BY PREMILA KRISHNAN
Of late, there has been a spurt in the number of road accidents in Goa. Goans are generally distinctive with their calm demeanour and monumental patience on the roads. However, driving on the roads of Panjim and other areas of Goa these days is a whole new ball game.
Is infrastructure unable to cope with the sudden increase in the number of vehicles? Is there an influx of tourists driving aggressively under the influence of alcohol or drugs without exercising caution? Is a travel advisory the need of the hour?
In 2020, 14.5 lakh vehicles were registered, and in 2021, it was 14.9 lakh. In 2022, it climbed to 15.4 lakh, but the infrastructure remained more or less the same. There has been a 3% increase in vehicles from 2020-21 and 2021-2022, however, infrastructure has not developed to keep pace with the increase in vehicles on the road.
About two-thirds of those dead in road accidents in 2022, were two-wheeler riders. The state witnessed a nearly 9% rise in road accidents during the year. In 2022, there were 3,011 road accidents reported, of which 271 succumbed to injuries.
A total of 181 persons on two-wheelers died in accidents, and 51 pedestrians lost their lives. Many accidents were reported in Panjim, Mapusa and Porvorim in North Goa and from Ponda, Verna and Vasco in South Goa.
Cars, taxis, vans and light motor vehicles were involved in 44 % of national highway accidents in 2022, with 16% fatalities. Trucks and buses were involved in 20.5% of accidents but sustained 0.7% of fatalities. In contrast, two-wheelers were involved in 34% of accidents and 62% of fatalities. Pedestrian victims were 19%.
Two-wheeler and pedestrian accident victims were involved in 34% of accidents on national highways in Goa in 2022, but 81% of fatalities on national highways, which is proof that highway systems favour heavier and bigger vehicles, and take a heavy toll on vulnerable road users like two-wheelers and pedestrians.
Shockingly, 32% of accidents in 2022 have been in residential areas, 41 % in open areas, 23% in commercial areas and 4% in institutional areas.
The main contributors to road traffic fatalities and injuries include potholed roads, reckless driving, speeding, overtaking, impaired driving (due to alcohol, narcotics or inadequate sleep) cornering and faulty vehicles, in addition to non-usage of helmets, seat belts and child restraints. Rapid motorisation, rapid population growth, lack of safety features in cars, crowded roads and lack of enforcement of traffic rules are the other factors.
Moreover, mobile usage slows one’s response when applying brakes and to traffic signals, leads to deviation from one’s lane and not maintaining the proper distance between vehicles. It is sensible to install a hands-free stand to prop your phones on rather than use hand-held phone sets.
A paradigm shift is discernible in the vehicular power hierarchy and dynamics on the road among drivers of small and large vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians with the expansion and widening of highways. Pedestrians and two-wheelers become invisible and ignored by big vehicles, so dedicated lanes is the way forward.
The road safety measures taken at irregular intervals are of concern as they occur at narrow junctions and lead to bottlenecks due to confrontations. Then there are the private transport buses which halt on busy two-lane roads without warning.
Rent-a-car services also create mayhem with outsiders who indulge in drunken driving, signal jumping and excessive passengers. And in case of an accident, the owner is neither implicated nor arrested even though it is an offence under the MV (Amendment) Act, 2019.
Impactful interventions begin with safer infrastructure designed to protect all users. Demarcated lanes for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, safe crossing points and traffic calming measures can reduce accidents. Vehicle manufacturers can avert crashes and injuries by sticking to their production standards front and side impact regulations which include electronic stability control to prevent oversteering and ensuring there are airbags and seat belts in all vehicles.
Road safety features should be followed by all drivers and post-crash care given to victims of road accidents. The need of the hour is for zero-tolerance enforcement. Law enforcement and regular policing have to be done to curtail risks to pedestrians and two-wheeler riders. Public awareness on road safety has to be conducted at regular intervals.
Traffic laws have to be enforced with the establishment, besides being updated at the national, municipal, and local levels, and risk factors and penalties for violators highlighted. Different sectors, such as transport, police and health, must work in unison to address road safety.
WHO released Save Lives, a road safety technical package, in 2017 with a road safety target to reduce the global number of road deaths and injuries to half by 2030. It focuses on speed management, leadership, infrastructure design and improvement, vehicle safety standards, enforcement of traffic laws and post-crash survival.
It is no matter of choice but strict enforcement of laws and rules to maintain road safety with due consideration given to vulnerabilities that lead to fatal crashes and serious injuries.