Come the festive season with the onset of autumn and the State is immersed in a wave of happiness. But it is also the time when many families are left bereaved and shattered, with road mishaps peaking sharply. This year has been no exception, with the 108 Mrityunjoy service reporting as many as 226 road mishaps across the State on just the two days of Ashtami and vami-Dashami during Durga puja. More than 30 lives have been lost and above a hundred injured, some left permanently disabled. News of road fatalities in the three days in 21-23 October are coming from Tinsukia, Sivasagar, gaon, Lakhimpur, Guwahati, Boko, Sualkuchi, Bongaigaon and other places. The actual figures must be higher as we are considering only Mrityunjoy figures. In Guwahati, 11 persons perished in accidents caused by a speeding SUV and a city bus hitting road dividers in separate incidents, a truck mowing down pedestrians and a car ramming into a statiory truck. This despite the police and transport department’s vigil at major checkpoints in the city, which did mage to check to a large extent the mece of biker gangs this time around. The Guwahati administration enforced a dry day during the pujas, though reckless youths were apprehended while driving over to the Meghalaya side on the city outskirts to buy liquor.
The pattern of road mishaps remain distressingly the same — rash and drunken driving, over-speeding and utter disregard, if not ignorance, of driving rules. The State is paying a heavy price in precious lives and medical costs due to the high death toll on its roads during the festive season. But this is a sad carryover of the mayhem occurring throughout the year on State roads. According to the tiol Crime Records Bureau, road traffic accidents (RTA) have become an epidemic in Assam, accounting for 50.4 per cent deaths in the State in 2014-15, which was way above the tiol average of 36.4 per cent. There must be no let up against the State government’s drive to implement the directions of the Supreme Court appointed committee against over-speeding and overloading, driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, using mobile phones while behind the wheel and violating other road safety norms. The procedure for granting driving licenses must be made foolproof and accurate databases maintained. Idequate attention to road safety is adversely affecting the State’s socio-economic health.