GOA’S DEADLY ROADS: TIME TO BLAME OURSELVES
Virtually every single day we are hearing news full of very brutal and fatal accidents which leads not only to the loss of lives but also broken homes. With every death there is a family that is completely devastated. There are people who wait for us to return back.
While it is easy at times to blame the policing system the traffic system, the roads etc, but it is also equally important to look at ourselves and see what we need to do as people.
Convenor, The Goa Consumer Action Network (GOACAN), Roland Martins who has been working towards spreading awareness on road safety, said, “Goa actually started responding to the situation of road accidents in the year 2005 when we found that the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 envisaged that consumers have the right to safety, the right to be informed, the right to choice, right to grievance redressal and the right to consumer education. So that’s the time we started meeting up with the traffic police through a sub-committee on road safety and traffic management.”
Then it was realised that there was a lot that needed to be done, of course, by government agencies but more than that by civil society.
“We then started engaging with the transport department that there are two things that we found. One is that panchayats and municipal councils do not discuss road safety and traffic management and therefore we feel that as civic bodies they must get involved. We launched the process of formation of a road safety and traffic management committee. We tried it out in six panchayats,” Martins said.
The Government of Goa has notified it and post panchayat elections on August 10, these committees will be in place in all the panchayats and also of course already in the 14 municipalities, he said.
When asked if there is a certain pattern behind the road accidents, DySP (Traffic), Dharmesh Angle said the main thing is the number of vehicles on the roads is increasing day to day. So proportionately we find that the number of accidents on the roads is also increasing.
“Now that does not mean that the number of fatalities on the road should increase because infrastructure wise also a lot of infrastructure has improved on our roads over the years as I see it. We have got new bridges, we have got wider roads, but there are certain bottlenecks which are still there. So, when you go through those bottlenecks and you lose some time while traveling you try to make up on the better part of the road and you over speed,” DySP Angle said.
That’s when this type of accidents take place, then automatically this road rage, over speeding, all these things creep into the driver’s mind and then the accident takes place.
So, are the accidents happening due to reckless driving? What are the factors that are leading to it or is it more to do with tourists driving in reckless spaces?
“The total accident on our roads for the last six months is around 1589. Out of 1589, 509 are self-accidents. In self-accidents you do not need another vehicle; you do it on your own. Now out of this 509, fatal accidents are 49 in which 51 people have lost their lives. Rest are grievous, light, and non-injury,” he said.
Out of 1500 odd accidents, almost one-third are self-accidents then something
“Now we started addressing this issue by enforcing very hard on the road. Some two or three months back we brought in the new fine structure and the fine structure has also increased,” he said.
Adv. Moses Pinto, author of book ‘Practice Traffic Yoga’ highlighted the predictability of road surface area and how well a road user, especially the motorized road user can, visualise the destination and his or her journey in a way where they can anticipate every change.
“Take for instance the distance from Cortalim to Panjim, and in that small span of road, you have infrastructure development works, you have multiple villages through which you have to traverse. You have those intersections you have to deal with. You also have other factors which are like for instance the traffic coming in from Dabolim, which also adds to the traffic then has a cascading effect.
“So it is not only about being able to curb drunk driving or not being able to slow down in time but if we can have a kind of predictability which would then help us to anticipate where we need to get to and how the journey pans out we would be having less stress. That is what ultimately my book ‘Practice Traffic Yoga’ seeks to inculcate is that a sense of discipline has to be invoked in the mind of the road user and this discipline can only come from better information from more understanding of how to visualize the journey,” Adv Pinto said.
Anant Agni, Secretary Movement for Amity towards Roads in Goa (MARG) said, “When I look at these accidents and particularly the fatal accidents, I look at them from three angles. First is the law angle, then second thing is infrastructure and the third and most important is the road culture. We do not have road culture in Goa. We are not aware of our responsibilities, our duties, particularly as commuters, as passengers, as drivers on the road. So, I think we need to develop this road culture and particularly amongst our youngsters.”
“If I am not wrong, Goa has ranked high almost for the last 10 years in per lakh death accidents on the road. So we need to change this scenario,” Agni said.
Are we doing enough to ensure that communication reaches different classes of people? Are we also before licenses are issued? Are there enough precautions being taken to ensure that the person who’s been given a license is not given in a hurry? Their responsibility lies on everybody else. Maybe the value of road safety and traffic could be taught as a proper subject in schools and colleges.
“I was the member of the Board of Studies in Konkani subject on the Goa Board of Studies and I was on the editorial board and we prepared nine standard books. We have intentionally asked some of our friends to write a play, particularly on our traffic responsibilities, traffic duties, so we thought that this message should go to the youngsters particularly those who are studying in schools,” he said.
