Since 1902, when the first motor vehicle arrived in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) it has helped the country’s development as it has worldwide significantly. The technologies of motor transportation also influenced the development and expansion of new forms of sociability, cultural practice, economic exchange, and many more.
As the country marks one hundred and twenty (120) years of automobile usage, it is imperative to have critical and sober reflections on its impact and going forward, look for ways to mitigate its devastating consequences on our lives (i.e. the trauma, injuries, maiming, and needless deaths).
Transportation is such an essential necessity or life’s service for which demand is constant. For such an important element in our lives, serving as glue – connecting everything that we do individually, collectively, nationally, and even globally – requires proper management and planning to make it quite safe in its operations.
Transport is an important and pervasive element in our modern society, and it impacts every person, directly or indirectly. Indeed, it reaches every phase and facet of our existence. Therefore, a lack of equitable sharing of transportation assets and systems have the potency to impoverish the larger populace in our rural and those in peri-urban areas making them “mobility poor” and preventing them from enjoying the same opportunities as those who are in the cities, the “mobility rich”.
We must do all within our might to connect rural people in order to reduce the poverty of isolation through fair sharing of good roads and affordable buses for the conveyance which no government and its machinery should let it be out of priority because it is due to lack of accessibility to motorize transport that a lot of the populace result to the usage of rickety vehicles and other means with a complete disregard to safety.
Kantanka motors has come at the right time to relieve the Ghana government and ordinary Ghanaian by producing affordable vehicles (which are devoid of shipment costs, taxes, etc.) to help alleviate the poverty of isolation generally associated with the lack of transportation infrastructure and accessibility to the motorized vehicles. The government should contract Kantanka to produce affordable vehicles and distribute them across the country to serve as inter-city transport to rural areas to the nearby towns as well as to the cities.
Motorized transport, especially commercial transport operators are mostly in the care of non-professional drivers, many of whom (unlike the other modes) seem “qualified” because they are able to move a vehicle from one place to another, are generally inexperienced and incompetent. This does have considerable operational repercussions.
The key player in motorized transport is the motorist or the driver whom the whole operation basically depends on. The driver is loosely defined by Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, New 9th Edition (page 471), as “a person who drives a vehicle”. Indeed, he/she drives the vehicle but as a matter of fact, driving or controlling the vehicle is only one of the tasks a driver performs. Considering the above definition Ace Transport & Road Safety Consult Limited is of the view that a broader definition of driver or driving is preferred here because the scope of risks connected to driving needed to arrive alive and safely are external and beyond the very narrow definition of a driver.
A proposed definition of a driver is a person who drives an automobile or a vehicle with an excellent ability to imagine, identify and manage risk or danger proactively to prevent crash occurrence.
Road Safety and Crashes
Road crashes present a major burden on health systems and other services. Road crashes inflict pain and suffering on communities and individuals and, account for an estimated 1.35 million deaths and 50 million injuries worldwide every year with over 90 percent of the reported deaths occurring in developing countries. The combined injury and social costs of crashes pose a heavy financial burden on the economy. According to World Bank statistics, in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) alone, deaths and serious injuries cost economies 1.7 trillion dollars and over 6.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Unfortunately, both government and the general public seem to be pretty much accepting the large yearly toll of injuries and deaths, the by-product of motorized transport. Road traffic injuries have been a public health problem worldwide for which society and especially decision-makers still acknowledge the myriad deaths and disabilities among youthful population.
It is quite surprising, given the large numbers of casualties on the roads that public concern for prevention does not yet seem to be sufficiently aroused.
Enforcement of Road Traffic Regulations and Laws
Compliance to road traffic regulations and laws must be at the heart of a driver to reduce vulnerable road user injuries and deaths. Sustainable intensive enforcement that is well-explained, publicized and meticulously rolled out has a long-lasting effect on driver behavior.
It should be noted that attempts at behavioral change should not be limited to education programs for drivers because laws and their enforcement have been effective in dealing with behaviors such as seat belt use, alcohol-impaired driving, overspeeding, motorcycle and pedal cyclist helmet use.
Road infrastructure has a significant influence on the severity of the outcome of a crash. The government, allied agencies or authorities, and civil engineers must integrate safety into road design in the first place by calling for road safety audit right from the conception (drawing board), during and, after construction to ensure safe road usage for good. These improvements to infrastructure can contribute substantially to reduction in fatalities and life-threatening injuries.
