Swift Institute For Public Policy Options
A total of 57 individuals lost their lives on the Kintampo-Techiman road crash (Source: www.Myjoyonline.com , 22-03-2019) when two buses belonging to two major transport companies crashed head-on. In march, www.Ghanaweb.com reported that in the month of January over 190 people lost their lives on the roads, whilst Citi FM reported that road accidents cost Ghana over $230 million annually.
In the first quarter of 2019, a total of 592 commuters perished while 3,343 were injured in road traffic crashes in the first quarter of 2018.
The dead are made up of 439 males and 153 females (Source: thefinderonline.com , 18 April 2018).
These are but a very few of the grim statistics that one can find online when one begins to make an inquiry about road traffic crashes in Ghana.
Indeed, many Ghanaians are at their wit’s end as to exactly what can be done to bring an end to this huge tide of blood, and so far, Ghanaians are yet to hear any encouraging news on how the carnage on our roads can be brought to an end. To travel on Ghana’s roads have now become tantamount to embarking on a journey of no return. When one sets off, one can only pray that God will take one to the end of the journey. There is no guarantee, however, that one would get to the end of that journey, because the high likelihood exists that one would end up either on a mortuary slab, in a hospital bed, and recently, part of the unidentified and unidentifiable in a mass grave.
The Swift Institute for Public Policy Options (SIPPO) believes that these developments border on the issue of human rights. Indeed, the 1992 Constitution guarantees the right to life, and a situation where human life is taken so inordinately and so frequently on a very large scale, must not be countenanced. Indeed, we are surprised that civil society in our country have not found the need to take on this matter to ensure political accountability and safety for the citizenry.
FACTORS CAUSING ACCIDENTS
The causative factors leading to road accidents in Ghana, of course, are not hard to find, since they exist glaringly for all to see.
The mode of construction of most roads in Ghana can be said to be a direct causative factor to the carnage on Ghana’s roads. Most Ghanaian roads are single lanes, which have been divided into two with white paint. The situation where two oncoming vehicles moving in opposite directions approach each other at high speed, would almost certainly, lead to road accidents.
A disproportionately large number of vehicles plying the nation’s roads are second-hand or used vehicles which, in insurance terms, are past their sell-by dates. Most of these vehicles, imported from other nations, are over ten years. Frequently, many are over twenty years old, and yet find themselves on our roads.
It is also a fact that many of the vehicles on our roads do not receive anything close to scientific mechanical support. For many, due to financial considerations, it would be better to patronize roadside mechanics rather that accredited dealers of these vehicles.
The sad fact in Ghana, however, is that these accredited dealers themselves are sharks who would swallow the unwary. Many people, who are afraid to deal with such unprincipled dealers, prefer to deal with the roadside mechanics. The consequences are the blood on our highways.
Again, on maintenance, the large-scale importation of already used vehicle parts and tires may be having a contributory effect on the carnage on our roads, attested to by the large number of broken-down vehicles on many of the nation’s roads
The primary regulator of vehicles in Ghana is the Driver, Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA). Even though DVLA in recent times can take credit for a lot of modernization and decentralization, it is still far from being up to the duty of ensuring road worthy vehicles on our roads. The evidence greets one’s eyes every day on the road, when one sees cars with rickety parts, smoking engines and bald tires clogging the highways.
Again, the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MMTU) of the Ghana Police Service, which is to arrest unlicensed and erring drivers on Ghana’s roads, seem to exist principally to collect bribes. One sees them often on the road, but the courts of law do not often see the drivers that they arrest.
The National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), which has representation from many state and private organizations, is clearly swamped by developments, and is yet to offer any credible solution to the troubles on our highways.
It is said that by far the greatest contributor to road accidents in Ghana is the human factor, principally the drivers who drive on our roads. Some examples of driver carelessness are
Over Speeding: drivers in Ghana are often observed to be driving far beyond acceptable speed limits on roads that are clearly unfit for such purpose.
Wrong overtaking: this is where one driver overtakes another car in front of him without due caution, often leading to grave consequences.
Drunk or drug-controlled driving: Before getting onto the road, some drivers ingest drugs or alcohol, and this often leads to accidents. Many accidents on Ghana’s highways have been attributed to this factor.
Stress/ Fatigue: Many drivers, particularly those who drive over long distances, often experience fatigue and stress, leading to poor exercise of judgment. Drivers must therefore learn to rest enough before moving a car or truck for a long trip.
Phone calls and the use of mobile phones for messages when driving: Often, some drivers are to be seen using mobile phones and other equipment while driving. This has also been identified as one of the major causes of accidents.
SUGGESTED SOLUTIONS TO FACTORS CAUSING ACCIDENTS
It is easy to see, from the foregoing factors that lead to accidents, that what is primarily lacking, when all the factors are put together, is a lack of responsibility on the part of all the actors involved in the causes of accidents on our highways, to do the right thing.
Therefore, when one looks at the issue of accidents from the point of human rights, we believe that the two primary individuals or organizations that can ensure the maximum safety on our roads, are first, the people of Ghana, and secondly, the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), and the legal fraternity in this country.
We say this because it is clear that Ghanaians are not sufficiently litigious in their affairs. It cannot be acceptable that 57 human beings would die in an accident not of their own-making, and yet nobody would be held responsible.
The fact of the matter is that when one boards a vehicle, particularly on commercial basis, a contractual situation arises. One pays the fare with the understanding that one would be taken from one point, to the other. A presumption of safety arises. Again, every road user owes other road users a duty of care. Again, regulators, transport owners, drivers and other people charged with ensuring safety on our highways owe a duty of care to every other road user.
That being the case, the Swift Institute for Public Policy Options believes that individuals affected by road accidents, whether they are the victims or associates or next of kin of victims, have the onerous responsibility to ensure that people who cause accidents and injuries, pay for their omissions and commissions.
These affected individuals must sue or file cases are the law courts seeking justice and reparation for lost limbs and lost lives. It is only when transport companies, drivers, regulators and other players begin to lose large sums of money through judgment debts, that they would begin to exercise the maximum degree of care on the roads.
Secondly, we believe that the silence from bodies like the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) on the egregious abuse of human rights on Ghana’s highways is simply unhealthy, and the sooner Ghanaians heard from this organization on how it intends to spur on its members to protect life on our roads, the better.
The Swift Institute for Public Policy Options was founded in early 2019 by Mr. Kenneth Kwabena Agyei Kuranchie, author, journalist and political actor to discover sustainable alternative public policy options and initiatives to combat some of Ghana’s enduring social, economic and political problems. It is located at Afua Owusua House, behind Old Peace FM, Kumbaya Hotel Down.