According to Dharmesh Angle, it is all about self-discipline. “Earlier we used to see one person dying but now in one accident we find more than one person dying. That is basically excessive speed on the road. The impact is so bad that not only the rider, the pillion also gets killed in the crash. Like the other day the accident in which that vehicle overturned, we lost four lives at one go. There was an accident at Navelim wherein two persons died. If 134 accidents had taken place then I would expect around a similar number of persons dying. But here more than one person is dying in one accident that is why the figure are so high,” DySP Traffic said.
If so much information is available, then what is the challenge? Why the police are unable to see that speeding is controlled?
“It’s not that we are not able to do it. We’ve got seven speed radar guns in place in different places. Now we place them at specific areas where we have got the study in place. We know in which areas the extent is taking place. So we place these cameras only in those areas where we find that the person is bound to over speed or overtake. We put cameras over there because we found that a lot of our speeding was taking place,” DySP Angle said.
“In Cortalim area where you cannot over speed, there is no no point putting a speed gun there. We even tried tailing over speeding cars. But then we found that the drivers would start over speeding to get away. In the process, they started meeting with the accidents, resulting in fatalities. At the end of it, instead of curbing or bringing the accident down, we were contributing to it. That can’t happen,” the officer said.
So the Traffic department took a stand to stop tailing people and since the department has the vehicle registration number, the offenders are summoned to the traffic department office and are fined.
A lot of accidents are happening on smaller village roads. It’s not only happening on highways and pointers. Is there a need to expand the network of technology?
DySP Dharmesh Angle said, “We had got cameras in the South. But they are not functional anymore so we have already returned to the government. We have CCTV cameras with which we can monitor even the traffic signal violations. Speed also can be captured, but for that we will need a special type of camera, which is not there. We have sent a proposal to the government.”
Apart from preventing road accidents, there is another aspect which is quick rescue and treatment of road accident victims. Can we improve our post accident recovery process and what can be done to see that at least more lives can be saved?
Roland Martins said State of Goa has come under the purview of the Supreme Court Committee on Road Safety. This committee was constituted for the nation and after that all chief secretaries were issued orders.
“There were two committees in place at district level and state level. There is now an Accident Analysis Committee in place. Fifty per cent of the money collected in fines now have to be automatically transferred for road safety awareness. So money is not an issue. The point I want to emphasize that Good Samaritan Law which was never accepted in this country earlier, today is accepted. That means if you pick up an accident victim and take them to the hospital, you’re covered by the Good Samaritan law,” Martins said.
Now the Good Samaritan Award is in place, so that there’s no fear in evacuating an accident victim.
“The Transport Department has an accident compensation scheme for road action victims. There are many panchayats and municipalities who do not know about it. More than that, I would like to tell you there is a Gram Panchayat Development Fund in every panchayat. Money is coming from the Central government. Two lakh rupees can be spent by a panchayat without going to anybody other than the Block Development Officer (BDO). But nobody uses this money,” he said.
The point is it’s not about what the Government is not doing; it’s about what the citizens can do.
“We have issued an appeal to citizens saying please ask your candidates what are the committees that are available in the panchayat. There is a committee called Amenities Standing Committee of a panchayat which can look into all these issues. So the Road Safety Committee which was prepared by us precisely has six members. There’s a businessman, senior citizen, consumer forum representative, and a student. Everybody’s inputs are taken,” Martins said.
People participation is must to bring down the road accidents.
“We have a 16 lakh population, while 80 lakh tourists come every year. The two fatal accidents – one on Zuari bridge and the other in Navelim – are a wakeup call and both these accidents actually point a big finger towards the society,” he said.
Anant Agni said that the blame should come to us. “Suppose if there are police on the road, who informs the other people that the police are standing on the road at the time? It is us only. Who holds the helmet with one hand and then puts it on when they see the police? Us only. I think awareness at the grassroots level is very important.
“We need to reach the students particularly college students and Higher secondary students. Our problem is funds because it’s a trust and I think the funds which should be allocated for the awareness program should reach organizations like MARG and others all over Goa,” Agni said.
Dharmesh Angle said that every month the Traffic department compiles data of the accidents, the enforcement figures and the education the department is undertaking.
“Based on this information, we get to know about the accident scenario in the State. As of June this year, maximum accidents occurred in Verna area, followed by Ponda. Then comes Old Goa, Panjim and Curtorim. There’s national highway passing through these areas, there are intersections. the airport road comes and meets at Verna. Then there’s an industrial estate which comes and extends into Verna area. So because of this, the number of accidents high in these areas,” the Goa Traffic department head said.
Now the maximum percentage of increase in accidents is in Margao. This is police station-wise.
“Maximum fatalities have taken place in the Verna area where now we had till date 19 fatalities in the last six months. If we see bus accidents data, we will find that again Verna is highest, then Panjim area, Ponda, Old Goa and Porvorim. Maximun truck accidents are happening on the highway stretch passing through Pernem,” Angle said.
One can actually visualise why accidents are taking place in these areas. Porvorim has narrow roads and there is a heavy traffic of heavy vehicles.
