Speeding and rash driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs seem to be the new thrill on the roads in Goa, especially with youngsters, notwithstanding the spiraling number of deaths. Although several measures have been put in place, the government and citizens alike are at wit’s end as to how to curb this escalating menace which is causing an increasing number of road deaths. Locals in the meanwhile have been taking matters into their hands.
Practically everyday news reports indicate another accident has taken place in the State or another life has been lost due to one. Speeding and rash driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, especially by two-wheeler riders, are attributed as the highest contributors to these deaths on Goan roads. Alarmingly, as per statistics, every 30 hours somebody is killed in an accident in Goa, due to rash and negligent driving. The gruesome accident at Siolim North Goa recently is a grim reminder of this fact
According to the Times of India statistics released by the Directorate of Transport indicated that from January to March 2019 alone, accidents due to rash driving claimed 70 lives. Of these, 46 were two-wheeler riders, including 8 pillions and a total of 929 accidents have been registered in that quarter alone. On average, annually 70,000 vehicles are introduced to the existing traffic force in the State.
According to the Herald, GoaCAN coordinator Roland Martins who has been observing the traffic scene over the years, said, “Rash and negligent driving has been a consistent problem in Goa. People who get licenses have no comprehensive training and road rules are not emphasized upon. We can see youth who overtake from the left side without helmets which is a major concern unless this changes such type of cases will be on the rise.” He also added that speeding is another issue with helmetless, young drivers being the main offenders. Hit and run cases have also increased. Another cause of accidents is driving in no-entry zones.
In his interview with DNA, (a couple of years ago) DGP Muktesh Chander, had further underlined a number of causes of accidents. “Every week at least six persons died in road accidents in Goa. Road accidents occur due to a complex interplay of various factors such as conduct of drivers, condition of roads, condition of vehicles, environmental conditions, role of other road users such as pedestrians, road furniture and markings, presence of stray animals, etc.,” he said while enumerating drunken driving, over speeding, talking on mobile while driving, dangerous driving, jumping red lights, driving without license, minor driving among the major causes of accidents in the State.
An increasing number of tourists visiting the State with their own out-of-state vehicles, or those renting out vehicles here are unmindful of the rules, often speeding, rash and drunk driving, causing harm to themselves and others in the process.
The incidence of drunk driving has also been escalating. According to Section of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 –if a person driving or attempting to drive a vehicle has alcohol levels exceeding 30mg per 100ml of blood detected by a breath analyzer test then he is guilty of the offense of drunken driving. According to a report in Incredible Goa (2018), cops had booked around 311 cases of drunk driving during New Year’s Eve alone. And according to the Hindustan Times, DGP Muktesh Chander had indicated in 2018 alone police in Goa prosecuted around 7.74 lakh traffic violators, which accounts for more than half of the State’s population.
To crack down on drunken driving and over-speeding the government had procured 100 alcometers and four more laser speed radar guns (LSRG) as well as two more interceptor vehicles. Introduction of traffic sentinels was another measure.
However, this scheme seems to be backfiring, as people are protesting against this, with sentinels often at the wrong end of their wrath. Although they are appointed by the Police, there is no protection for these sentinels. According to a Herald report, the scheme is not fully functional as in its current form it cannot be used against vehicles registered outside the State.
Perhaps, the government and insurance companies here need to take a cue from those in the State of Maharashtra which states ‘no helmet, no insurance’. This was particularly sighted in the case in Nashik where a young boy lost his life, due to head injuries, in a two-wheeler accident. He was not wearing a helmet. The police recorded this fact and in keeping with the insurance rules prevalent in Maharashtra, no compensation was paid to the next of kin.
Other than the gruesome accidents, what is more, disturbing nowadays is the fact that locals have begun to take matters into their hands, especially when it comes to accidents involving out of state vehicles. The recent case of irate locals burning the defaulting SUV which rammed into the car killing two and injuring four at Siolim is a point in case. To cite another case, 10 Indian tourists, with a Telangana license bearing vehicle, were beaten and severely injured, by residents of a Pernem Taluka when they knocked down a scooter-borne, 10-year-old girl.
Although the Chief Minister has condemned these incidents and requested people not to take the law in their hands, it remains to be seen not only how effectively the State’s machinery is in curbing accidents due to rash driving, speeding and driving under the influence and will the tolerance of people hold till then.