Archbishop on Road Safety:

In Goa, church steps in to appeal for safe driving

Panaji (IANS): The increasing number of fatal road accidents in Goa has forced the influential church to issue an appeal for safe driving and for riders to wear helmets.

The Goan Roman Catholic church’s concern about the perils of driving two wheelers on the state’s lethal roads can be gauged by a fervent appeal by Goa archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao in a circular issued to every parish across the state. There were 318 fatal road accidents in the tiny state last year.

In his circular, Ferrao has appealed to all “parish priests, assistants to parish priests, chaplains etc” to wear helmets in order to avoid road tragedies, which have become a constant feature in the local pages of the news dailies.

“If not all, at least a good number of these tragedies are avoidable and it is our responsibility to avert them. This responsibility vests primarily on the two-wheeler driver and the pillion rider – and is discharged, to a successful degree, by wearing a helmet,” the archbishop has said.

“Two-wheelers are not the only cause of the fatalities on road; other vehicles too are accountable for them. Such mishaps occur mainly when vehicles are driven with high speed or under the influence of alcohol or even by inexperienced drivers,” Ferrao added.

The archbishop’s fears are reflected in the Goa Police road accidents statistics, which show that one person in the age group of 20-45 dies every 27 hours on Goa’s roads. There were 4,178 road accidents in the state in 2008, out of which 318 were fatal.

Ferrao said that he was apprised of the seriousness of the road accidents scenario by the traffic authorities and the numerous news reports which appeared in the media nearly every day.

“The superintendent of police (traffic) himself has written to us, informing that the situation is serious, especially as a good number of fatalities are due to either the drivers or the pillion riders not wearing crash helmets,” the circular said.

Ferrao also quoted the late Pope Paul VI’s address to the Automobile Club of Italy in 1972, where the former head of the Catholic church had said war alone did not take lives.

“One brother still kills another, not only in the hotbeds of war around the world but also on the roads when he fails to observe strictly the rules of road traffic… We encourage the authorities and bodies like yours which are dedicated to this noble end; and we invite you to not lose heart, confident that man’s innate nobility will also be affirmed more and more in road education,” he quoted the late Pope as having said.

Ferrao has asked the clergy in the state to pass on the message of road discipline, along with the name of Jesus.

“Kindly explain to them its contents, so that the flock under our care and other people of goodwill may experience the effects of the shepherding we exercise in the name of Jesus also in the area of traffic discipline,” he wrote.

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