“Maximum 119 car accidents have taken place in Panjim. Two wheelers are proportionately more on the road that is why around 75-80 percent of the accidents are of two-wheeler riders. This is how we observe the pattern of accidents on the road. Majority accidents have occurred due to rash and negligent driving of that individual,” the traffic cop said.
According to him, national highways have accounted for around 41.9% of the accidents. The maximum number fatalities involved two-wheeler riders and even pillions. Maximum accidents have occurred between 7pm-8pm and on weekends.
So, what can we do to save more lives and ensure that happens?
Adv Moses Pinto said that the deterrent effect which comes post an accident is very limited based on statistics.
“If we actually went beyond the statistics, if we actually knew the people who have lost their lives or whose limbs have been maimed due to an incident, we would have been more compassionate approach towards these road crashes. Perhaps a greater awareness would be generated within us to not carry out such a rash negligent act on our own when we are on the road and driving,” Pinto said.
He also emphasised on the need to tighten the emergency service in the State responding to road accidents.
“The first hour following an accident is most crucial. It is important that apart from quick response to accident call, crowd control is also very important. There is always additional traffic which is hamper access of emergency services to the victim. The gathered crowd also causes traffic jam on the road, obstructing quick movement of ambulance. If we are able to remove uncertainty caused by this situation, we will be able to greatly increase the chances of survival,” he said.
How can this be done? The first and foremost tool which he recommended was GPS because the ambulances and the in the paramedics responding to accident situation need to chart out the shortest possible route to reach the hospital or the primary health centre.
Advocating the need to strengthen the PHCs in rural areas for giving emergency medical aid to accident victims, Pinto said it is not always about rushing only to the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH). Sometimes even first aid provided at the point of the incident can be sufficient to stop the bleeding and that in turn can help to save that person’s life until he or she reaches the intervention spot for surgery or intensive care.
“So accessibility needs to be improved and this is a logistical challenge. It requires modern technology to be implemented hand-in-hand with the resolve of the paramedics to save that life. How can this be done? Now we know that this is what needs to be done. We need to empower our ambulance services not only with a radio but they also need access through GPS. They need real-time updates on where the accidents are versus where the traffic jam is and where the cascading effect is seen.
There is a high probability that there are some spots where there is an accident which can occur at a certain time and this data if it can be extrapolated further to understand that this is the spot to avoid, then this data if fed into a unified system, could also be connected to the automatic traffic management system, which is proposed to be introduced all over India
Anant Agni of MARG said that Goa is the State with the highest number of per head vehicle population in India.
“The number of vehicles is increasing every year, but road size is not increasing proportionately. They are the same as they were some five or ten years ago. We are almost kilometers of national highway, almost five thousand State and rural road networks. As for the traffic management part, I think the ratio is two thousand vehicles to one traffic police. If this is true, then how can one traffic police manage two thousand vehicles?” Agni asked.
Important here is that we also need to look at this whole system of kind of quick recovery. More centers, maybe more doctors, dedicated medics and paramedics to do it. We also have to take into account that a lot of accidents happen in that north-south corridor and the north-south corridor is actually very narrow. Mainly it’s on that road most of the accidents occur and a single accident or even a breakdown chokes the complete corridor.
Roland Martins said that in the last three to four meetings of the State Road Safety Council, he has been pushing very hard to increase the trauma care network in Goa.
“Unfortunately there’s a discussion going on about who has to fund it, how it should happen, etc. But I think the media has a big role to play in this because the golden hour is important. We have systems now in place that can be used and that has to happen. The second point is what we just now discussed about the vehicle population. We need to look at our public transport,” the GOACAN convenor said.
In 2018, GOACAN launched a campaign called ‘back to basics’ and it started inspecting all the major bus stands.
“We did at least three rounds of inspections and we found that our bus stands have become marketplaces. The last proposal for Margao bus stand has a seven star hotel with a water park and all that. So you see if you start looking at bus stands as these kinds of models, then I think we are going to have more congestion. So we need more public transport, so the number of buses has to increase to discourage commuters from purchasing two-wheelers. It is because of connectivity issue the population of two wheelers has increased. So, public transport needs to be high on the agenda,” he said.
The third point he emphasised was the rapid expansion happening in various parts of Goa. The link road to MPT once opened you’ll have at least 700-800 vehicles coming out on that road which is going to hit the tourist taxis stationed at Dabolim airport and they’re just going to get crushed like boxes, martins said.
“So in the last two meetings I’ve been raising this point that where is the plan for flyovers? Where is the plan for nearly 6,000 flats to come up in the whole Chicalim? So there’ll be huge vehicle overload and the crashes are going to be increasing,” he asked.
It is amply clear that one needs a complete participation of the society at large to control the mess caused by road traffic accidents. There is no quick fix solution and it is going to be a long haul. But a definite start in that direction is required so that precious lives are saved. There has been enough bloodshed already. It has to be stopped now.