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Killer speed breakers

How road bumps meant to save lives end up taking them

Like so many mothers who lose their children to tragedy, a mother in Aldona grieves her son, who died tragically a few months ago on Goan roads. He wasn’t driving drunk, nor was he drugged. He was simply collateral damage to Goa’s most incompetent road ‘safety’ measure of all, the nefarious speed breakers that are ostensibly built to protect and safeguard.

We’ve all felt them. Speeding or not, day or night, they’re innocuous, insidious and villainous, invisible to the eye, lying in wait like predatory death traps. How many times have we screeched brakes in vain at the last minute, only to feel that almighty bump followed by that sickening clunk as the back of the car thuds on to the summit of these mountains.

“First I felt a crack in my neck,” says a senior member of the BJPO while speaking to Goa Streets of his experience with the killer bumps. “Then I felt the crack in my back.”

He would of course rather be in traction than have his name disclosed, but he does add, “I’m lucky nothing broke.”

You’re certainly a lot luckier in a car than on a bike. That unfortunate mother lost her son to a bike colliding with a speedbreaker with, typically, no signage, no white markings whatsoever. Both he and his friend were thrown from the bike, and both died on the spot. They were 17 years old. The mother is not keeping well these days, and she’s moved to Mumbai where loved ones can look after her.

One can only imagine the sheer number of backs these bumps have broken. Your life is more valuable in the cities than outside them. Panjim for example, has clearly marked speed breakers. An absolute beauty sits just outside Progress High School, that crucial little lane that juts out at the bottom of Panjim Church.

While the hump could be less viciously inclined, it is, at the very least, clearly marked. Of course you wouldn’t be speeding down that lane anyway, because traffic is often bumper-to-bumper here.

Roll out of Panjim, Vasco and Margao, and speedbreakers begin to disappear. From sight, that is.

It is particularly galling to this correspondent that this is a perennial, omnipresent and persistent state of affairs on a matter that seems to beg the very least amount of foresight and planning. In Bangalore, where the potholes compete with speedbreakers for hapless victims, they have an excellent construction, almost a panel, a gentle slope up, a plateau for a foot, and gentle slope down. Guess what. They break speed, not backs. They certainly don’t kill people.

It would seem that the government would have the time and monies to rectify this rather small but widespread and urgent problem, seeing as the transport minister has the time to wax lyrical about culture and bikinis, and that the government has just funded a massive eyesore outside Se Cathedral for the archeological department.

It is manifestly not money we are short of, nor is it time. It is simply lack of respect for life and health of ordinary citizens. Perhaps it will take the death of someone who matters, or their child’s, for things to change.

A few days before this story went to press, the District Magistrate of Margao notified traffic signages over hump -type speed breakers and  zebra crossings on roads, at a distance of 20 metres from the Collyamoddi road junction towards Tilamol; 10 metres from the Collyamoddi road junction towards Collyamoddi on internal road; 15.50 meters from the sign board of “Best Western” towards West (Quepem), 4 metres from the small road junction on Sirvoi road towards Sirvoi and  on the Curchorem-Quepem road at Purso Posro, Borimol in between the junctions of Sirvoi road and internal Collyamoddi road.

Again, in usual incompetence, no talk at all of white markings on the bumps has found its way into this drawing boards of bumbling babus.

We will keep a watchful eye on the various locations as denoted by the District Magistrate, and will report back on any and all improvements, if any of these are fructified at all.

Until then, make sure your children wear a helmet, whenever they leave the house. Day or night. Because those killer bumps will lie in wait, whether they are seen or not.