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13.09.2005 Feature Article

Save the people of Ghana

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A rejoinder to Fewer Motor Accidents recorded in first half of 2004 A recently issued Ghana government report indicates that apart from the human loss and injuries sustained annually by helpless citizens, the Government, as at September 2002 had spent nearly 10 billion cedis on accidents taking into consideration salaries of accident investigators in the Police Service and other incidental expenses covering transportation for investigators etc.

As reported by Ms Anita Sackey of GNA on Ghana web on September 9th 2005, a recent study in five African countries including Ghana showed that whilst the number of vehicles have increased from 26% to 63%, road accidents have also risen from 15 % to as high as 70%. The report also indicates that 43% of persons killed annually were pedestrians and 21 per cent of those deaths involved children below the age of 16 years. 70% or persons killed were males.

Ghana is reported to have recorded 127,182 road accidents between 1991 and 2004 in which 17,126 deaths were recorded. The question on the minds of all concerned citizens is, why is the government not focusing on the real problem of improving the roads to accommodate the overcrowded vehicles on our roads?

Mr Victor Tandoh, Commanding Officer of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) is reported to have said that in the first half of this year (January to June), Ghana recorded 9,762 accidents, with 690 casualties as against 10,020 accidents with 975 deaths for the same period in 2004. He boasts that this is an improvement (GNA, Sept 7). We think this should be an embarrassment to the administration not a source of pride. Considering Ghana's population of only 21 million it is ridiculous for the MTTU boss to brag about Ghana's accident statistics especially when the report only covers up to August. ACCIDENT RATE SINCE NPP ASSUMED OFFICE YEAR NO. OF ACCIDENTS FATALITIES INJURIES 2000 14,650 1,159 10,578 2001 11.853 1,212 8,836 2002 11,872 1,150 7,628 2003 10,200 975 2004 9,762 690 Judging by the foregoing, one may say the numbers improved somehow during Kuffour's first year in office but the numbers have become stagnant since then. Something must be going wrong here. We need to ask the government why the rate of reduction of accidents seems to be going at such a slow pace. According to Ms Sackey, Ghana has been identified as the country likely to place third in global road traffic accidents by 2020, if nothing is done to reverse the frightening statistics. One can only pray that God/Providence would protect our travelers on these accident prone-roads. That notwithstanding, the people of Ghana should not leave everything in the hands of lady luck as we have been doing in the past. In fact, this has been going on for decades and instead of our Governments focusing on finding real solutions, they go about begging the question and leaving the people of Ghana in a limbo. The government MUST and should do something proactive and positive about this matter rather than leaving precious Ghanaian lives to chance. It would be just preposterous if Kuffour's outfit does nothing about this considering the tragic death of the three distinguished urologist who died in one of the usual traffic accidents which have become the norm on our roads while serving their county.

Do our administrators know that they can shape policy to save lives on the road? Listen to the way of thinking of our leaders AS DEPICTED BY THE MTTU boss in his recent pronouncements:

Mr. Tandoh, speaking to the Ghana News Agency said the following:

1.” The spate of the carnage on the roads are to be attributed mainly to the human factor, lack of concentration or attentiveness, over-speeding, drunk driving, and fatigue.”

2. “The Police suspended the practice of sending drivers to the classroom to teach them rudiments of road regulations when they were arrested because it was realized that most of the drivers had offended traffic rules many times and had been made to undergo the same exercise several times.”

3. He admits that "This sudden rise in August might not help the third quarter"

4. “We still want to believe that drivers have to be patient, the funny aspect is that the good roads are rather promoting accidents." Mr. Tandoh observed the imbalance between the increasing number of vehicles on the few roads, which contributed to traffic congestion, but said, that was no excuse for drivers to move on the sideways and over-speed on highways to make up for lost time in traffic.

5. On the question of stiffer punishments for recalcitrant drivers, Mr. Tandoh retorted: " The Prisons are already full, what kind of stiffer punishment?"

My question is what bearing does the lack of prison accommodation have on finding a solution to high rate of traffic accidents? Is jail term the only solution? Come on! Do our policy makers keep informed about what is going on in other countries?

The MTTU boss, for example, has identified the Abeka Lapaz - Saint John's Road through Achimota to the Ofankor Barrier as an accident black spot in Accra. This is in spite of the fact that there are at least two police barriers on this road. One may ask, are the police officers on this road sleeping on the job or just there to extort bribes from the law evading drivers as seems to be typically the case?

The MTU boss' assertion that Police, together with the co-operation of the Transport Associations would continue with the educational campaign on accident prevention sounds like a mere political speech. One may ask, what kind of educational campaign is going on, and how effective or serious is the government in following through that campaign? With or without an educational campaign there must be an effective regimen of punishment and penalties to discourage offense. The question then is what are the penalties if one breaches the law? Is the price of disobeying the law higher or lower than that of obeying the law? This is a common law of economics if not common sense that people will choose to disobey if the price of disobedience is lower than the price of obedience. If a driver can give a bribe of 50,000 cedis to a police officer and make 500,000 cedis on rushing passengers to and from the destination why would he or she do the contrary?

Analyses which take all forces into consideration must be made and solutions found to this problem.

In an attempt to pinpoint the causes of our road accidents, Mr. Victor Tandoh, the Commanding Officer of the MTTU On June 6, 2003, made a presentation to the nation/Parliament, Carnage on our roads- impact of the health of the nation in which he identified four main factors or causes of road accident in Ghana. These, he said are:

· Human error (wrong judgment and indiscipline on the part of drivers, passengers, pedestrian).

