Manish Gosalia, Managing Trustee, Goa Knowledge Foundation, Margao puts forth easily implementable solutions to control the growing rate of accidents in Goa.
With the state recording close to 4200 accidents every year, or an average of 12 accidents every day its high time we think of getting related systems put in place on priority.
– Strong focus on educating citizens on road safety measures
– Introduction of the globally accepted point system where offenders lose points on their driving licence and repeated offenders should be disqualified from obtaining a driving licence again
– A print campaign that displays correct driving procedures
– Engage the services of professional product and communication design firms for designing innovative motorbike helmets
– Bicycle tracks in each town and village
– Dedicated website as well as an app that showcases a dashboard on the number of accidents occurring daily
– Regulate the timings of bars and wine shops
– Appointment of an audit agency to prepare a comprehensive report on accidents(for micromanagement)
An increase in traffic accidents reported daily, both in India, and more particularly, in Goa is a worrisome factor and needs priority intervention by the State Government. Statistics in Goa suggest we have one of the highest accident rates in India and according to a newspaper article, Goa records close to 4200 accidents every year, or an average of 12 accidents every day; which is an extremely high figure for a state that has a relatively low population, well educated population and decently tarred motorable roads. These statistics, of course, fail to take into consideration instances where parties settle the matter at the accident site without informing the authorities. If one takes that figure in consideration, actual accidents will rise by atleast 100%.
Newspapers suggest that most accidents occur due to negligence and rash driving, and this indicates a disturbing scenario, which points towards a deeper societal problem requiring urgent attention by the community, Government, social workers, parents and community workers.
The Governments have paid limited attention to this ballooning issue and it requires a dedicated focus to save and improve the lives of hundreds of Goans who face the trauma and the after effects of road accidents.
It is imperative that the Goa Government appoints an audit agency to prepare a comprehensive report on accidents’ causes and consider all parameters in the report, including village and taluka wise statistic on accidents [including accident prone areas],age of individuals, type(s) of vehicles involved (i.e. Heavy, LMV, motorbikes, etc), while also checking whether vehicles involved are from Goa state or from outside states.Furthermore, trauma details (i.e. general injury, major disability and fatalities) should also be mentioned in these reports. This information will allow the Government to target the specific areas related to the problem, instead of just a general mention of rash and negligent driving by the victim / offender.
The Government needs to focus on some primary tasks to improve the safety of its citizens in Goa.
Firstly, there needs to be a strong focus on educating individuals on road safety measures. Recent newspaper reports suggest that the Government plan to educated people who an road safety measures, the same however should be made mandatory for all drivers possessing heavy vehicle licences. A more rigorous examination system must be mandatory for any individual to possess a driving license. The RTO’s procedure for obtaining a driving licence is in suspect and several drivers have been issued licences through touts and agents. Individuals need to be sensitised on the do’s and don’ts of road safety and understand safety measures.
The Government should also introduce the globally accepted point system where offenders lose points on their driving licence and repeated offenders should be disqualified from obtaining a driving licence again. A print campaign that displays correct driving procedures should be initiated at all public places like schools, colleges, panchyat offices, electricity and water departments, etc. The empathy quotient of the community needs to be built by involving local leaders including religious and spiritual leaders, victims of such incidents who can narrate their experience and encourage the local community to take safe measures when driving. The NGO community can also be actively involved in educating the community on road safety and educate young people about the risks associated with rash driving by visiting schools, colleges, workplaces, public areas (like gardens, beaches) etc. on the importance safe driving. Street performances and plays involving Tiatrists to drive in the message will also help in improving road safety. All non state vehicles entering Goa must be given a booklet / pamphlet on road safety measures in Goa with a special mention of accident prone areas.
One of the things related to road safety and vehicles is that there are dual agencies operating (i.e both the RTO as well the local police / traffic police) who regulate traffic rules, formulation and management. The Government should demarcate the roles and responsibilities clearly and issues related to traffic violation, road safety management, etc should be handed over to one agency (i.e traffic police).
Government should also engage the services of professional product and communication design firms to come up with innovative motorbike helmets as the present helmets sold are cumbersome, unwieldy and in places like Goa where the heat and humidity play a big role, it discourages motorbike riders to wear helmets. A recent Google search shows a range of innovative helmets being developed by international companies, which includes foldable helmets, helmets made from Bamboo with ample air flow, etc.
The reason for people being rash and negligent also has a co-relation to the level of fitness and the ability for people (especially the youth) to find different avenues to expel their pent up energy. Development of sports (both indoor and outdoor) can include skateboarding, skating, biking, etc .to allow young people to get involved in a range of sports beyond football and cricket, and encourage them to develop their mind and body. An introduction of Yoga, Tai-chi, and meditation will also assist the youth to better manage their unspent energy.
Villages and towns must be mandated to create footpaths that allow pedestrians to walk safely. The Government along with the local Panchayats and Municipalities should also provide atleast 5-10 kms of dedicated bicycle tracks in each town and village to allow people to indulge in cycle riding as a sport. The Government must also disallow plying of heavy vehicles like trucks, tankers, earthmoving equipments in villages and in the city centres and if any designated project is being executed, than vehicles should be accompanied with a police escort to warn oncoming traffic.
The Government can also create a dedicated website as well as an app that showcases a dashboard on the number of accidents occurring daily; which will make the citizens aware of the severity of the issue and might lead to decrease in accidents and a heighten awareness about road safety. Targeted graphical images will also teach the youth on the importance of safety.
The Governments along with the local panchayats must work in tandem to regulate the timings of bars and wine shops, as several accidents are related to drunk driving involving both the local population as well as visiting tourists who are inebriated, leading to accidents. Bars and wine stores, especially in villages and towns should be allowed to be open only after 6 PM and should be shut by 10 PM. In an attempt not to damper the tourism industry, 5 & 4 star hotels can be allowed extended timings and the Government can create dedicated tourist zones (like Calangute) that could have extended bar timings, but should place traffic police at strategic points to regulate the traffic flow by checking the drivers’ condition.