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29.05.2017 Feature Article

Circumventing The Traffic Curse: A Practical Perspective

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MAY 29, 2017 FEATURE ARTICLE

To maintain the life of the human community and in order to facilitate their life, many important inventions were discovered. There is no doubt that the most important of these inventions is the improvement in transportation from the shanks pony (human foot) to the use of automobiles and the jet plane that has helped to shrink distance covered to reach one's destination. The growth of speedy transportation is man's greatest achievement in minimizing distances but at the same time, has also become a major cause of premature death.

World Health Organization (WHO,2014) estimated that every year there are 1.2 million road traffic deaths and about 50 million injured in the world with costs varying from 1 to 2 percent of the GNP of each country adding up to about 500 billion US dollars a year worldwide. In developing economies, the same report estimates that the number of traffic fatalities in 2010 of 613,000 will rise almost 100% by 2020 amounting to 1.2 million.

According to Roland Walker, Director of Communication at the Road Safety Management Services Limited, Within the first three months of 2017, Ghana has recorded over 2000 road accidents, a startling statistic fatalities.

Oftentimes, traffic accident is caused by frustration aggression. We have witnessed cases where drivers argue with passengers over price to pay in an attempt to charge different fare on the same distance covered. This usually happens when drivers see that passengers are stranded, usually when night is approaching or cars are scarce. To such drivers, their modus operandi is, if you cannot pay, just get down. We have also observed situations where drivers after receiving a phone call lost control. This is sometimes as a result of pressure from the home or a girlfriend.

Also, youngsters and children have found the driving business to be more lucrative. People below the ages of 18 are seen driving on the road with no experience and without a driving license. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2009, one third of all traffic accidents comprising young drivers should have been controlled if they had been restricted to driving with no more than one passenger ( WHO, 2009).

Most of the road accidents is as a result of man's negligence. It is only in Ghana that when seats are full , passengers are given small plastic chairs to use as a middle seat in Yutong buses, a common thing when travelling from Wa to Kumasi . In some areas, drivers are seen with about seven or eight passengers in a taxi and the driver has to adjust himself before he can drive.

Transport is a critical part of the design of sustainable city and plays a major role in people's everyday life, yet the transport system is in crises. The following policy prescriptions if taken into consideration will offset or reduce the incidence of traffic accidents.

To begin with, incentives such as awards to drivers who had no troubles with passengers or had no record of a crash during the past ten months must be introduced. This will serve as a motivating factor to sound driving.

Moreover, there is a need for sensitization and conscientization programmes. whilst conscientization will help drivers develop a critical awareness of one's social reality, sensitization will make drivers responsive to ideas and situations regarding driving. Attitudinal change is very critical, and driver's level of consciousness is crucial to protecting human lives and properties. TV stations must show an hour program at least twice a week to enlighten drivers and passengers, say thirty minutes to show incidence of traffic accident and 30 minutes to educate them on good or safety driving, and also incorporate motivational driving quotes. For example, Road sense is the offspring of courtesy and the parent of safety (Maud van Buren).

Building trust and rapport among drivers and passengers. Strengthening drivers-passengers relationship is critical. Drivers need to be educated on how to welcome their passengers and have some friendly interaction such as sharing pleasantries at the station before the bus takes off. Passengers must learn to compliment drivers when they reach their destination safely. We must put a stop to the "busy for nothing affair"where drivers only see money, rather than human lives.

Improving driver training. As society keeps on changing, drivers need to reorient, reinvent and acclimatize to the changing environment, such as a shift from the "man power" driving to "automatic" driving. Therefore, periodic refresher courses for drivers is very critical. As city grows, new road signs are introduced and other things also emerges, and drivers need to learn these new things in the system.

In addition, there is a need for road safety agencies to engage in intensive campaign strategies to draw attention to the perils and safety practices on the road. The use of placards is very important, and going out to preach road safety practices to the general public is vital.

Traffic demand management. Measures such as high occupancy lanes, traffic priority measures and pedestrianization lanes should be taken into consideration when planning for road construction. This is because some drivers in an attempt to park hit pedestrians on the road. Parking spaces must be well designated and observed. In Ghana, drivers park anywhere, anyhow,and at anytime.

Enforcement of laws regarding the transport system. To achieve this, Ghana soldiers must work in tandem with the police to exercise massive checks on drivers rather than being at their comfort zone until there is conflict or war. In Ghana, the impunities are too much and it is not uncommon to see reckless driving, noncompliance of traffic signals and animals finding their ways onto the roads. Recklessness is a species of crime and should be so regarded on our streets and highways (Marlen E. Pew). We all get upset when we see a driver receiving a call on a highway or on a meandering road. Rules and regulations regarding who to drive, the type of cars to be used on the road, etc must clearly be stated. Bill boards showing rules and regulation and emergency contacts to report issues of malfeasance is key and must be placed at vantage points. Also, Stickers showing rules and regulations must be pasted on cars and in buses.

Speed limit enforcement. Appropriate empowered authorities must check that road vehicles are complying with the speed limit in force on roads and highways. Right instrument is essential. Roadside speed traps should be set up and operated by the police and automated roadside speed camera systems, which may incorporate the use of an automatic number plate recognition system. Our police must be given radar and Light Detection and Ranging(LIDAR) to determine a vehicle's speed. Sometimes our heart even beat faster than normal when we hear the sound of approaching vehicle.

Prioritizing public transit. An overall reduction in vehicles results in fewer drivers on the road and a safer transport environment for drivers, pedestrians and cyclist. The use of public transit such as Bus Rapid Transit(BRT), Mass Rapid Transit(MRT) Demand Responsive Transit(DRT), etc has high carrying capacity and does not only reduce congestion on the road but can also change bus drivers behaviours by reducing on-the-road competition with other vehicles.

We are not proving ourselves spiritually worthy of our material progress. We have not been neighborly, courteous, and kind upon the highway. Our lack of decency toward our fellow men is a definite black mark against us (Cary T. Grayson). We need to exorcise our thoughtless actions that often contribute to this tragic consequence. The "i don't care" attitude is killing innocent people and sending us to our early grave. Untimely overtaking and speeding ends at the cemetery. Good driving is about passion, focus and skills. We can live longer if drivers, passengers and the entire community adhere to the aforementioned points.

Thank You.
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Prince Ayerakwa
Prince Ayerakwa, © 2017

This author has authored 21 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AyerakwaPrince

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