· The road factor (poor surface pot holes etc. good roads too)

· Environmental factor (Business centers. Cluster of Schools, Change in weather conditions)

· The vehicle (Non maintenance).

Mr. Tandoh also had this to say regarding unintentional accidents. ” The following instances may fit into this category:-

· A good or brand new tyre that bursts

· A well maintained vehicle that develops a sudden fault such as break failure.

· A well composed and law abiding driver whose vehicle is run into by a reckless driver.

· A one-vehicle accident as a result of oil spillage on the roads.

· Failure by road contractors to display warning signs.

· Animal crossing where there is no warning sign etc.

Mr. Tandoh's presentation cited fatalities per 10,000 vehicles (i.e. number of deaths per every 10,000 vehicles involved in accident) in Ghana as follows.

FATALITY TABLE FOR WEST AFRICA GUINEA ( CONAKRY ) - 121 GHANA - 73 NIGERIA - 65 SENEGAL - 64 SIERRA LEONE - 21 BENIN - 14 FATALITY TABLE - GHANA VERSUS EUROPE GHANA - 73 DENMARK - 2.3 GERMANY - 1.9 U.K. - 1.5 SWEDEN - 1.4 While like the MTTU boss, the government may have recognized the problem and its causes, they seem to have no clue as to how to solve it. Maybe they all (Parliament and the President) need to vacate their post- resign. According to the MTTU boss this is the solution: “We need to adjust ourselves and co-operate with the Police in bringing the situation under control.” It sounds to me like re-stating the problem rather than finding a solution to the problem. How ridiculous for an expert of his caliber to presume this will help reduce accidents on the road when the police force is notorious for taking bribes from over speeding drivers. In the first place one may ask: Are there speed limit laws in Ghana and are they enforceable? And by whom? Certainly not the MTTU or the police.

Would you believe that Europe and North America combined have less than half the deaths of Asia, Africa and South America, Why?

According to Mr. Tandoh, from 1992 - December 2002, a period of eleven (11) years officially, 116,292 accident cases were reported throughout the country. This resulted in 11,256 death and 87,650 injuries. Road safety experts have however pegged the annual death toll through accident at about 2200 i.e. an average of 6 persons per day. This number is 5 times the number of deaths through violent crimes such as murders, armed robbery, manslaughter etc.

According to the World Health Organization, Africa has the world's highest rate of road fatalities per capita and Ghana has one of the highest rates of fatalities in Africa

The Role and Challenges of Law Enforcement in Ghana Ghana has to enforce the existing laws. Under Section 8 of the Legislative Instrument 1663 of 1999, any driver arrested under the influence of alcohol, dangerous and reckless driving would have his license seized and would only be given back when the driver had been retested and cleared by the Licensing Authority, yet according to the MTTU boss, in most cases drivers in this category are rarely put before the Courts. He lamented that it is the same drivers who repeatedly commit the crime. One may ask how come these drivers still have licenses to drive. What is the law enforcement agency doing here? This author suggests the adoption and implementation of the following rules and regulations as soon as possible:

1. ALL prospective divers MUST sit, and or write and pass a Driving License Test (Including road signs)

2. The government must construct dual carriage roads. Immediate plan must be made to convert all Ghana Highways into two or more lanes. These Highways must not pass through the cities but must have exit points into the cities.

3. Do not only suspend license of repeated offenders but make them pay heavy fines. A stiffer punishment rather than no rooms in jail may serve an equal deterrent for repeated offenders.

4. Make it illegal to drive or operate a vehicle without purchasing motor vehicle insurance.

5. Computerize the MTTU to make duplicating of licenses difficult and adopt the points system where risky drivers are made to pay a higher insurance premium.

6. Enforce the frequent vehicle inspection test annually.

7. Dismiss, imprison or demand pay back with interest law enforcement officers who take bribes from the drivers.

8. Any driver who is at fault must be made to bear all funeral expenses of the victim and also pay a premium to the bereaved family/heirs.

9. The law MUST be no respecter of persons.

10. Establish a Highway Development fund where concerned citizens can donate to add up to what Government can raise to furnish our roads. Better still decentralize and give powers to the various regions to update and develop their own roads if government's hands are tight here.

The Government (President and Parliament) MUST recognize that the human suffering and economic cost caused by road crashes in Ghana is huge which needs addressing. For every victim of a crash, there are family members, friends, and communities who must cope with the physical, psychological and economic consequences of the death, injury or disability of a loved one. Crash survivors and their families must cope with the painful and often long-term consequences of injury, disability and rehabilitation. In many cases, the cost of care, the loss of the primary breadwinner, funeral expenses, or the loss of income due to disability can drive a family into bankruptcy. Improving road safety will not only protect Ghanaians but improve the economy.

It appears the current NPP Administration has lost sight of the vision of the 2000 campaign and is currently clueless in solving the pressing problems of the country. However, considering the youth, there seems to be hope. There are yet men like Dr. Arthur Kennedy who have not only spoken strongly about reforming the party and extending the wings of the party to attract more of the youth but also has etched up a solid record of solving higher level problems and achieving results even in the United States. It is obvious that NPP seems to be a better option than the NDC. However, not until the old folks stop dreaming and give way to the youth of the NPP, there is bound to be a disaster in 2008. Loyalist of NPP must learn to value ideas and vision over personalities in order to save the Presidency. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Okyere Bonna & Bless Berchie
Okyere Bonna & Bless Berchie, © 2005

The author has 33 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: OkyereBonnaBlessBerchie

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