accident takes place the authorities promise that all steps would be taken “in the near future” to ensure road safety, but such announcements have remained limited to the occasions. There are no signs of the transport department or traffic police being equipped with interceptors or speed radars to check over-speeding by errant drivers. The government had promised to fast-track procurement of these devices following some accidents due to over-speeding nearly two months ago but the process for acquisition has not been set in motion as yet. As the failure to provide safety to the people could lead to mass agitation, as was seen in Pernem and Raia, it should be the government’s endeavour to fast track the safety measures as well as act sternly against rash and negligent drivers.

Besides, the authorities need to swiftly act against roadside kiosks, which have illegally sprung up along the state roads including highways and are contributing factors for road accidents. Drivers often tend to stop their vehicles along the roads to buy goods and refreshments sold at these kiosks, at times parking their vehicles negligently along the roads and blocking them. Removal of the kiosks or shifting them at safer distance along with proper parking arrangements at traffic plazas would go a long way in providing self-employment opportunities as well as safety for movement of vehicular traffic.

It has been the tendency of the state and local authorities to act only when there is public agitation over any issue and the Sunday flash stoppage of vehicular traffic in Pernem should serve as a wakeup call to them to put safety mechanisms in place.  Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar, who is also local MLA, promised the agitating locals to get the work on construction of dividers done without any delay, failing which he too would agitate along with locals for safety measures. Surprisingly, Azgaonkar appears to be confused as being a minister in the state government it is his duty to get the work done rather than be part of any agitation. As legislators are aware of the problems in the areas they represent and know the topography of their constituency well they should identify the spots that are accident-prone and dangerous and ensure that the problems are addressed on a war footing rather than being part of an agitation. Though speed governors are mandatory, it has been alleged that there are cases of speed governors being tampered with or removed by some vehicle owners to facilitate faster movement of vehicles. While it would take some time to construct dividers and protective walls, the authorities could launch a mass drive to check the functionality of the speed limiting devices, which should be continuous as safety of the people is the uppermost concern.

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