The politics of transport
Transport is now high on the political agenda. Complacency in the past by all political parties should translate to commitment. If promises made to transport sector are not delivered, improvements made by the time of the next election, not only will some heads roll but also, balance of power in Parliament will change. The populace now need improvements in tansport infrastructure. In fact, we demand them – whether it’s on the railways, on the roads, or the buses. We are fed up with talk and dogma and about jam tomorrow. We need action now and to see an end to jams today. The bandying about of billions of dollars of expenditure no longer cuts any ice with the public and does not seem to be cutting congestion or delays for passengers or freight. We want to see and experience real tangible practical benefits.
We are therefore moved we must speak up. We have no axe to grind. We have nothing to gain by putting our heads above the parapet, and we are not peddling some vested interests. We hope by being objective and unbiased, demand what is due us—a good life!!!
Transport and spatial planning
The planning stage of every new development or settlement is the time to incorporate space for a segregated light rail track or separate busways. Either of those modes among others must be contemplated because the unnecessary expense to bus operators has risen in the past because of the unsatisfactory layout of built-up areas. Land use planning can enable reductions in traffic congestion. It should be seen more as a contribution to reducing travel demand by allowing choice of lifestyles less dependent on car use. It is also a means to help change public attitudes to the car culture. With this reasoning, it is good sense to allow transport to be, at least, one of the dictates of land use.
For land use and spatial planning, the future starts NOW, and needs to be pursued in tandem with any debate and actions on implementing an integrated transport strategy. Land use planning or spatial planning can make a difference long term; that future starts NOW!!!
Transportation Security (Travelling without fear)
Security is the effort to protect assets, humans, (the state of being free from danger or injury), etc. from criminal interference, whether by terrorists, domestic criminals or incidental to natural hazards event. We can through direct intervention by human or canine assets, physical barriers and the application of technology deter, detect and mitigate all kinds of insecurity within the transportation space.
Perfect security is impossible, yet raids by thieves had to be prevented, requiring a balance between the cost and benefit of protection. Modern transportation managers are equally challenged by twenty-first-century threats, including theft, piracy, and the introduction of destructive devices—requiring not only a cost/benefit calculation but also a passenger acceptance calculation for security design.
Unlike air transportation – where the use of the air space is controlled by the government and there are controlled gateways and lead time before flights – road transportation differs in its operations. However, it can be regulated to ensure control of security measures by deploying technological equipment to scan passengers and luggages as well as highway patrols.
Whether the cause of a disaster is natural or man-made, we must be prepared. We should use our knowledge to reduce the risk of disaster from the beginning of concept and design through operation and maintenance. Because terrorists find these targets attractive for those reasons and more, we need to find the means to counter their efforts. Considering how to build, operate, and maintain our system with an eye toward safety and security is just common sense.
The effort to deter activity that would breach the security of a transportation asset has two elements. Some measures deter unwanted activity by making the planning and execution of an attack too difficult, causing the adversary to seek an easier target. Such deterrence measures might include active surveillance of stations and platforms with staffed cameras that result in an immediate response to a perceived threat, or selective passenger screening using personnel and dogs, for example. The goal is to make the adversary’s surveillance and planning efforts fruitless or very difficult while posing little inconvenience to customers. Because the best time to stop a terrorist attack is during the target selection and reconnaissance phase, systems that demonstrate randomness and iniquitousness may frustrate the efforts to develop a workable plan for an attack.
We all know that it is impossible to have one hundred percent security, but we can improve the odds by applying knowledge and training.
- Refocus investment to sectors where better and best value to the economy will be achieved—safe transportation.
- Accept the need for direct charging on busy roads, subject to the income being reinvested in transport infrastructure.
- Invest in additional road capacity in key corridors, both on the strategic network and in urban areas.
- Get on with improving the existing roads – for the future.
- Municipalities should set targets for congestion reduction.
- Introduce national spatial planning or land use policies.
- We can make our transportation planning more consistent with one of our most esteemed national values
As humans, we physiologically and psychologically require mobility as part of a comprehensive human life support system. Insecurity in this mobility system individually and collectively brings about diminished enjoyment and freedom, while also impairing both economic and social well-being. It is absolutely within our might to do everything possible to curtail all insecurities and enjoy the ease and the freedom of transportation.
Michael Osei Owusu
(Transport and Road Safety Expert)
Managing Director, Ace Transport & Road Safety Consult Ltd.
Mob: 00233 245 885 225 / 00233 204 220 202
Email: [email protected]