Death On Our Roads; It’s Time To Act And End Menace
28 burnt beyond recognition after a road crash on Kintampo highway 09-03-2020
School bus runs over 4-year old girl in Kumasi, driver arrested 11-03-2020
'Victimized' UEW staff dies in ghastly accident on his way to report at new duty post 08-03-2020
Drunk Taxi driver veers into shop, kills 1, injures 4 funeral bound passengers 29-02-2020
9 dead, 51 injured in Keta-krachi accident 16-02-2020
Over 20 perish in gory crash at Dampoase in central region 14-01-2020
The above are a few of the gut-wrenching headlines that continue to plunge this nation into a state of angst since the beginning of the year 2020. Accident related deaths have become a quotidian occurrence for the people of Ghana. Statistics available from both the Motor Traffic and Transport Department of the Ghana police service (MTTD), and Road Safety Authority (RSA) indicate a yearly increase in road crashes and its related deaths.
Between January and March this year, provisional data shows 393 deaths emanating from road crashes. In the year 2019, road crashes claimed a total number of 2,284 lives while in 2018, 2,020 died on Ghana's roads (MTTD records).
Some of the major causes of accidents on our roads include bad roads, over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, nonuse of motor helmet and seatbelts, distracted driving, unsafe vehicles, inadequate post-crash care, driving for long hours and inadequate law enforcement on our roads.
These deaths, as high and scary as they are, have not only shaken the very foundation of our nation but also robbed us of potential change makers, breadwinners of families and loved ones. Both ordinary Ghanaians and top public officials have not been spared.
A WHO media release on 7th February 2020 has it that, approximately 1.35 million people die annually as a result of road traffic crashes of which 93% of the world's fatalities occur in low and middle income countries and the casualties are mostly the youth.
In August 2019, the centres for disease control and prevention CDC ranked road accidents as the 9th major cause of deaths in Ghana. I believe it is not wrong to assume that every household or community has had its share of such deaths which comes with unbearable physical, psychological and economic consequences.
But for how long will we have to suffer these unpleasant pains? Who takes responsibility for the ever-increasing ghastly road carnages? How do we work to effectively and efficiently coordinate the efforts of the various stakeholders to eliminate or minimize the spate of these road fatalities?
The primary and most important job of any government is the security of its people; safeguarding the lives of its citizen, protecting their dignity and ensuring that they go about their daily activities with utmost trust in the system. To this end, governments take the ultimate responsibility and therefore come up with initiatives in the form of policies, programs and projects to address the needs of citizens.
In Ghana, our roads are under the care of the Ministry of Roads and Highways and its agencies thus, the construction and maintenance of roads fall within the ambit of their mandate. Successive governments have each contributed their quota in widening road network coverage.
However, there is still a huge public outcry on the bad nature of roads in Ghana. Some of these roads have become death traps and have contributed to a significant number of accidents leading to most of these bereavements. 2020 has been dubbed by President Nana Akufo Addo as “the year of roads”. It is our fervent hope that the needed attention will be paid to what I term 'hot spot' zones where most of these fatalities keep recurring.
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA)
The DVLA is an important state institution which falls under the Ministry of Transport. It is a licensure organization for both drivers and vehicles. Before a person is deemed eligible to drive on our roads, there is a rigorous testing process that he/she ought to undergo before a license is issued by the authority so as to ensure among other things, sanity on our roads.
Also, vehicles are tested by the same authority to determine their road worthiness and eventually issued with a road worthy certificate thereby, granting access onto our roads. As important as the authority's role is, one would have expected that processes would be tighter and more stringent.
Disappointingly, an investigative piece titled 'Soul Takers', conducted by Anas Aremeyaw Anas in 2014 at the 37 branch of the DVLA exposed decaying levels of corruption among drivers, officials of the authority and their middlemen (goro boys).
The most astonishing rot uncovered was a lapse in the license acquisition process with respect to flouting of a statutory rule which decrees the physical presence of an applicant for the issuance of a license. This breach, undoubtedly, explains why there are a lot of unworthy vehicles and drivers on our roads.
Motor Traffic and Transport Department of Ghana Police (MTTD)
The MTTD of the Ghana police service is obligated to ensure road safety in Ghana by educating road users on accident-free road practices. The agency also has a responsibility to spot, warn and arrest offending motorists who flout road regulations (Ghana police website).
