Government must address lax enforcement, poor road quality and slow pothole repairs
GOA has registered a jump in the number of deaths in road accidents in the first eight months of the current year. According to police data, 191 persons lost their lives in nearly 2,300 road accidents between January 1 and August 31. The percentage of deaths is 13 per cent higher than during the corresponding period of 2018 during which 169 persons had died. Goa has been recording over 300 road accident deaths per year for the last several years with the exception of 2018 in which 262 persons died, a figure over 20 per cent lower as compared to 2017. The 191 persons who lost their lives in road accidents in the current year included 110 two wheeler riders (almost 58 per cent), 21 pillion riders, 30 pedestrians and 18 bus passengers. Death in most of the cases was attributed to rash and negligent driving. Though the government officials agree in private that bad road conditions have been a major cause for many accidents, they have not brought it on record for obvious reasons.
It is disturbing to note that after showing a decline of 20 per cent last year, the number of deaths in accidents has jumped up again this year. Officials had attributed the fall in the number of road accident deaths last year to strict enforcement of law. Though no reason has been attributed to increase in road accidents and resultant deaths this year, it appears that “strict” enforcement does not appear to deter rash and negligent driving. It is not known whether there was any complacency among officials in law enforcement this year. If there is any complacency the authorities need to correct it. Though the police claim to have undertaken special drives against errant riders or drivers, the fact that 2,286 accidents claimed 191 lives this year is an indication that there was no deterrence to prevent accidents. The move on the part of authorities to go in for quality prosecution and book errant motorists also appears not to have had the desired effect on indisciplined motorists.
While officials have sought to put the blame for accidents on motorists, many believe that bad road conditions were major contributory factors. It has been documented that bad and narrow roads and faulty road engineering were among the main causes for road accidents in Goa. Besides, the state has hundreds of blind spots on roads that also lead to accidents. The authorities have done little to rectify the faults in road engineering. The quality of road construction remains poor. Repair works are not taken up promptly. The ongoing works on widening of National Highways and construction of bridges have also added to the accident factors. Traffic jams have been common for the last two years and are expected to continue. Doctors who have treated victims of accidents say that the victims confided that they were forced to overspeed to make up for the time lost in traffic jams to reach their destination in time.
The increase in the number of road accidents and deaths should be a matter of serious concern to the state authorities who need to work towards removing all the causes contributing to accidents. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had recently told the media that at least half of the victims of accidents were tourists who mostly used a bike or car hired from some local service provider. Most tourists are not aware of the state topography, one-way roads, road conditions and hence meet with accidents. There has been a huge increase in the number of vehicles on hire following the launch of rent-a-bike and rent-a-car schemes but roads have been getting worse and worse. It is necessary that the concerned government departments study each and every issue that contributes to accidents and take measures to address them. Widening of roads with dividers, removing potholes and blind spots could go a long way in preventing accidents. Overspeeding and rash and negligent driving has to be checked with the use of electronic gadgets. Imposition of stiff penalties could help discipline law-breaking motorists. The preventive measures have to be introduced at the earliest so as to reduce the number of casualties in road accidents.