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25.03.2019 Feature Article

Ghana Roads: Are They Deathtraps?

Ghana Roads: Are They Deathtraps?

It's hard to fathom just how many people die on our roads every year. Like a ritual that reminds us of how careless and reckless we've been in dealing with this menace.

A demon that rears its ugly head and stares us in the face year after year. And a carnage that seems not to go away but comes back each year to litter our streets with grief and sorrow.

Are the roads deathtraps?
Friday 22, March 2019, will remain a deadliest day in the nation's traffic history. The country recorded more than 80 deaths in two separate accidents.

Two huge buses collide at 2:00 am on the Kumasi-Kintampo highway (middle-belt of Ghana).

The impact from the collision sparks fire as flying metals and shards of glasses decapitate bodies. Most of the people burned beyond recognition. Charred bodies strewn everywhere. A mass burial is given to the majority.

Elsewhere (in southern Ghana) on the Accra-Cape-Coast road another accident claims at least 10 lives, several of them sustained various degree of injuries.

The question is:
How long must this horror continue?
Or does this show just how much we've reached our wits end or just how cluessless we've become in fighting that which confronts us?

A journalist in Accra Randy Abbey says:
"We love to talk."
Mr. Abbey, a MetroTV staff and host of 'Good Morning Ghana'---one of the network's prime-time programmes says:

"We're here, a year on, and we're discussing 90 people dying on a weekend."

Randy reminds the nation of two accidents that mimic the Friday tragic events. One year ago, (2018) ,just about same time, 29 people died in two separate accidents in the northern part of Ghana.

He was speaking on 'Neswfile'--- a current affairs programme on JoyFM Multi TV station

a day after the horrific accidents.
According to National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) between January and February last year the country recorded 230 deaths, with 2, 671 serious injuries.

Between March and April same year the deaths had jumped to 592, about 365 increase.

NRSC estimates that the country loses over US$230 million yearly due to road accidents, noting that the loss correlates to 1.7 per cent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The commission said this in 2010.

The action plan
What happened to the president's action plan?
I don't want to believe that it's gathering dust in a shelve somewhere at the ministries.

However, the continued bloodbath on our roads leaves one to wonder whether the plan has become a still birth.

Or it's been rolled out as planned but probably lacks enforcement.

In 2018, following the upsurge in road accidents, a committee was set up to help curb the phenomenon. It came out with cutting-edge recommendations. And upon review of the committee's report President Akufo-Addo granted executive approval for its immediate implementation.

Here's a summary of the recommendations:
Three major areas were considered.
They included, Education, Enforcement and Engineering (the Three E's).

In a statement government said it would resource the Highway Authority, Department of Urban Roads and Department of Feeder Roads with at least GHS 335 million cedis a year to provide signage and road markings over a three-year period. Sounds good isn't it?

On education, the NRSC was to get GHS 6.5 million cedis from the Road Fund. The purpose was to scale up public education and sensitise them on road safety. Beautiful right?

The police was to ensure that offenders of road traffic laws were spot fined. They were also supposed to partner with private towing companies and Nationwide Traffic Management and Enforcement Limited (NTMEL) to vigorously enforce the regulation.

Fantastic! But what happened to this forward-looking plan?

I guess, the multi billion question remains:
Is the plan at work or it's been shelved?
If the latter is the case, then when and who's responsible for its delay?

Causes and how to reduce road accidents
Someone argued that the major cause of accidents on our roads is due to the fact that many of our roads are built in single lanes.

Of course, that 's one of the numerous factors but not a major.

In my view indiscipline ,is the mother of all the problems we've on our roads. For instance, an aggressive or reckless driver doesn't care if there are multiple lanes or not.

The N1 I(also known as George Bush Motorway) and the Tema Motorway have proven otherwise. Former President Rawlings was nearly killed on that express road. Thus,

I strongly hold the view that it's sheer indiscipline that's killing us on our roads.

And if we could all observe and follow the following traffic rules the carnage would be reduced considerably.

The undue pressure some passengers bring to bear on drivers and the idea of "ko-ntem-bra-tem" by some drivers is killing us too.

Woe betide a passenger that opens the mouth to say: 'Papa driver towobo ase', (driver slow down).

So before you get behind the driver's seat please ensure that you've the required driving skills. Often this isn't the case. And that explains why we've a huge number of drivers that lack basic skills, yet plying the roads daily.

Another is texting, calling and talking on mobile phones while driving. It's become a common practice among many drivers in this Tech Age. Where does it lead one to?

Absolutely, to nowhere but to the grave.
Next is driver fatigue. Please park your car or vehicle. Park to the curb and catch some rest. And if you can't afford to 'waste time' get a second driver, especially on long distance trips.

Mind you, the essence is to rest or sleep.
So strictly observe that and you'd reach your destination safely and in peace not in pieces.

Furthermore, keep your eyes on the road when driving, never use any gadgets that will distract your focus. Stop unnecessary overtaking and overspeeding. This means drivers must follow rules of the road as well as follow speed limits.

Ignoring aggressive and reckless drivers will also help to reduce accidents. Don't change CD's neither fidget your radio while driving.

Don't leave disabled vehicles on the road without placing proper reflective signs.

We all know how dangerous it is to drive in the nights, especially where there are no street lights. Finally on causes and how to reduce accidents, if you drink don't drive and if drivers don't drink.

Remember, when it comes to safety and accident prevention self-disciple and strictly following all the above traffic rules is very important.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2019

This author has authored 284 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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