Wed, 21 Sep 2011 Article


By Amy Ansong

The issue of road accidents and road fatalities is a very serious problem plaguing Africa. It annoys me every time I see another new road accident article and how 20-30 -40 to maybe 50 people were hurt and/or killed in a road accident in GHANA. Today there was an article on-line about how 20-27 people may be dead due to an accident that occurred on the Accra-Aflao road. Last week there was an article about how approximately 20 people died on the Accra-Kumasi road. And tomorrow there will probably be another article. Aren't you getting sick of reading about road accidents and wondering if anyone you knew was included?? Every time I see a new article, I literally want to vomit –each article makes me ill to my stomach because more lives are gone—unnecessarily.

Enough is enough !!! I went to Ghana in March 2011 and tried to meet with the National Road Safety Commission to share my ideas/thoughts– they never got back to me. Before I went to Ghana, we were exchanging emails, but when I actually arrived in Ghana, no one ever called me back after I sent emails on March 2 and 14th to give them my phone number so we could hook up. I was prepared with presentations and no one ever got back to me. I was quite sad. You hear people talking about brain drain and how people don't return to Ghana to help the country. I was in the country, I paid for my own ticket, and I wasn't given the opportunity to discuss this topic with the entities that deal with this issue—very disappointing. ROAD FATALITIES ARE KILLING AFRICANS!!!! Hello Ghana Government – YOUR PEOPLE ARE DYING!!!! NO ONE will be available to work in the country if all the people are dying from road fatalities– who will maintain and sustain the country??These are all things that are important and I'm willing to sit down with any nation that wants to hear my concerns regarding this issue because trust me, I have plenty of ideas and thoughts concerning this. Road fatalities will be more deadlier than HIV/AIDS– so why aren't countries paying attention to this? It does NOT make any sense!!! The people of Ghana are dying due to preventable deaths—THIS IS A PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED!!! This is not a political issue- this is simply a human being issue—let's address this problem as a nation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.3 million people are killed annually and up to 50 million people are injured annually due to road traffic accidents. 90% of all of the world's road fatalities take place in low and middle income countries. However, the low and middle income countries do NOT even have half of the world's vehicles – this fact alone is very intriguing and telling.

“Low Income Countries” are defined by the World Bank as those countries which have a Gross National Income of $975 or less. “Lower Middle Income Countries” are countries which have a Gross National Income between $976 and $3,855, “Upper Middle Income Countries” are defined as countries which have a Gross National Income between $3,856 and $11,905, and “High Income Countries” are defined as countries which have a Gross National Income of $11,906 or more. A very high percentage of African countries do not fall within the high income category – in fact, many of them fall within the low and middle income category. Remember that the majority of road accidents happen in low and middle income countries, where road accidents are increasing. Meanwhile, road accidents in high income countries, like the United States of America, are decreasing.

Low, Middle and High Income African Countries
These are the “Low Income Countries” in Africa: Ghana, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Eritrea, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo Dem. Rep, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabawe.

These are the “Lower Middle Income Countries” in Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo Rep, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Lesotho, Morocco, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Swaziland, and Tunisia.

These are the “Upper Middle Countries” in Africa: Algeria, Botswana, Gabon, Libya, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, and South Africa.

“High Income Countries” in Africa: Equatorial Guinea.

Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa are known to have some of the highest road fatalities in Africa. Notice how they all fall within the low and middle income countries.

Now that I have addressed the socioeconomic factors concerning road fatalities, I would like to address the type of people these road accidents affect.

Road User Type
According to WHO, out of the 1.3 million people who are killed in road accidents, almost half of the people killed are referred to as “vulnerable road users”. Vulnerable road users are people who are NOT enclosed in vehicles – these are the people who are pedestrians and bicycle, motorcycle, and moped users. In Africa, many pedestrians and bicyclists can be seen daily walking on the road. For decades, much of the world's attention has been focused on protecting the driver of vehicles in road accidents. There has been a great deal of research conducted concerning the use of seat belts, the composition of car bumpers, the importance of air bags, etc. Much work and progress has been made in order to protect the drivers of enclosed vehicles, increasing their survival rates if their vehicles strike an object. However, little attention has been paid to vulnerable road users.

