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26.03.2009 Feature Article

Accidents on our roads: Some Thoughts!

Accidents on our roads: Some Thoughts!

Ghana forms part of the world community of nations and it becomes necessary, from time to time, to take a 'peek' at what others are doing to develop their economies, and keep their people safe. Keeping the people safe goes beyond prevention of internal conflicts or defense against external aggression. Security also includes adequate provision of food, health care, education and housing. But none of these would be necessary if there are no people to make them happen or to even 'enjoy' the fruit of such endeavours. So if the country would not sit idly by and allow any external aggressors to run over us (I assume so, at least), then the big question is why is the country doing nothing when Ghanaians are dying by the hundreds and thousands every year?? The situation has become so outrageous and there are no excuses!!! If, after 52 years, we seem to be at our wits end in finding a solution, then I believe it is time for us to look at how others have done it and adopt such measures. Mere adoption (of other countries' policies) will not automatically ensure success. Such adopted measures and policies would have to be adapted to our peculiar situation and environment.

There is no one factor responsible for what we are experiencing now-over 40 people die weekly just on one trunk road???? And there are no demonstrations all over the country??? We demonstrate in support of people who are 'dragged' to court through due process of the law. We demonstrate when we feel we need more money from the government. But when people are dying (rather unnecessarily) from avoidable and preventable accidents, we sit quiet and look on. O what a country!!!

No single agency can be called out for blame here; we are all guilty on this one!!! EVERYBODY!!!! All 3 branches of government-executive, legislature and judiciary-should wake up. The officially mandated bodies responsible for issuing driving licenses and road-worthy certificates come into play. And how can I leave out our dear Police Service? What about the passenger?? And the driver?? We are all guilty as charged. Since we are the problem we can equally be the solution. Allow me, dear reader, to talk a little about how we got here:

Right from independence Ghana was split in 2: the so-called 'booklong people' and the 'verandah boys'. The 'booklong people' were so vilified to the extent that it almost became a 'crime' to be educated. Meanwhile being a 'verandah boy' was hailed and actually encouraged. At a point in the life of this dear country of ours, we were told that one does not even need to be literate to go to parliament!!! We have, over the years, so glorified mediocrity and bashed scholarship. How does any of this account for the present rate of road accidents? Having 'cultivated' such a 'culture' and with all these 'verandah boys' on our hands, we decided to hand over to them a very vital sector of our economy-the transport sector. We gleefully coined phrases like 'kakra a yebedie nti' and then asked questions like 'what should the man and his family live on if they are denied this source of livelihood?' Nobody cared whether these 'sources' of livelihood were being undertaken at the 'right' places, and at the 'right' times and under proper authorization, and by 'qualified' persons. One just has to take a look at GPRTU and its origins to appreciate what I am talking about. I had been on a trip where the driver had engaged in some dangerous and rather foolish driving. When I attempted to call out the driver, a GPRTU local chairman (from Neoplan station) who was on the bus jumped in to defend the driver!!! I have this bad habit of speaking English when very angry, and so as I started to address this chairman he shot back at me with words to the effect that it is 'akrakyefo' like me who are retarding the progress of the country. What does one say to something like that! Nobody should misunderstand me, I have nothing against the unschooled and/or unlettered but I do believe that education has its advantages. Transportation Management is studied all the way to the PhD level in other countries and the results are there for all to see. So how did the GPRTU and other allied organizations perform? Their members had no appreciation for the laws regarding road usage. They either drove without licenses or they 'acquired' licenses without stepping a foot at DVLA offices. And of course with the tacit connivance of our police, and the stoic indifference of our governments (all governments since independence), 'we are where we are' (apologies to Paa Kwesi Nduom). It was not until recently that the DVLA finally caught up with the rest of the world and started demanding that prospective drivers be literate. And even with that you still had people asking what driving had to do with literacy!!! We import vans and cargo vehicles and convert them to 'trotros' and long-distance passenger vehicles. I am no mechanical engineer but I do believe that such conversion compromises the 'integrity' of these vehicles. Do we have mechanical engineers at all in this country?? Why haven't they come out with a study showing the effects of these cargo-passenger vehicular conversions?

Is it too much to ask our police men and women to just enforce the laws?? Why can't they enforce as simple a regulation as use of seat belts? Don't we know how life-saving those belts are?? Are they the only group of people whose take-home salary cannot take them home?? Didn't they know of the conditions of service of the Police before they decided to join?? If taxpayers pay for their (police) training and salaries, then I think it is time that taxpayers demanded some accountability from them. Same goes for our 'honourable' members of parliament. What have they done about the situation except to talk and talk about it? Why haven't we seen any legislation from them dealing with some of these problems? Our judiciary also comes up short. The few times that the police manage to prosecute offenders, the 'courts' fail to apply the appropriate sanctions and penalties. Things have really fallen apart and we are 'reaping' the results of years of inaction.

The way forward? Appropriate legislation should be enacted and enforced!! Government should encourage universities and polytechnics to come up with proposals as regards revamping the transport sector. This could be done in form of a competition among the universities and polytechnics. The best 3 proposals could then be selected and studied by parliament. Parliament would then send a comprehensive bill to the executive for approval. I don't presume these ideas of mine to be the best, but at least I have proposed something. Those who think otherwise would do well to sit behind the computer and tell us what their bright ideas are.

Yaw Opare-Asamoa
[email protected]

Yaw Opare-Asamoa
Yaw Opare-Asamoa, © 2009

This author has authored 55 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: YawOpareAsamoa

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