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09.11.2005 Feature Article

Rejoinder: Decline in road accidents -Commission

Rejoinder: Decline in road accidents -Commission
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In a General News of Friday (Accra, Nov. 4, GNA), the third quarter report of the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) is quoted as saying, “Contrary to recent media reports, road accidents have declined by an average of about 22 per cent in the country.” To justify this statement the report further said, persons killed in road accidents had reduced daily from five to four this year compared to 2004. How interesting!

Of course, this does not include all those who die within 30 days after the accident which must be included according to international standards. And what a political propaganda! Is this what our government (NRSC) calls improvement? Then we have a long way to go. It appears our government doesn't still get it that our roads are killing innocent people and that people matter in a polity.

What constitute a decline in accident rates in Ghana? For a population of 22 million if we loose 4 a day that comes up to 365(4) = 1,460 in a year not counting the other surviving fatal casualties. This figure represents a significant proportion of Ghana's population. This is therefore unacceptable from the government. More need to be done.

One may ask if the government of Ghana or the NRSC has a set goals and a plan to solve this problem of road accidental deaths. It is obvious that NRSC doesn't have any meaningful set goals or plan. We need to see a plan, a milestone with a breakdown into sub goals for all the regions and districts. This figure given is the annual death toll of some countries.

The News also quoted the Executive Director of the NRSC as saying the total persons killed between July and September this year reduced to 368 as compared to 470 in 2004 within the same period. Total number of vehicles that were involved in accident between the periods also reduced to 4,581 this year, from 6,105 in 2004. Of course this looks good on paper and we must pat them on the shoulder yet considering the nature and attitude of our government this is not surprising. Mind you this figure accounts for the recent past three months (July – September) only and considering the pressure we have all hurled on our government following the lost of Ghana's three distinguished urologists and a former MP a unit drop is not acceptable. Again one cannot guarantee that this trend will even continue with the government's attitude of “the peoples' anger will cool off;” meaning they will soon forget.

It must also be reiterated that considering the number of licensed vehicles in Ghana and the population of Ghanaians, this is not acceptable. Chad with a population of 9,826,419 (July 2005 est.) show 22 such deaths in a year. The Road Safety Executive Director noted that Ashanti Region still remained the most accident-prone zone followed by Greater Accra, Eastern and Brong Ahafo Regions in that order. Why doesn't he tell us what long term measures are being taken to solve this issue. It is not enough to solve this problem by talking. We need a national policy to back the political speeches. In 2000 the governments of Sub-Saharan African Countries including Ghana were provided with prepared data tables on road safety which identified data gaps that needed to be filled.

The TRL report also gave the following guidelines to apply to all major road rehabilitation projects:

1. Road signs and markings to be a basic/automatic component of any road rehabilitation project and this will involve updating and not the rehabilitation of existing signs and markings.

2. Accident analysis will be undertaken on available accident data. Road engineers will liaise with police and make effort to identify local accident pattern. Road engineers should also provide traffic police with strip maps of project road to facilitate future accident location referencing. Additional road accident monitoring (hospitals, community NGOs) should be encouraged to identify all injury road accidents occurring.

3. Accident costs are to be included in the economic appraisal of a road project.

4. Safety Audits will be conducted on all major road schemes and low cost remedial measures to be funded at hazardous locations identified by accident analyses or safety audits.

5. Speed reduction measures will be implemented at locations where rehabilitated roads transect villages. These locations should be identified by the safety audit.

6. No pedestrian priority crossings to be allowed where operating/posted speed is more than 50 km/hour. Pedestrian facilities are to be appropriate and not misleading.

7. Education and publicity campaigns will be conducted at all locations warranting speed reduction measures and schools within ½ kilometre of road.

8. For tender prequalifications, all roadwork contractors must undergo short (1-2 day) training course on traffic management at roadworks.

9. Technical assistance to Highway patrols and first aid facilities on major highways to be considered.

10. All safety related reports and materials will be provided to a road safety coordinator and will be shared with the other signees of this policy.

If I may ask the Executive Director of the NRSC, which of these measures or to what extent is the government of Ghana implementing the above recommendations? It is about time Ghana government undertake a review as per the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) UK comprehensive report on Africa which was made available in June 2000 to re-evaluate the scope and magnitude of the road safety problem and find a cure to this cancer.

How on earth can Ghana for one, think of attracting investors and tourists and neglect our roads? Permit me to focus for now on road signs and reflectors on our roads. This alone can cut the accident toll to half. We need to hammer home to our government who seem only concerned about its image on the international forum rather than its home/domestic affairs that executing this would be very helpful in boasting the government's image. Perhaps it will be expedient to advise the President and the NPP that they would better sell Ghana if they care to intensify efforts to tackle this road massacre. According to US Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) hundreds of American citizens die in overseas road crashes every year with many taking place in Africa (Jacobs and Thomas 2000). Ghana could lose revenue in the tourist industry if we keep on toying with this major social and economic problem in Ghana.

It is crystal clear that one thing that is holding Ghana back in solving problems at the regional and district levels is centralization. Why does the President want to assume the sole responsibility of tackling every district problem when he cannot even handle issues pertaining to the capital? It is not enough to appoint DCEs and deprive them the power of initiation and execution. Instead of the government of Ghana sharing the load and empowering the districts and towns to solve local problems the President wants to send handouts at its own pleasure while the many die daily. Why should road construction and traffic regulation in Paga be administered from the Castle or Accra? If the government of Ghana is really interested in solving this problem to the core it must start with decentralization.

Decentralization will equip the various regions and districts to find mean of raising funds locally and abroad and be accountable for the road safety campaigns. Countries like the United States, Great Britain, Canada have a direct interest in improving road safety overseas both from a humanitarian point of view and also because several of their citizens are worried about the road accident statistics in Ghana. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.