It is an important stakeholder as far as road safety is concerned. But how well do they discharge their duties? How disciplined are officials from the MTTD in overcoming the temptation of trading off doing the right thing for a few cedis?
There is quite a significant number of MTTD personnel who work their hearts out in the discharge of their duties. However, a few of them, notorious for taking bribes and allowing lawless motorists to get away with various degrees of road-related crimes continue to tarnish the reputation of the department. This lack of professionalism cannot be ignored as one of the major contributors to indiscipline on our roads and consequently, many of these crashes and deaths.
National Road Safety Authority (NRSA)
The NRSA was birthed by an act of parliament (NRSC Act 567 of 1999). The act mandates the commission to play the lead role in championing, promoting and coordinating road safety activities in Ghana. Some of its key functions include the following:
• Undertaking nationwide road safety education, information and publicity
• Coordinating, monitoring and evaluating road safety activities, programs and strategies
• Making recommendations to the minister and such bodies regarding preventive measures involving the use of vehicles on roads
• Developing a long term road safety plan
• Establishing with road authorities, procedures for safety audit or projects for roads construction, reconstruction or improvement.
Various campaigns have been launched by the authority to educate the public on best practices on our roads. In September 2019, Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, revealed that his outfit and the ministry of education were collaborating to introduce curriculum on road safety and related issues for students in basic and secondary schools. This notwithstanding, a major challenge confronting the NRSA is inadequate and/or general lack of resources to effectively and efficiently carry out its mandate.
At the heart of road crashes/safety is the people; their responsibilities as citizens and attitude towards road usage. Citi TV's campaign towards indiscipline on our roads saw a great deal of road users being apprehended for various degrees of indiscipline ranging from driving without driver's license, expired license, expired road worthy and insurance certificates, wrong overtaking, wrong choice of routes, to using unapproved U-turns.
This is a clear indication that the citizens on whose behalf the government and all these other stakeholders work to safeguard are a major cause of the problem. We can have the best roads, a well-functioning DVLA, countless road safety campaigns, a disciplined MTTD but as long as we fail to abide by road safety regulations, all other efforts will be in futility.
Clearly, the cruelties of our roads call for drastic and urgent measures. Our roads have become death traps making the menace a national crisis. The United Nation has labelled road accidents as a health crisis. Government, through the Roads Ministry, must move to dualize all major highways especially those noted for these unfortunate crashes. This will drastically minimize the risk of head-on collisions by oncoming vehicles. Faulty vehicles, equipment, and in some cases, heaps of sand left on our main roads must be cleared.
As we advocate and press for better roads, the DVLA must ensure proper scrutiny in the issuance of licenses and road worthy certificates. Systems must be put in place to penalize or eliminate recalcitrant personnel who flout the right procedures.
Corruption continues to rob this nation of its rightful place at the seat of best nations in the world. It is a menace that has permeated every aspect of our country. The police institution, with all the good and hardworking servicemen, has had to deal with undisciplined officers with an unquenchable thirst to muddy the reputation of the bureau.
The MTTD must ensure high levels of professionalism from its personnel. Officers positioned at various road checkpoints must be diligent in the execution of their duties. Drivers with expired licenses, and road worthy certificates, as well as those without licenses at all when arrested, must be allowed to face the law. Doing so will serve as a deterrent to others but most importantly, save the lives of many people.
The NRSA must intensify its campaigns and public education on appropriate road safety mechanisms. I fully endorse the introduction of a new curriculum in both basic and second cycle institutions. Like the saying goes “catch them young and they shall be yours forever”. This will help inculcate into the younger generation, an attitude of being responsible citizens at a very tender age.
President Nana Addo must move a step further from the messages of condolences and consolations to affected families and come up with stringent pragmatic and decisive policy directives to combat the situation.
The MTTD with all the statistics at their disposal should identify hot spots for these accidents and mount 15 kilometres interval road barriers to check over speeding and reckless driving.
Furthermore, intercity transport service operators must put in measures to reduce the driving hours of drivers to 10 hours' maximum per day with a 1hour rest in-between.
Ghana exists because of its people. We only have one life to live and we must do so by being responsible to the best of our abilities. The time to end road accidents is now and it begins with you and me.
God save our motherland Ghana.
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."