There is a lack of research concerning pedestrian and vulnerable road user safety, and as a result, they are making up nearly half of the 1.3 million roadside deaths that occur yearly. In Africa, more pedestrians are killed as a result of road accidents than the actual driver. In Ghana, 42 % of their total reported road deaths were pedestrians, according to a 2006 report by the Road Safety Commission. That was 2006. Just imagine what that rate is today because road fatalities are not decreasing- they are increasing. In 2007, the Federal Police Commission reported that 55% of the reported roadside fatalities in Ethiopia were pedestrians. In 2007, South Africa reported that 39% of their roadside deaths were pedestrians, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo reported 59%.

Pedestrians and other vulnerable road users who are tending to their daily activities are often caught off guard, struck, and instantly killed. Death is always a horrible thing, but in low and middle income countries, the sudden death of a loved one has a greater impact. In Africa, when the breadwinner of a family is suddenly killed, it changes the ENTIRE family dynamics and can lead families into deeper debt and poverty. If a relative is hit by a car, and does not die instantly, survival will be based on income. If the family can afford a good doctor, the affected relative will probably live. If the family can not afford medical services, the relative will probably die due to the lack of sufficient care. So in Africa, the vulnerable road users and the poor have a higher chance of dying from a road accident.

In Africa, the majority of people are dying from road accidents due to three reasons:

1.) They are vulnerable road users , 2) They are poor, therefore they do not have the means to obtain and maintain sufficient medical care when they are affected by a road injury, 3) They are competing with the drivers for the road: the driver needs the road to drive on and the pedestrian needs the road to walk on because there is a lack of sidewalks.

The significance of road accidents has been ignored for way too long and it is time for the world to wake up and realize that road accidents are preventable. Our brothers, sisters, mother, fathers, cousins, grandparents do not have to die from road accidents in Africa. ROAD FATALITIES ARE DESTROYING THE CONTINENT OF AFRICA. Road fatalities should never be viewed as the “norm”. There is nothing normal about dying from a preventable death. Road traffic injuries are so deadly that the World Health Organization (WHO) has ranked it as being one of the top leading causes of death. In 2004, road traffic injuries were ranked in the top 10, placing in at # 9, because more people were expected to die from HIV/AIDS and Malaria, two diseases that are often connected to Africa. People all over the world know that there is an AIDS epidemic occurring in Africa and people all over the world know that people are dying from malaria. People donate mosquito beds and people donate to charities that promise to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. But guess what? By the year 2030, WHO expects Road Traffic Injuries to still remain in the top 10, and it will receive the # 5 ranking. By 2030, more people are expected to die from road traffic injuries than HIV/AIDS (# 10) and Malaria (does not even make the top 20 list for the year 2030).

Now do you have a better understanding of road injuries/ road fatalities and the importance and significance of it? There needs to be a broader awareness concerning road fatalities because it is killing our people now and is expected to kill even more people in the future.

Africa's Role in Decreasing Road Injuries and Fatalities

Now we know three very useful pieces of information:
Road accidents affect low and middle countries the most.
Most African countries are classified as low and middle income countries.
Nearly half of the 1.3 million people who are killed are “vulnerable road users”, which includes pedestrians and cyclists.

In order to substantially decrease the high road fatalities that are taking place in Africa, African countries need to focus on the following areas concerning road accidents:

1. Road Design
2. Marked Pedestrian and Vehicle Space
3. Education
4. Rules and Consequences
5. Medical Services

African countries are supposed to be working on achieving their Millenium Development Goals. One goal involves combating diseases and another goal is aimed at reducing child mortality. These goals have been somewhat met by reducing malnutrition, providing more mosquito nets, and reducing the outbreak of measles. It is good to ensure the health of our children, but I want to make a point here. By 2015, WHO expects road injuries to be the leading cause of death for people aged 5 to 14 in the world. This should be a concern of the United Nations, and African countries should ensure that it is an issue that gets addressed as one of the goals. If this issue is ignored, African countries will see their youth dying before them. The economic vitality of African countries will suffer as their people perish unnecessarily. People are the most important resource in any country. The first thing African countries need to do is admit that road fatalities are an issue in their country- recognition of the problem is the first step.

