Goa seems to make light of the logic of more vehicles on the road resulting in more accidents. In this beautiful land of swaying palm trees and overcrowded beaches, we have not just a minor problem but a gargantuan one of far too many vehicles.
Accidents happen. All the time. As long as there are vehicles there will be accidents.
We choose to live in a motorised world, and hence we have to take accidents as a part and parcel of life. However, when a life is lost, it tugs at the heartstrings. It depresses. It saddens. Because the thought that pops into one’s brain is, “That could have been me”.
All this makes one wonder if the situation will improve or not. The question is, can we build a better world where fewer lives are lost on the road?
In such a situation, the logical entity to look to is the government. Because it is the government that builds the roads, makes the rules and polices the traffic. So, is the Goa government doing a good job, a bad one or an average one? Or none of the above?
The Goa government is doing a good job at building roads (if you leave out filling potholes), but that is where the “good” part ends. After that, it’s really a free for all.
If the system still works, one probably has to congratulate vehicle users who, by and large, police themselves (that is, if you leave out the chaps who habitually overtake from the left and the fellows who drive through red lights).
I mean, how can one expect a government to create a better system when it can’t wrap its head around signal lights?
The signal lights (cameras and all) at the Diva Circle were installed nearly a year ago, and they are yet to be switched on.
Traffic at this circle continues to move based on an everlasting concept that makes India work — ADJUST. The traffic lights within the capital city are on a “now they are on, now they are off” basis.
I am told the signal lights in some parts of Margao have been permanently switched off, because, in Goa, politics supersedes everything else.
What we have today is a series of traffic lights where the amber light is permanently blinking, which means anyone can pass through anytime, anyhow and in any direction, very much like our political system where MLAs go back and forth with no red lights to stop them.
On a more serious note, are things getting better or worse? It’s a million-dollar question. In a way, Goa seems to defy the logic that more vehicles mean more accidents. The number of accidents per 10,000 vehicles has gone down from 45 in 2013 to 24 in 2019.
Secondly, the number of accidents per one lakh population also went down from 229 in 2013 to 158 in 2019.
As far as deaths in accidents go, the peak was 333 in the year 2011 and 336 deaths in 2016. In 2022, the number of deaths was 271 and 226 in 2021. So, all said and done, the situation shows all signs of improving. But why?
One explanation is that the huge increase in vehicles in the absence of a corresponding increase in road infrastructure has reduced the average speed, and this resulted in fewer fatalities.
The second explanation is that vehicle users are better educated (not the guys who overtake on the left) and more conscientious (not the guys who drive through amber and red lights).
Lastly, the government and traffic police are doing a better job. I wouldn’t buy the third explanation. Let’s face it, what do our traffic cops do other than stop rent-a-bike tourists who ride at below-average speeds on the extreme left of the road?
And there is another thing. The legal aspect, so to speak.
If one reads judgements in traffic offence cases, especially those where people have died, one will notice that the conviction rate is next to zero. Why? The shoddy investigation, outdated methods, and you could add a total lack of interest to the list too.
On the other hand, the conviction in claims petitions related to accident cases is much, much higher. Perhaps, a better way forward is to decriminalise accidents and make them money-related. The rule being, when one has a sword hanging over one’s bank balance, one is more likely to drive carefully.
Until then, all of us will be driving through life on a hope and a prayer.