Departments Must Value Human Life
Considering that drunken driving is one of the significant causes of road accidents, the decision of the North Goa district road safety council to ask the excise department not to renew licences of the bars, restaurants and liquor vending shops if their owners fail to display “Don’t drink and drive” signboards at their premises is quite reasonable. It will instill a sense of road safety among liquor vendors and motorists consuming liquor. The directive would be effective from April 1 this year. The excise department had failed to strictly enforce the council’s circular issued in October last year directing establishments serving alcohol to put up a signage to discourage drunken driving. The liquor vendors diluted the importance by pasting photocopies of the circular on their wall, which failed to draw anyone’s notice and thus failed to convey the intended seriousness against drunken driving. Let us hope the council’s latest directive not to renew the licences of the businesses if they fail to put up signboards at their premises has effect. The council has also decided to seek help of local bodies to enforce the directive.
There were other issues contributing to road accidents the district road safety council had to pay attention to. These issues included absence of signboards or invisible signboards on the edges of roads and absence of warning signs where road digging is going on. A sub-committee is going to be set up to keep a check on digging of roads where the companies and their contractors do not put up signs and night reflectors to warn drivers and pedestrians. The council would direct the public works department to issue show cause notices to the contractors who fail to put up proper safety signs. Dead animals on roads are another issue of road safety. A special squad is going to be formed to lift dead animals from the roads. The traffic police and the public works department are to set up a contingent for the removal and disposal of the dead animals found on the highways and roads. The road council should have found effective ways of dealing with stray animals too, as they are a cause of accidents. The state could adopt the kind of surveillance system developed by IIT, Delhi that warns motorists about approach of large bodied animals.
Digging of roads by this or that agency for this or that work goes on without any coordination among departments. The contractors digging roads never cover the dug parts in a level and indistinguishable manner; often they leave unevenness or even gaps that cause accidents. In most cases of road diggings motorists and pedestrians are never properly warned about digging. People living on either side of the road to be dug and the others need to be alerted in advance about road digging so as to minimise inconvenience to them. At times roads are dug at the far end and motorists are forced to reverse their vehicles, which on many occasions lead to congestion and accidents. Everything is left to the workers engaged by the contractors, with no supervision on the site. Though it is mandatory to place warning signs at the sites of road digging and repairs including permissions obtained from competent authorities, they are not always found at work sites. The standard operating procedures in road digging and repairs are not followed. No arrangements are made to ensure smooth flow of traffic in view of road digging, leading to inconvenience to motorists and the common man owing to clogging. It is rare that traffic policemen are posted to keep the vehicles moving smoothly either way where road works or diggings are going on.
With the problems contributing to road accidents (other than rash driving) having been identified, what is necessary is to implement the decisions taken by the council without any excuses. The drive against drunken driving should be a regular exercise and those found drunk should be imposed heavier penalties. The ‘Don’t drink and drive’ signs are not enough; they are not going to persuade all the people to stop drinking and driving. The persuasion by signs has to be combined with regular action by the traffic policemen to make checks on drunken driving. In order to reduce chances of road accidents in night the authorities need to make sure that street lighting works everywhere. Dysfunctional street lights could add to risks of accidents on roads where digging goes on in daytime. Road safety standards cannot be maintained without a multi-department approach, an approach where every department carries out its responsibility with a genuine concern for the value of human life.