Statistics on road accidents for 2022 are a matter of grave concern. According to data, around 217 people lost their lives between January and October this year, 51 more than last year's figures during the corresponding period. The State has recorded 2,495 accidents during the ten months, with 202 accidents that resulted in instant death. The info also reveals that 126 cases of deaths were bike riders.
The figures are, no doubt, alarming, and it is a matter of concern that 23 persons died of accidents in October, even as the government announced a slew of measures.
Ironically, the Goa Traffic police had launched a particular drive from September 14 to 25 to instil a sense of discipline among motorists. Modifying the behaviour of road users was the priority. In the bargain, the traffic police booked 701 cases of over-speeding during the period and collected fines of Rs 7.05 lakhs. The highest cases booked were for riding without a helmet, where 2271 people were fined, resulting in a collection totalling a whopping Rs 22.71 lakh. Interestingly, 3,871 cases were booked under no parking or dangerous parking, and the fine collection stood at Rs 19.44 lakh.
The high rate of accidents prompted the government to form a 3-member committee headed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Omvir Singh Bishnoi to study the causes of accidents and suggest remedial measures. DIG Aslam Khan and SP (traffic) Shekhar Prabhudessai are the other two committee members who were to submit a report within 30 days, as on October 7. The committee's objective was to suggest measures to prevent and reduce accidents, implementation of road regulations, ensuring road engineering and traffic education. But, ironically, Prabhudessai was transferred out of the traffic beat in October itself and posted to Panaji headquarters, raising questions about the seriousness behind the move to form a committee.
In July, the traffic cell SP Shekhar Prabhudessai sent a bunch of proposals to village panchayats, the directorate of municipalities and the chief engineer of national highways with a request to initiate steps on priority to bring down the accident rate. The SP had focussed on road engineering, enforcement of traffic rules and education. Also, we have district road safety committees deliberating on measures, including the engagement of local governing bodies. The amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act were believed to bring some primary road discipline, but that has not helped too.
The failure in ushering road safety is as clear as daylight despite all the planning, committees, rules and report. The traffic density in Goa is rising rapidly, and the upward spiral of accidents only suggests that the system is not able to keep pace. Moreover, traffic enforcement is failing miserably even with the new rules in force, rules that were believed to be deterrents against violators. None of the measures are working.
Over-speeding, drunken driving and riding without helmets still contribute significantly to fatalities, and that reflects carelessness. The CM was quoted as saying that 95 per cent of accidents happen at night due to drunken driving. We as citizens must show road responsibility instead of pointing at the negatives of poor road conditions and the lack of signages. It's time to wake up to the grim reality of road accidents.