Every few months there occurs an accident involving a drunk driver or a driver alleged to be drunk that stirs up the demand for police action against those driving under the influence of alcohol. The authorities go on overdrive for a week or two, actually announce it, and then relax, until there occurs another major accident of a similar sort.
Major, because there could be many other accidents involving drunk drivers that people in general do not get to know about as not every accident makes it to the news.
It is only when there is a death that the accident is considered newsworthy. And so now, discussions are again veering to drunken driving, but with a new question. Are we not safe from rashly driven vehicles, at whose wheels are seated drunk drivers, even in our own homes or business places?
The Vagator accident – and here I use the word accident as it is a little difficult to come up with another to describe what occurred – has made us aware that it is not just on the road that a person can be killed by a vehicle but even in their own homes.
It would indeed have been a miscarriage of justice if the driver of the vehicle who drove into the reception area of a hotel and killed the hotel owner had been booked for nothing other than rash and negligent driving.
He has been booked with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, where the maximum punishment is a life sentence. Why that is important is because the vehicle he was driving apparently got off the road, drove into a pathway, drove further into a building and rammed into the woman.
This could definitely not be considered as rash and negligence on the part of the driver that led to her death. The accident leads to many questions as to what exactly happened. If the driver was drunk as it is being alleged, for at the time of writing the reports on this were still awaited, then how did he reach his destination through crowded streets and only then lose control of the vehicle?
As per reports in the media, the road is quite a few metres from the hotel. Why did he drive his vehicle off the road for such a distance? What speed was he driving at to be able to drive the vehicle up the steps and into the reception area of the hotel? Had he been at a slow speed, his vehicle would definitely not have entered the building.
However, much one attempts to rationalise logically as to how this accident occurred, one fails, simply because there is no rational explanation to this. Perhaps the police investigations will help us understand how it happened. But then the people will have to keep up the pressure to ensure that the probe goes in the right direction.
The accident has resulted in the villagers of Vagator marching to the police station and demanding action, even pointing out to police lapses in the form of a bag being removed from the car after the accident.
There also have been posts on social media and an article or two that question the greed of the people who have allowed the coastal villages to be converted into tourism hubs.
Yes, Goa and its people blundered into tourism without foreseeing the consequences or even the changes that would take place, but were entirely seduced by economic reasons, or the quick money that tourism did bring. But this accident is unpardonable and whatever else may be the extraneous causes of it, the driver is solely responsible for it and culpable too.
Going further, it is evident that Goa has not succeeded in curbing drunken driving. We are coming to the peak tourism season and the streets of Goa, especially the coastal areas and the capital city, are going to be crowded. There have to be measures taken to ensure that our streets are made safe for citizens and visitors.
Lives are precious and they cannot be snuffed out by the irresponsibility of drivers who drink and drive. For them, it may be a high to get behind the wheel and careen through the streets.
But it is a tragedy of the most epic proportions for those who have their lives cut short and for those who are left to mourn the dead. Unless drunk drivers are dealt with sternly, there will be no change in their behaviour.