WE ARE told that an illiterate is somebody who is not able to read or write. We are also told elsewhere that it is education, which renders human beings, fit members of regularly organized society.
In Ghana at the moment because of illiteracy, we have been afflicted with a very infectious disease, which is killing some of our countrymen weekly. This disease is no other than that of “dangerous and reckless driving”.
Every week on the three major highways in this country that is the “Accra - Kumasi Road”, the “Accra - Takoradi Road” and the “Accra - Aflao Road”, we see and hear of road accidents. Some of these accidents claim the lives of our countrymen, thus making us lose human resources/human capital, which is a very important resource for our developmental goals and needs.
Quite recently, of the seven or so urologists we have, we lost three in one single fatal accident. This is very serious and disheartening. Apart from the three major highways, we are now having fatal accidents within the cities and towns. On the day Boni Nii Amugi II, the Ga Mantse was buried, that is Saturday the 27th January 2007, there was a fatal accident on the Accra- Tema Beach road around the “Olympia area” in La involving two commercial vehicles popularly known as Trotros which claimed four lives.
A couple of days ago, there was another fatal one around the Regional Maritime Academy (Nautical College) area on the Tema Beach Road which also involved two commercial vehicles which claimed lives, while on the Spintex road around the Bank of Ghana warehouse, another road accident claimed lives.
Statistics available from the Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA) and elsewhere indicate that worldwide, Ghana is one of the leading countries where vehicular accidents occur frequently and fatal ones too.
Available data from the DVLA, the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), the Police Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) and other sources point out that often times, most of the accidents which occurred involved commercial vehicles.
Admittedly, some of our roads are bad, but this is gradually becoming a thing of the past as most of them are being rehabilitated and new ones built. Another cause of accidents is bad tyres and poor vehicle maintenance. But the major cause of this carnage on our roads is this disease of “dangerous and reckless driving”.
Research has shown that this is due to illiteracy. To a large extent, a lot of the commercial drivers of taxicabs, trotros, “Lts”, 207s” mummy trucks, tankers, and articulated trucks are illiterates or at best semi-literates.
This is as against operators of specialized vehicles like payloaders and excavators who require certificates to operate or drive these specialized contraptions.
A lot of these commercial drivers of the former category and their “mates” are illiterates or at best semi-literates because a lot of them are school dropouts. As a result, they are ignorant about a lot of things like regular vehicle maintenance, the need to use good tyres, the need to keep within speed limits etc.
They also cannot read road and directional signs. They sometimes stop anywhere to pick passengers instead of designated bus stops in collaboration with their “mates”. They also enter the roads with impunity and sometimes with their indicator lights off. They drive on the shoulders of the road to avoid vehicular traffic and some of them over-speed.
Then there is this latest craze of “Ye wild”. This is where commercial drivers, especially “Tro-tros”, compete with each other by overtaking recklessly to pick passengers for a few thousands of cedis forgetting that human lives are at stake.
There are also the “spares” or “Sunday drivers”. This is where “driver's mates” try their hands on vehicles on Sundays. Recently one of such Sunday drivers that is a driver's mate, run over a little boy at Mamprobi, a suburb of Accra killing him instantly.
Unfortunately this present craze does not apply to only commercial drivers but drivers of private cars too. Some of these myself driving license holders do not even know where the “Licensing Office” is. They sit at home and their licenses are brought to them.
The three leading agencies of vehicular movement in this country, the DVLA, MTTU and NRSC should do a little bit more than they are doing at the moment to curb this menace of dangerous and reckless driving on our roads.
For instance, the MTTU and the Police in general can put plainclothes men on the Trotros and buses to check dangerous and reckless driving where offenders will be fined on the spot or taken to court. When this happens a few times, the drivers would become circumspect because they cannot tell which of their passengers is a plainclothes policeman or woman. This arrangement should also be applied on our major roads.
Apart from checking “dangerous and reckless driving” on the highways, they can also deal with armed robbers who sometimes board these buses to rob their fellow passengers or create road blocks to operate.
It is heartening to hear that the DVLA will as from next year, give drivers licenses to only people who have a basic education that is at least the Basic Education Certificate (B E C E/JSS GRADUA TES).
However the DVLA, being a human institution, some people will try to circumvent this new measure. To make it very difficult for such people, we urge the DVLA to wait till the National Identification Scheme is introduced so that whoever applies for a Driving License would first have to produce his or her National ID Card from which data would be derived to process his or her license. This would make it very difficult for people who do not have basic education to acquire driving licenses.