Ghana is struggling to disentangle itself from the shackles of road carnage. If this is not true, why are people dying needlessly through fatal vehicular accidents on the country’s major roads? Road traffic crashes affect the global economy, since most countries lose between one and three per cent of their GDP to motor accidents every year.
The carnage on our roads has become one of the leading causes of deaths in Ghana. On the average, six people die daily and 2,000 perish annually through road traffic crashes, a situation that poses a major threat to the road transport sector.
The statistics available have been horrifying, and the death toll very heavy. Records from the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), highlighted by the media, paint a very gloomy picture of how lives are extinguished on our roads almost daily. For example, reports from the NRSC indicate Ghana recorded about 779 fatalities in the first quarter of this year due to road accidents, as compared to close to about 400 over that same period last year.
According to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), about 90 per cent of road crashes were due to human error. The Commission also revealed that April and December were the most accident-prone months.
The Commission, per its statistics, indicated that road accidents are predominant in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Bono and Ashanti regions. As it may be, these regions constitute about 64 per cent of motor accidents countrywide.
The bigger picture of road fatalities leaves much to be desired. In fact, anybody at all can fall victim to the menace since there are enormous disasters written all over our roads.
In actual fact, there is an upsurge in road traffic crashes worldwide due to population growth and other demographic factors. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1.25 million people die every year through road crashes across the globe. There are several factors that account for traffic accidents.
In Ghana, for example, majority of the accidents are attributable to human error such as speeding, wrongful overtaking, drink-driving and gross indiscipline. Others are fatigue driving, corruption, flouting road safety signs, lack of maintenance, broken down vehicles, overloading, vehicles in poor shapes and bad roads.
The National Road Safety Commission has identified factors such as speeding, drink-driving, poor driving skills and fatigue driving as the major causes of accidents. Meanwhile, speeding alone accounts for more than 50 per cent of road accident cases per the national statistics.
Road safety campaign
As part of measures aimed at reducing road accidents, the NRSC launches distinct road safety campaigns ahead of the Easter and Christmas festivities every year.
The Commission deserves commendation for this initiative. The long-term exercise seeks to raise public awareness of the alarming number of road accidents in the country. It must be emphasised that the fight against road carnage is a shared responsibility.
Therefore, it behooves every motorist, particularly drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and pedestrians to act responsibly in order to ensure their own safety.
From experience, I can state for a fact that most passengers who use public transport shy away from rebuking offending drivers. There is no denying the fact that most passengers bear the brunt in case of a tragedy.
I remember in a solidarity message by former President John Dramani Mahama having reported to have admonished road users to speak up against drivers’ misconduct and report them to the police.
The NRSC should kill two birds with one stone by extending road safety campaign to other motorists including non-commercial drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Why should commercial drivers be the sole beneficiary of road safety education?
The effects of road accidents cannot be underestimated, particularly in terms of agribusiness, trade, tourism, transport industry and business, just to name a few.
Experts say that Ghana loses about 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) through road accidents per annum. Some of the factors are medical expenses, loss of job, property damage and loss of productive hours. Sadly, about 60 per cent of motor accident victims are males between the productive ages of 18 and 55 years. This development has negative impact on the labour force, to say the least.
As a matter of fact, road traffic crashes affect the global economy, since most countries lose between one and three per cent of their GDP to motor accidents every year. In most developing countries like Ghana, road accident victims become a huge burden on family members and society as a whole. The worst of all is when bread winners die or become maimed.
The way forward
As a country, we haven’t done much to enforce road traffic laws on seatbelt, drink-driving, speeding, motorcycle helmet and reckless driving. For instance, most motorcyclists are fond of flouting traffic regulations with their eyes wide open; although they are highly vulnerable to road crashes.
It is therefore indicative that motorcycle accidents constitute 23 per cent of the total number of road traffic deaths nationwide. The surest way of curtailing road accidents is through attitudinal change, improved legislation on traffic laws and effective implementation.
The Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) must enforce traffic laws to the letter. And every professional driver must be a literate, skillful and knowledgeable to qualify for a licence.
Furthermore, unworthy vehicles should be flushed out from our roads. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) should nip overage and rickety vehicles in the bud during roadworthy test.
The MTTD should be equipped and well-motivated to enforce road traffic laws. Corrupt officers who extort money from motorists should not go unpunished. Let’s collaborate in efforts to maintain sanity on our road network. This will go a long way to safeguard our human capital for accelerated socio-economic development of mother, Ghana.
The author is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).