By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji–The Supreme Court’s ban on alcohol may have shut down scores of bars in the vicinity of the national highway network in Goa, but this does not appear to have curbed the spate of road accidents — at the rate of almost one per day — in the tourist state.
The rising spate of accidents in the state, with its high vehicle density, has become such a significant issue that when the legislative assembly met on Tuesday for a day to ratify the Goods and Services Tax bill, the only other issue the lawmakers discussed, via a calling attention motion, was how to bring down accidents on Goa’s roads.
Poor road engineering, rash and negligent driving, driving without helmets and under the influence of liquor are some of the key reasons for the accidents, according to the state Transport Department, but for Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, mere financial penalties do not serve as a deterrent for Goa’s errant drivers.
“Police officers have been asked to conduct classes at police stations for traffic offenders who have been caught without helmets. The classes are being designed by the police department over a period of three hours on two consecutive evenings for the violators,” Parrikar has said, adding that , henceforth, mere fines for traffic violations will not do.
According to Transport Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, 326 people died on Goa’s roads last year. In 2017, 115 people have so far been killed in over 100 accidents and this paints a grim picture, Dhavalikar said.
“The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) bill 2016 will be implemented in the state soon. The stringent punishment for driving under the influence of liquor and rash driving, or non-wearing of helmet, should help to bring down the accident rate,” Dhavalikar told IANS.
Dhavalikar’s department earlier this week also started a unique initiative, where two- and four-wheeler drivers were offered a red rose by Transport Department’s enforcement officers for following traffic rules.
“We tried to do something positive, which will instill confidence in the motor vehicle users vis-a-vis following of rules,” Dhavalikar said.
Goa, India’s smallest state, has a vehicle density of nearly one for every resident. This high density is also a pointer to the state’s poor infrastructure as far as a mass transportation system is concerned.
According to Transport Department statistics, the number of vehicles registered in the state has almost doubled to 13.5 lakh in the last five years.
This, plus the multitude of tourists — over four million last year — adds to the pressure on the state’s roads, resulting in a spike in the number of accidents.
Parrikar now claims that a string of measures are being worked out over the next 15 days in a bid to bring down the accident rate.
“We are looking to incorporate traffic safety in school curriculum, remedial classes for habitual offenders in police stations. We are also working with the Public Works Department to correct accident prone zones,” Parrikar said.
The Chief Minister also said that the objective of the exercise was to bring down the accident rate by “30 per cent to 40 per cent” by year-end.