A friend of mine, commenting on the report that about 70 people had perished in an accident on the Kintampo road, and that a further 20 lives had also been lost in the Central Region – all on the same “Black Friday” – pointed out that when fifty or so people were slaughtered in mosques in New Zealand, the Government there had declared the killings an act of “terrorism”.
“But what is Ghana doing about this spate of horrendous accidents on her roads?” my friend asked. “If such a laarge number of people had been killed at a public spot with guns, wouldn't the Ghana Armed Forces be mobilised to find the killers? Wouldn't special measures be put in place to protect the public?”
In truth, our Government has correctly condemned these accidents when they happened. But then – “Full stop!” End of story, it seems.
That's precisely what happened when the popular singer, Ebony, lost her life in February 2018. A similar public expression of despair over road accidents occurred when three eminent urologists at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital were killed on the Kumase-Accra road in August 2005.
In an article published on 17 February 2018 entitled:“Making the President's dictum on road safety work”,
I noted that after the death of Ebony, our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, charged no less than three Ministers with the duty of developing proposals that would enhance road safety in the country.
I wrote... “Knowing Ghana's public service, I am a bit sceptical about the outcome of the exercise the President has set in motion. There will, initially, be a lot of noise in the media about what the Ministerial Committee is going to be doing. Then, after three months or so, there will be a report and an indication of action being taken to implement the report. [But no-one will verify anything and] the usual Ghanaian “silence of the tomb” [will reassert itself]”
Was I wrong in writing in that vein? Who has heard about the implementation of the “proposals” developed by the three-man “Ministerial Committee”? If the Ministerial Committee had accomplished the serious task the President had entrusted to them, could the accident on the Kintampo road have been avoided?
We don't know! But in my article of 2018, I did warn the Ministerial Committee “not to make the fatal mistake of handing the job over to the “experts” in their Ministries! I said:
QUOTE: ”They should listen to the experts all right. But they should make their own decisions. For if they (the experts) wanted to use their knowledge and experience to prevent [these accidents] they would have done so!
“... So, the Ministerial Committee should think out of the box! It should set up an ad hoc committee and ask it to identify the major causes of accidents in the country and how to eliminate them”... [ If I was writing that today, I would add this sentence: And please give it the power of implementation!]
“Membership [should include] a road engineer currently teaching at a University with a scientific bias; retired road engineers (one formerly employed by the PWD and the other by the GNCC); a member of the road transport union; a person from the budgetary division of the Ministry of Finance; a retired member of the Ghana Police Service Motor Traffic Unit; and an ex-transport operator. UNQUOTE
I further suggested that the ad hoc committee, if formed, “should immediately draw up a list of 10-20 of the most frequently used major roads, which its members would inspect with a fine tooth's comb, to map out dangerous corners; hills and hillocks that constitute a dangerous hazard to motorists overtaking others; bad surfaces that divert drivers away from their given paths; areas where over-speeding is likely to occur; and obstacles like gravel piled up on the roads and not adequately sign-posted, if signposted at all.
I added, QUOTE: “The Committee should ask for [emergency funding] that will enable every dangerous hazard to be VIVIDLY SIGNPOSTED. They should then charge the Ghana Police Service with the duty of constantly monitoring the observance, or otherwise, of these road signs, by drivers. The monitoring team should also detect broken-down vehicles and get them TOWED AWAY URGENTLY. Where that's impossible, HUGE 'DANGER' SIGNS [WITH ALL-WEATHER VISIBILITY] SHOULD BE UNFAILINGLY PLACED near the breakdowns.” UNQUOTE
There were other suggestions in the article which (who knows?) if expertly implemented might have contributed towards saving a few of the lives we have lost on our roads.
I suggested, also, that the ad hoc committee should consider establishing, at vantage points on the highways, Road Safety posts, manned by para-medics equipped with mobile phones (and motorbikes and/or cars) who can offer first aid to passengers injured in accidents. These teams could also alert hospitals and clinics to dispatch ambulances to accident spots to pick up the more urgent cases.
Did I mention ambulances just now? Hmmm – I was surprised to find, on the GRA Website, that the import duty on ambulances is 20% and the Value Added Tax [VAT] on them is 12.5%, bringing those two taxes on them alone to 32.5%. In addition, ambulances are not exempted from such levies as NHIL[National Health Insurance Levy?] GET (?) Fund, AU [African Union]Levy, ECOWAS levy and Exim (?) Levy!
This indicates that in preparing its budget, the Government was NOT adequately concerned with the social costs of the taxes and levies it imposed.
The tax on ambulances is extremely disgraceful (if not callous) for it is exactly at the same level as the tax on petrol cars that possess "a cylinder capacity exceeding 3000cc". How did this anomaly escape Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta ? And how did Members of Parliament in both parties allow this to pass?
I was about cast my eye next over buses, lorries and other commercial vehicles on which the vast majority of our people depend, when I saw this item on the LIST OF IMPORT DUTIES: "Motor Cars designed for travelling on snow"!
"WHAAAAAAT!" I yelled. “Did they just copy these tax proposals blindly from some country where winter vehicles are used?
But back to road safety. So much depends on our police personnel and the examiners who give vehicles road-worthy certificates. Many vehicles are on our roads that do not have effective braking systems. The tyres on vehicles must also not be bald, otherwise they can cause a vehicle to spin out of control. Again, the tyres must be pumped to the correct pressure specified by the manufacturer.
A lot of drivers are aware of these things but still – unfortunately-- get involved in accidents. This is where the police come in. If drivers had confidence in the police, they would report suspected drunk-drivers to them. We beg the police to check not only the vehicles on the roads but also the drivers behind the steering wheel. They should ask questions: where are you coming from? How long have you been on the road today? Have you eaten? Have you had a rest? And so on.
Above all, every policeman should remember this: Every time you take money from a driver and allows him to go free, although you know he has disregarded the rules on road safety,
it's as if you'd taken a sharp knife and deliberately plunged it into the heart of a fellow Ghanaian, who has not offended you!
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