Ghana is struggling to disentangle itself from the shackles of road carnage. If this not true, why are people dying needlessly through fatal vehicular accidents on the country's major roads?
Statistics available has been horrifying and the death toll very heavy. Records from the National Roads Safety Commission (NRSC) and highlighted by the media paint a very gloomy picture of how lives are extinguished on our roads almost daily. For instance, reports from the NRSC indicates that Ghana has recorded 1,585 deaths from 9,205 road crashes between January and August 2020 thus, in just 8 months.
It may interest you to know that the accidents involved 15,459 vehicles, 1,683 pedestrian knockdowns and 9,397 injuries. These figures, according to the Director-General of National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), were higher compared to the figures for similar period last year. By extension, the current spate of road carnage in Ghana is abnormal, hence raising a serious human life matter.
This calls for proactive measures on the part of every right-thinking Ghanaian, the Government and other road safety regulatory bodies to address the problem. It is indeed a worrying phenomenon and we cannot look unconcerned to lose our rich human resources. Countries, the world over that have made massive strides in their socio-economic development placed much premium on their human capital and Ghana is no exception.
It's in the light of this that, there should be a collaborative effort on the part of the entire citizenry and all allied road safety regulatory agencies to reduce the carnage on our roads to the barest minimum. The recent accidents on the Kyekyewere Community stretch off the Accra-Kumasi highway, Gomoa Adam near Gomoa Anteadze on the Kasoa-Cape Coast highway, the Tamale-Bolga highway among others which claimed several lives is still fresh on the minds of every Ghanaian.
Several factors are responsible for the frequent accidents that have been occurring on our highways. As the saying goes, problems do come but solutions must be proffered promptly, hence I'll talk about some of them. Prominent among them is drunk-driving. This is a cause of the carnage on our roads. A lot of motorists who have been plying our major roads take alcoholic beverages as well as narcotic substances.
They believe that, these substances give them the courage to drive without entertaining any fear. In order to surmount this problem, personnel of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service should intensify their patrol duties on the road by using breathalyzers to check the alcoholic intake of drivers. Unfortunately, there are no known devices that can be used to detect the abuse of drugs on the part of drivers.
Another contributory factor to road accidents is bad road network. Most of our roads are in a sorry state - rough, bumpy and bad bituminous surfaces. Others also have dangerous curves and potholes that seem unfamiliar to drivers using such roads for the first time. It is, therefore, important on the part of the agencies in charge of road rehabilitation in the country to use some of the road funds to address such bottlenecks to save precious lives and properties.
Additionally, fatigue on the part of long distance drivers is responsible for accidents. Most drivers who have been plying long routes in the country do not take rest. This is because there are no designated rest stops on our roads. Occasionally, motorists doze behind their steering wheels and innocent souls get perished and others maimed for life. This problem can also be addressed by the personnel of the MTDD of the Ghana Police Service to enforce the law where long distance drivers should have spare or assistant drivers to take over when they become weary.
It is also on record that, speeding results in road accidents. Some recalcitrant drivers recklessly overtake other vehicles without taking cognizance of the imminent danger ahead. Distances are misjudged and whether there are curves on the road, they're ignored. The Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD), the Ghana Private Roads Transport Union (GPRTU) and other allied road safety regulatory authorities should deal ruthlessly with such indisciplined drivers who have been flouting road regulations with impunity. This will serve as deterrent to others. Reader-guns and speed limiters can be used to prevent the rate at which motorists speed on our roads.
There are others too who in their quest to meet the vehicle owner's daily sales, go the extra mile to get additional money for themselves to keep their families going. This is responsible for road crashes and it's heartbreaking.
Rickety vehicles with rusty bodies, bad seats with metals exposing dangerously and cracked windscreens put the lives of passengers at great risk. Staggering figures in terms of death and injury are the results of such cars that are allowed to ply our roads. Authorities should ensure that, such vehicles are impounded and the licenses of drivers are withdrawn, since they do not meet road safety requirements. Apart from this, they can also be arraigned before courts of competent jurisdiction and fines imposed or terms of imprisonment slapped on them to serve as a deterrent to others. This will serve a positive signal to drivers and vehicle owners to ensure that their vehicles are properly maintained before they are put on our roads.
