One of such initiatives which need critical attention is the markings of the Pedestrian Crossing (PC). The Pedestrian Crossing also known as the Zebra Crossing are black and white markings identified on roads for pedestrians to use as an aid in crossing roads from one end to the other. The idea of the PC was first introduced by John Peake Knight, a British Railway Engineer, in 1868. The rationale behind the introduction was to provide a safe route for pedestrians who cross roads on busy streets. Thus, the idea was triggered by an anticipation to have an easy and safer way in which pedestrians can cross streets. In the words of Knight, “Pedestrians have the right to cross roads safely and therefore, planners and engineers have a professional responsibility to plan, design and install safe crossing facilities.”
Roads safety is a global concern. A global status report on road safety launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), in December 2018, highlights that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million. Road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged 5-29 years. The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians and motorists, in particular those living in developing countries. The report suggests that the price paid for mobility is too high.
In Ghana, the records show that there has been a percentage increase in number of deaths annually caused on the road costing the nation some Ghc 230m. In 2018, an estimated 795 Pedestrians were killed. Since 1991, 17842 pedestrians representing 42.6% are the estimated death cases of accidents involving pedestrians. The number of road users killed in the first quarter of 2019 saw 17.57% increase over the figures for the first quarter of 2018. Commuters and pedestrians killed increased from 592 in the first quarter of 2018 to 696 in the same period of 2019 according to provisional breakdown.
The Eastern Region is one of the regions that is prone to pedestrian deaths. The record shows that an estimated number of 167 pedestrians have been involved in road crashes this year with 68 deaths and 99 of them sustaining injuries.
Drastic measures are thus needed to minimize this canker and to meet any future global target that might be set.
However, the reality in Ghana is that many trained engineers who should be devoted to this cause travel to other countries in search of better jobs leaving behind the problem of outdated road design standards and the high cost of road infrastructure.
I took some time to criss-cross the Eastern region in anticipation to understand the reason behind the high number of pedestrian deaths. I found out that, drivers (both private and commercial) shut their eyes to speed restrictions and traffic codes, while many ignore road symbols. It appears that pedestrians crossing signs seem to have no meaning at all to drivers. It is disheartening to see drivers blatantly ignoring fundamental road markings after going through various training and acquiring Driving Licenses from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).
The most vulnerable people on our roads are pedestrians. They continue to be at the highest risk of being killed on the road. Notwithstanding, most pedestrians seem to have a fair knowledge on the Pedestrian Crossing which are mostly designed near schools, markets, hospital and along busy roads. After many months of using and observing the PC in the Eastern Region, I realized that most drivers ignore their basic requirements of stopping and allowing pedestrians to cross. Some drivers sometimes raise their voice on people who use the pedestrians crossing.
On the part of the pedestrians, though a huge number of them have some knowledge about the pedestrian crossing, they still avoid them. To them, it is a case of convenience over safety and so they use only when the siting of the sign is convenient. Some pedestrians would rather cross the road at the risk of their lives than to look for available PC in the area.
The DVLA, known for issuance of Driving License to drivers occasionally embark on education on road safety for drivers. A conversation with an official of the DVLA revealed that most of the drivers who pass through the Authority are well educated and informed on the necessary requirements on the roads ranging from road signs, pedestrian tolerance and Road worthy and vehicle maintenance among others. For them, it is surprising that these same drivers will deliberately flout these same road user rules they seem to have a fair knowledge of.
I caught up with Mr. Abdulai Bawa Ghamsah, the Acting Eastern Regional Manager of the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) on this issue. He indicated that his outfit has done a lot and continues to do more to at least help minimise if not to curb pedestrian deaths.
He stated that though his agency educates and enforces acts that can bring down the number of pedestrian deaths, until engineers and planners consider pedestrians in their road constructions we will still be faced with pedestrian deaths on our roads.
Head of Works Department at the Eastern Regional Co-Ordinating Council, Mr. Nsiah Amoako, added that although road contractors are required to provide markings on roads, they are sometimes constrained by specifications and budgetary allocations. He however entreated engineers and planners to desist from imaginative designs and draft concepts that are of relevance to modern day road safety issues. He also urged them to be more punctual to construction sites to ensure that contractors adhere to the specifications of the roads they are asked to work on.
The Motor Transport and Traffic Directorate (MTTD) have shown dedication on our roads by helping both drivers and pedestrians. But their efforts need a double up since the death toll keeps on increasing. The deaths on our roads are caused by the lawlessness of road users and the less attention on the part of the appropriate government institutions and agencies. The design of our roads and the inadequate engineers with the needed expertise in this country cannot be left out of the Challenges.
The NRSA, The MTTD and The DVLA clearly have a lot more to do as far as the implementation and enforcement of pedestrian safety measures are concerned.
I find it fascinating that we dedicate most of our time and energy in talking about politicians and their corrupt attitude but pretend to be deaf and blind to issues that washes our human resources.
Let us all respect traffic laws and especially the pedestrian crossing to save lives.
WRITING BY: MUDASIRU ABDUL YAKEEN. WRITERS EMAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org