Traffic Safety: Weak

By Radharao Gracias
12 January 2012 00:16 IST

Goa has just celebrated another traffic safety week, which has been more unsafe than any other, so the record seems to indicate. What is it that makes our roads, so unsafe and our drivers so reckless? May be the answer lies in the sudden wealth that everyone in Goa seems to be now accumulating along with disdain for the law.

I was travelling, through Sri Lanka a few years ago. Our vehicle crossed a level crossing, in Colombo and to my disbelief, it was not manned. I could not comprehend how it could be so in the capital city of the country. Moreover, the country was in the midst of an armed conflict with the LTTE and there were road barricades, all over. And yet no barricade at the level crossing. Here in Goa, in my own village, we have been disadvantaged by the railway line for more than a century. Crossing the railway line has become even more difficult, with the advent of the Konkan Railway. The railways refuse to provide a level crossing on the ground that it incurs recurring expenses, to pay the personnel manning the gate.

On my return journey in Colombo, I was particularly keen to see how traffic at the unmanned level crossing proceeded, trouble free. The answer was awaiting. The traffic had formed an orderly queue, on either side of the track. There was no traffic barrier so much a part of a manned level crossing in our country. There were only traffic lights. And the motorists respected them. No recurring expenses whatsoever. The traffic lights are linked to the signal for the train and work in perfect harmony. And so, do the motorists. One cannot even imagine slightest of respect for traffic lights here in Goa.

The pedestrian in the west is a motorist, who has just parked his car. He respects the pedestrian and the motorist possibly because both are one and the same. Here, in Goa a motorist is a pedestrian, who has just purchased a car. He then comes to own the road. And does not remember that he ever was a pedestrian. Woe, to anyone crossing his path. The pedestrian is more likely to end up as an obituary reference in the local newspapers with the refrain “died under tragic circumstances”. ‘Traffic circumstances’ would perhaps be more appropriate.

The procedure for obtaining a driving licence is clearly outlined in the Motor Vehicles Act. Anyone desiring to obtain a licence for a two wheeler is required to make an “8” along the width of a standard road. I remember, in my school days, it was quite an ordeal and licence seekers would practice for hours together and still fail, to make the “8” at the first trial.

However, now there is an option, in case one cannot make an “8” on the road. The alternative is to make a “1000” in the pocket of the Motor Vehicles Inspector conducting the test. Your licence will reach your home, before you do. These days almost everyone seems to prefer the latter option.

S. Krishnamma, an Englishman of Indian origin, overcomes the harshness of the English winter by making his home in Majorda. He narrated to me an interesting experience on our roads. He was travelling on a narrow road when an oncoming vehicle bleeped the lights, and so my friend proceeded, since in England the one who bleeps concedes the right of way. He almost ended in a collision. In India, it is the other way round.

It seems that in India everything is the other way round!

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Radharao Gracias

Radharao F.Gracias is a senior Trial Court lawyer and ex President of the South Goa Advocates Association. He is also former independent MLA of Goa. He has been an activist on issues related to Goa for more than three decades.

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