What's more, the unprofessional behavior of some road safety personnel of the Ghana Police Service do not subject the documents on vehicles such as insurance cover, valid driving license and road worthiness certificates to serious scrutiny. There are cases of alleged corruption levelled up against them. To ensure sanity on our roads, police personnel should enforce road safety regulations to enable motorists operate within the confines of the law and in the right policy framework to save lives.
From my perspective and as a solution, I think that dualization if carried out on our major roads will save lives instead of building castles in air. It's high time authorities prioritized dualization of major highways. It's no more a luxury. It's a necessity. Since the volume of vehicles in Ghana has skyrocketed in the past decades, major road expansion is the way to go. Till we move from single roads to dual carriageways, we're exposed to this canker. For example, the distance from Accra to Kumasi is not even up to 247km. It's 243.49km, hence all the Regional capitals must be dual carriageway to save lives.
Nigeria for an example, from Lagos to Abuja is 752km, but it's dual carriageway. Even from Accra to Kumasi down to Tamale is 618km, so there's no road in Ghana from West to East, or from South to North longer than Lagos to Abuja of 752km. I believe that if we're able to get dual carriageway in all the Regional capitals it'll save lives. Is it too difficult to get some simple things done in our part of the world, Ghana?
I think we need to bring this issue into the political space, more so, in an election year with some few days to Election Day for our leaders to understand that Ghanaian Lives Matter! For instance, in the US and other advanced countries, what makes people do what they are supposed to do is not because they are “better” people than us. It is all about cost-benefit analysis. It is far better to spend money now to maintain your car or the road, otherwise, it is going to cost you more. It is as simple as that. This is the mindset we need to bring to Ghana by making defaulters feel the pain. If we ease the pain through bribery, mercy, family ties, political ties and the likes, then people and leaders will have no incentives to change their behavior.
The enormous waste of valuable lives and property on our highways should be grave concern to government and citizens alike. A dead person cannot enjoy health, education, work, VOTE among others.
The quest to achieve total development in the Ghanaian economy may become a daydream, if pointless road traffic accidents continue to consume the illustrious sons and daughters of mother Ghana. Our nation needs the contribution of every individual within her territory to make her cherished dreams a reality. The aim of attaining zero digit of road accidents by the end of the year 2020 is not walk in the park.
The death rate of road accidents outnumbers the Covid-19 deaths. Why can't we help curb the carnage on our roads like we've seen the media, private sector and government joining forces in such a spirited fight against Covid-19? That can be said to be the reason Ghana is recording such low mortality rates.
Can we see such efforts in battling this canker of road accidents or we've come to accept it as 'normal' in Ghana because we live in a country where repeated occurrences, no matter how bad, are accepted as 'normal' over a period?
The indiscipline on the roads, laxity and irresponsibility of key stakeholders continues to be causative and undeniable factors but then, attitude of change could help stem the tide.
How do we embrace attitudinal change to confront and paralyze the nerve-racking road traffic accidents in Ghana? I think that, if drivers justify the license they possess by driving carefully and professionally; they observe the speed limits, reduce speed in town to allow pedestrian usage of the roads, the harm becomes preventable. Pedestrians should also look out for safe crossing facilities such as pedestrian crossing points and footbridges before crossing the road.
Apart from that, motorbike riders should ride safely by wearing helmets, avoid needless maneuvering while looking out for pedestrians, and not violate the red lights at traffic points. The media should carry out public education to sensitize the public to prevent more road accidents in the country. The media should leverage their power as journalists to become crusaders against the carnage on the roads. They should move away from curative journalism to preventive journalism as far as road safety is concerned.
All and sundry, I mean every stakeholder should give their maximum support to the government as it's being done in this Covid-19 pandemic times. Such collaborative efforts will go a long way to maintain sanity on our road network, safeguard our human capital for accelerated socio-economic development of mother, Ghana. Road accidents are rising but still Ghana will rise!
The author, Bright Philip Donkor is the CSA'20 Online Journalist of the Year; a Young Activist, Social Commentator, Columnist and a Prolific Feature Writer.
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