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11.09.2005 Feature Article

Road Safety - The Death Toll Rises.

Road Safety - The Death Toll Rises.
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After my last article on Ghana Road Safety it has claimed the life of an in law at Odorkor last Sunday. We need Road safety to be taken seriously – not just lip service paid to it. Putting up speed limit signs are simple start to reducing death on our roads. No electricity will be needed as these signs can be erected in any part of the country at a minimal cost.
Our police should reinforce this speed limit and put the police patrols on commission that; for every speeding offence, the police force gets a cut in monies collected in the form of bonuses. It might encourage some corruption – but if it encourages enthusiasm among the police for enforcing the law, it will still be beneficial.
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Every heavily used junction and roundabout needs traffic lights. Expensive, but otherwise we risk drivers trying to 'make the gap'. Do our trotro and taxi drivers know Ghana's Highway Code? This is what the Drivers union at station should be educating their members as well as the DVLA with endorsement from the IGP. Every driver should know the High way codes and this could be checked regularly when drivers stop at Road Barriers. The police could do a mental check on High Way codes as a routine without charging the drivers.
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Drivers' Unions at every station need to take on this responsibility seriously to ensure safety on our roads. They should be the first to make sure that their members thoroughly know the Highway Codes and adhere to them and also linking with the police if they have concerns about the road worthiness of a vehicle. This would not only improve safety of the passengers, but the drivers and the reputation of the driver unions. Therefore, these Unions should be awarded with remuneration or certificates.
I have learnt that Kumasi rewards the best drivers of the year and best practice needs to be emulated across the board. This would need to be encouraged with the Government backing throughout every station. Awards should also be awarded to the best station unions that ensure safety and have evidence of low Road Traffic Accident levels in their areas.
Drivers are more likely to listen to their Station Union lead person than the police. This would also free up our police force's time. An integrated team should be set up with station union representatives, the police, some representatives from the DVLA, lead people from the Ministry of Road and Transport, and representatives from the regional Chiefs. Passengers should also have a voice.
Nobody or organization could work alone in tackling road safety in any country. This collaboration is essential in order to think strategically and plan road safety effectively and efficiently.
Do Ghanaian vehicles have a road worthiness check test? Is the DVLA checking the road worthiness of vehicles before renewing road tax? Is this done annually just like the developed countries?
In Ghana and other underdeveloped countries, drivers use their tyres until they are on their last legs or a massive puncture before the tyre is changed. These habits have cost lives on our roads yet sadly this still continues. Introducing a policy for all trotro drivers and taxi drivers to have the owners or a central place to phone in and report reckless drivers would be helpful.
In the capital cities of Accra, Kumasi and others places do we have parking meters at all? We are looking of ways to get money to make our road safe for every one and surely this is a way to get some revenues to help in the regeneration of the beauty of our capital cities. This revenue would certainly help in keeping our city, gutters clean etc.
There is a need to put signs for parking at certain times only, so that no one parks indiscriminately. Heavy fines would deter motorists from parking indiscriminately.
Drivers drive at the same speed in built up areas. It would be helpful if the speed limit of 20- 30MPH in the built up places and villages and 60 –70 a national speed limit on the motor ways. The Department of Road and Transport need to ensure Crash barriers in every major road such as the Accra –Aflao road and more so these road should be a dual carriage road not a single road. Has there been a survey about the road traffic accident on roads like the Accra- Aflao roads and the Kumasi roads?
Currently, between major cities, there is only one road. When there is a problem, the whole traffic stops. Intercity traffic should be segregated from local traffic. This way intercity traffic will move faster, and local roads will be easier to cross because heavy long distance traffic will not be on them. This will make roads safer for everyone, and also provide an alternative route if a road has to be closed. Drivers are always overtaking and most of the times without even checking to see the incoming traffic.
How many more people needed to be added to the Road Traffic Accident statistics? The DVLA, The Police and all the authorities responsible for such issues need to act. Do we need to be proactive or reactive in preventing road traffic accidents? this is the question representatives for road safety need to be asking themselves? Sadly to spell it out but if we don't act now, you could be the next victim tomorrow. This is not a laughing matter.
Are drivers still drinking alcohol and driving afterwards? I doubt if we have the breathlizers for the police to randomly check motorists. Some lorry drivers too do not even take short breaks when driving. Such practices are not very helpful as these drivers and get tired behind their wheels and they are the main cause of most accidents. We should encourage road side café's with decent safe parking, toilets and no alcohol. Drivers can then take a break in comfort.
Safety of large road vehicles is paramount – no brakes and 30 tons at 50 miles an hour is not a thought I like to entertain.
Reducing Road traffic accident is a national affair with T.V advertising,
Radios campaigns; posters at Bus stops and local chiefs addressing this issue during their Annual festivals etc. The national speed limit needs to be publicized so that our public could challenge any driver up to date who do not comply with the national speed restrictions.
All drivers should have their own mobile numbers on the back of their lorries, all taxis and buses to say” How is my driving.” Passengers should be empowered to report bad driving to the owners as soon as possible. Though this is helpful the police could suggest a better way of dealing with this area.
One way traffic should be encouraged around the entire city, and it would be helpful if crash barriers are installed on all our motor ways. For example the Accra –Aflao road should be a dual-carriage road not a single road. This road is a heavily used road at all times.
All Zebra crossings should have lights flicking and heavy fines should be placed on accidents that occurs around the zebra crossing. Crossing points need to be graded to road level so that infirm people, push chairs, bikes and hand pulled trucks can cross easily.
We are getting there but still rather a long way to get there. Speed breaks in built up areas; we could use old tyres to narrow roads at certain points, speed bumps (deliberate!) to hinder open access. The police should have regular updates about Prevention of Road traffic accidents and learn from each accident.
If the police were doing their jobs properly then we would have faith in them and respect all regulation. No one should bribe the police when they are doing their work and rewards to the best police in each region would help
Increase moral, confidence and faith in the police service. All Ghanaians need to help the Government in making this happen. Together we could reduce Road traffic Accidents and the impact would cascade into attracting more people such as the tourists we desperately need into the country.
Eventually, there should be Electronic notice boards on all our motorways to help with communication on our busy road. Example if an accident happen earlier on how on earth would other drivers know until they also drive into it. We are in a Modern Ghana with computers every where. Our people are in every part of the globe to help Ghana . Surely Dr Anane, the Minister of Road and Transport have in place a program for Road safety measures, a monitoring program and a review and evaluation process. We want to see what is being done.
His department and the DVLA should be talking to the motorist at all times on our roads using sign posts and daily campaigns on radios etc.
The road safety needs of every group in our country should be considered when it comes to the planning of safety measures. There are also a large number of disabled people in our society and how do they go about their daily lives safely?
Do we have an annual national safety campaign in the country to publicly announce what the Government achievements on Road Safety are to date? There should be a national campaign of road safety to create awareness. Posters on Safety, in Churches, schools, lorry stations, and anywhere one could think of would help with the reduction of casualties.
Some of these ideas will cost considerable sums (new roads, traffic lights, and electronic message boards) but others are low tech and easily implemented. Progress should be visible within 2 years, or we should know why. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Mercy Adede Bolus
Mercy Adede Bolus, © 2005

The author has 172 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MercyAdedeBolus

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