According to news reports, the police have established that none of the occupants of the car that met with a self-accident last week, in which three persons died and two were injured, had consumed alcohol.
This is a change from most late-night accidents in recent times, which took place due to the drivers being at the wheel in an inebriated condition.
What this finding of the cops indicates is that the cause of the accident was overspeeding or rash driving.
The police often club these two together. But one could be following the speed limit and still be riding/driving rashly. That, however, is a different matter.
Take the example of broad highways today that can be quite hazardous, not merely because of speeding, but because vehicles of six-wheels and more drive at slow speeds on the outer lane that is meant for overtaking, blocking the view of what is in front, of oncoming traffic, of bends in the road.
This forces four-wheelers and two-wheelers, even those within the speed limit, to at times blindly swing from the left to the right lane, endangering themselves and other vehicles.
The issue here is that safety on the roads needs to be improved. Safety doesn’t only mean having sober drivers or those following the speed limit.
There are too many accidents on roads and culpability is often laid on the driver, while road conditions and road engineering are never faulted. Can road conditions be improved to give motorists a pleasant, stress-free experience on the road?
A point to be noted is that the authorities shake themselves up whenever there is a serious accident, and relax immediately after the incident has been forgotten.
Stricter policing may help, but what matters is reining in those who break the rules, and not just those overspeeding. There can be vehicles that are within the speed limit and still pose a danger to other riders/drivers.
The dangers of driving on the roads, as pointed out above, are many. There have been efforts made to reduce accidents and improve driving conditions. But, have they been delivered?
Take for instance the Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that has been introduced. Can there be a report compiled and released on how AI-assisted traffic management has improved travelling in Goa?
It is already some months since the system has been in place. Has it shown any positive results and changes implemented based on this?
Interestingly, as I was writing this column, I was simultaneously leafing through old newspapers in the Central Library on an unrelated topic, when an article in a newspaper of September 1978 caught my attention.
It was a comment on the increasing number of tragic accidents in Goa, listing the reasons as speeding, rash driving and drunk driving. Suddenly it appears that little has changed in 45 years in Goa where driving and accidents are concerned.
That article went on to say that the roads of Goa can be likened to the race course, where everybody wants to overtake and says it’s not just professional drivers at the wheel of transport vehicles, but even those driving their own cars and bikes.
Yet, in 1978, the roads of Panjim would have been pretty deserted. The number of vehicles has increased manifold since that year, but the width of the roads – Panjim at least – has remained much the same, in fact, the motoring conditions may have been better four and a half decades ago.
The accident rate, of course, has increased considerably. There are far too many deaths on the road, and it does call for an attempt to reduce them. It has to be a concerted attempt between the transport department as well as the traffic cell and civil society.
It cannot be left to the government and its arms alone to make it happen. Society has to also get involved. There are NGOs involved in road safety. Their input has to be sought and acted upon.
What occurs now is that every time there is an accident, there is much written and discussed about road safety.
But it does not lead to change – neither in the traffic management nor in the driving skills of the motorists.
That change has to happen, for unless it does, nothing will change, and the precious lives of young people will keep being snuffed out on the roads of Goa. These are lives that could be saved and should be saved.