After recognizing the problem, African countries need to do thorough road audits-internally. African countries produce some of the brightest minds in the world and there is no reason why African citizens cannot conduct road audits. African countries need to invest in their people educationally, making sure they train their people to be road and traffic engineers, civil engineers, and urban planners so that they can help build better road networks. Each community should have a road audit that is conducted annually. The road audits should show where the community roads are, and classify the intensity of their usage. Road audits should also show where all the gutters are so that the government can work on covering all open gutters, which take up road space. The road audits should also have a section that details citizen participation. The community members should know where most of the road accidents have been happening, so that the government will have a better idea of what roads need extra attention. By getting citizen participation, the road audits from each community will be unique. The road audits should also detail the design of the road and the speed limits allowed. Are the roads straight, curvy, narrow? What types of roads are experiencing the most accidents? Are the roads paved, do they have many potholes, is the asphalt broken? These road audits will “open the eyes” of African governments because they will not have to guess which roads are good and which ones are bad. The observations combined with the comments from the public will undoubtedly create useful road audits that will be valuable to the African governments. Once the audits are read and analyzed, the African governments can work on redesigning roads that are aiding road fatalities.

In Africa, there seems to be a lack of separate pedestrian and vehicular space. Both road users are forced to share the same space and this is a problem. Open gutters and vendors take up space on what could be a sidewalk area, forcing pedestrians to walk on the roadside, directly adjacent to vehicles. African governments need to create space specifically for the pedestrian. In Ghana, you will see sidewalks in the city, in the area around the Kotoka International Airport and around the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park. The further you leave the main downtown, the less likely you are to see sidewalks. When I am in Dansoman, there are few sidewalks; -there is a major lack of sidewalks in Ghana as a whole. The MPs within the governments need to fight for their people and get sidewalks to protect them. African governments need to invest in the public health of their people because HIV/AIDS and malaria are no longer the only issues killing their people- road fatalities are killing millions of people. African governments need to build pathways for pedestrians. By providing a marked permanent space for pedestrians, there will be less foot-traffic on the actual roads, reducing the amount of road fatalities in African nations. Vehicles will have their own space and pedestrians will have their own space.

In Africa, there needs to be a Road Safety educational revolution. Schools need to include road safety into their curriculum, pastors need to address the topic in their sermons, radio announcers need to discuss it on their shows, and hair dressers need to make it a topic of discussion – it needs to become the new “hot” topic in African countries. When I was in Ghana in 2007, the country had a wonderful advertising campaign that made people aware that the Ghana Cedi was about to change. They had a great catchy commercial that went like this: “There is no change in value. The value is the same.” The commercial and the song were so hot and so catchy that EVERYONE was singing it- from the kids to grown adults. Ghana is very good at creating catchy commercials that appeal to EVERYONE while spreading an important message at the same time. African countries need to create billboards and commercials that spread the message of road safety in a way that gets everyone singing and dancing the way people were singing and dancing to the currency commercial back in 2007. (If you go to YOUTUBE and type in “new Ghana cedi” you can view the commercial I am referring to).

In Ghana, Bice Osei Kuffour, a.k.a Obour, worked on a Road Safety campaign in collaboration with the Road Safety Commission, and created a popular song that addressed the importance of wearing seat belts. The campaign was very successful. Through songs and education, African countries will be able to make people aware of the road safety problem while also offering solutions.

African countries also need to make it known that they are serious about fighting road fatalities. Drivers need to be heavily fined when they hit pedestrians and pedestrians need to be fined when they are seen committing an act that could pose a threat to vehicular traffic. Drivers also need to be heavily fined for “hit and run” incidents-when they hit a pedestrian and drive off. Fines and penalties are always a good way to get the attention of people while also altering their behavior.

African countries also need to establish road injury units in their hospitals. I know many African countries will claim that their coffers are dry and that there is a lack of nurses and doctors to tend to the patients they already have. However, African countries need to realize that many of their citizens are dying as a result of not getting sufficient medical services. Many people would not die if they were able to get good medical care, and that would reduce the overall road fatality statistics. If African countries could find the space and the resources, it would be advantageous in the long run. African countries need to be pro-active and realize that every single human life is important and needed for the economic success of the country. One preventable death is one too many. African countries do not have to build new hospitals, they simply have to rearrange their focus, until the issue of road injuries and road fatalities is no longer a threat to society.

If African countries conduct road audits that include citizen participation, clearly separate pedestrian and vehicular space, revamp their educational curriculum, create cool public service announcements and commercials that address road safety, create and enforce high fees for drives who hit pedestrians and for pedestrians who cause traffic conflicts, and ensure that their hospitals are equipped and ready to save people who are suffering from road injuries, all the countries will see a decrease in road fatalities and it will no longer be a public health crisis in Africa.

Contact me if you are serious about discussing road safety in Ghana: