“A strip of lawless asphalt where an angry army of humans and a bewildering variety of vehicular traffic battle for space and the right of way; it is, outside conflict zones, the most dangerous place on earth.” So has an author gone on to describe a typical Indian road.
And as statistics would have it, Goa’s killer roads seemingly account for more deaths in the state than any other single cause!
Almost every other day, newspapers and TV channels report about the dangers posed by rash and negligent driving on the roads. Of course, accidents, it is said, happen due to human error. But when these mistakes are a direct consequence of one’s irrational behaviour, someone else has to bear the brunt of this folly - and tragically at that!
While such fatal road accidents should serve to jolt the authorities of a reverie that has come of years of complacency about traffic management in the state, it is pretty much evident that all the efforts in this direction have been in vain!
Over-speeding as an apparent exhibition of one’s masochism is known to cause enough problems for other commuters on the roads. Yet there is always a tendency to overlook these reckless manners as an inevitable part of daily travel.
When devices are to be resorted to determine whether a motorist is ‘legally’ drunk, it does imply that driving in an inebriated state is permissible – but to an extent where the policeman with the alcometer decides how sober you are!
With there being no let-up in the number of awareness camps and traffic campaigns being organized with an eye on sensitizing the public on the nuances of safe driving, it is exasperating to note that we have still not made any advances in this area.
While sensible driving has never been our forte, it is the fondness for ‘improvising’ one’s techniques on the roads so as to cause discomfort to the others which need to come in for sharp criticism.
However, with the authorities perennially engaged in the struggle to discipline traffic offenders, it needs to be mentioned here that it is the fear of the authority more than the will to abide by traffic laws that has consumed every motorist.
The police too have been conspicuous by its reluctance to educate the commuting public instead preferring the ‘ease’ of penalizing traffic infringements.
Goa’s Traffic Sentinel scheme is a glaring example of this anomaly!
Assisting the department in booking various traffic violations, the police are of the opinion that the scheme has had a deterrent effect and more and more compliance is being seen among motorists, especially two-wheeler riders on the use of helmet while riding.
Traffic enforcement and awareness on road safety may have facilitated an increase in following traffic rules, but have they helped motorists to become more circumspect and disciplined on the roads! The growing number of accidents and the impudence on the roads clearly reflect the worsening scenario.
Besides pedestrians, cyclists, bullock-carts, tractors, and more lately, cranes and other earthmoving machinery competing with cars, trucks, buses and two-wheelers for space; Goan roads are unique in that they are shared ‘uniformly’ by cattle as well!
Fortunately, Goa is spared the agony of the homeless who sleep on the footpaths and pavements of the city. Reports from metro-cities about drivers in an intoxicated state mowing them down have quite often featured in the press and media.
While quite a few accidents are caused by poor road conditions, we need to accept that our roads and highways are not engineering marvels either! The most problematic are the crossroads which defy all perceptions of sensible designing!
Resembling busy railway junctions, crossways on the roads are quite confusing and usually witness a free-for-all during peak hours.
The airport junction at Dabolim for that matter is one such confluence!
A crossroads of haphazardness with bedlam and confusion prevailing at any time of the day or night, one needs to be blessed with additional eyes and ears to manoeuvre through the melee here.
Enough of traffic hiccups and accidents later, the airport authorities are yet to wake up to the risks posed at the ‘cut’ on the divider from where vehicles take a U-turn to exit the airport.
All the approach roads to the airport and in the vicinity of the naval establishment have virtually turned into parking alleys for cabbies and the area around the airport has become an accident-prone zone. For commuters though, skirting through lines of parked vehicles on both sides of the road and steering through the traffic has not been an easy proposition.
The airport junction requires impeccable traffic management as it witnesses heavy vehicular movement all through the day. It is at these vital junctions that sufficient police personnel are to be posted to streamline the traffic. Otherwise, the area would be witnessing fatalities on the road every other day.
In this respect, the crisscross of roads at the GMC junction is a nightmare of sorts. With an undefined number of parallel and adjacent roads in the vicinity of the main road, it calls for a high degree of caution and the presence of mind to motor through the confusion.
While the potholed visage of most of the roads continues to irk residents, it is the unplanned manner in which the dividers have been constructed on the thoroughfare that is more concerning – or rather the ‘gaps’ that have come up on the dividers!
Proving to be convenient ‘getaways’ for two-wheelers to squeeze their way through quite oblivious to the on-coming traffic on the other side, it is quite surprising that the authorities are unmindful of these irregularities which have resulted in more accidents than one can remember.
If petrol pumps in the city have added to the traffic congestion, refuelling stations along highways and bypass roads narrate their own stories of traffic absurdities by the public.
Since most of them lack proper access, automobile and two-wheeler owners prefer taking a detour from the wrong side of the road to save time. This practice, however, needs to be censured in the strictest of terms as it has proved costly once too often for the drivers.
It thus becomes essential that the authorities make provisions for having entries and exits closer to the fuel bunks which do not prove cumbersome for the motorists. This would also help in checking unruly traffic in the vicinity of the petrol pumps.
Traffic infringements have become a way of life for us. If we are to bring down the fatalities on the roads, it is we who have to curb our impulses and decide on becoming far more methodical.
During her long and meritorious police career, when Dr Kiran Bedi was serving as traffic commissioner in Delhi, she opined: “Road safety can only come if all the three partners related to roads are dealt with together – the enforcers or the traffic police, users and those living on the roads.”
How true!(Published on 25th November 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 48)