The negative impact of road traffic crashes on development is so devastating that it has become imperative for organisations and countries to collaborate efforts to tackle the menace.
The West Africa Road Safety Organisation (WARSO) Day, which is observed on May 8, each year, is a landmark approach towards the promotion of road safety in the sub-region.
West African countries commemorate the day with road safety activities, including media engagement, road safety education and outreach, schools visitation among others.
The event dubbed WARSO Day primarily aims to highlight and project road safety awareness programmes and reflect on some peculiar success stories and challenges confronting the sub-region in road safety management.
It is needless to add that road traffic crashes is gradually deepening poverty, shuttering families (loss of human resource), and destruction to property and so on.
This year, the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) will observe the day with a church service/outreach in Koforidua to educate and sensitise the general public.
WARSO was established on May 8, 2008, under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African states (ECOWAS) by the then President of ECOWAS, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, to promote road safety in West Africa.
Indeed, Ghana and her neighbouring countries enjoy cordial relations that date back to colonial rule. West African countries have thus related well in bilateral and multilateral relations for the benefit of the sub-region.
The formation of WARSO is another expression to bring countries of the West African sub region even more closer to collaborate, amalgamate ideas to sustain integration for socio-economic development.
WARSO is making deliberate efforts to improve road safety, particularly in the area of transportation and trade between countries. Road transportation and trade play important roles in the socio-economic development of countries.
While anticipating increased inter country travels and trade volumes, it is important to sustain road safety strategies to forge partnerships, skills transfer.
The sub-region is somehow bedeviled with some bottlenecks that hinder smooth transportation and trade.
Consequently, WARSO is seeking to be granted at least an observer status at ECOWAS meetings in order to influence and make inputs worth adopting. WARSO also exists to foster partnership and collaboration at the sub-regional level to advance road safety agenda and enhance knowledge sharing and harmonisation of some national plans of action within the sub-region.
WARSO Day was observed by all West African countries namely Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso,Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Mali and Niger. The rest are Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Togo, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.
Since its formation, WARSO has encouraged and facilitated knowledge and information sharing and experiences among member countries, synchronising and harmonising of programmes and activities through conferences and workshops to discuss best practices whilst supporting innovation in road safety management.
The day avails an opportunity to reflect and take stock of what has been achieved over the period and what needs to be done.
In the wake of growing trading and commerce activities in the sub-region, it is imperative that a strong body like WARSO be resourced to harmonise road safety interventions and advocate best practices among member countries.
It is instructive and worthy of mention that some remarkable outcomes are yielding results. Since its inception, WARSO has embarked on several programmes and projects in partnership with relevant stakeholders aimed at addressing some contemporary issues on road safety management.
As an example, WARSO has harmonised the use of standard retro-reflective tapes by vehicles in the sub-region to aid in vehicle conspicuity.
The Road Traffic Regulations 2012, LI 2180 stipulates in Regulation 80(1) that “A person who drives a motor vehicle including trailer, for conveying passengers or used for carrying goods and which has a gross motor vehicle weight of three and half tonnes or more shall ensure that the motor vehicle is fitted on the sides and rear of the motor vehicle with approved retro-reflectors to improve the motor vehicle’s conspicuousness”.
It is evident that most trailers or commercial passenger carrying motor vehicles are complying with this directive. Thus this is preventing motor vehicles from running into stationary motor vehicles in the night or in times of impaired vision.
Unlike previous times, member countries were reporting road traffic crashes (RTC’s) without recourse to international standards. But thanks to WARSO, member countries have developed and embraced a standardised road traffic crash data collection format to aid in the reporting and accounting for road traffic crashes and its attendant issues.
Similarly, WARSO has initiated a Regional Vehicle Administration and Information System (RVAIS) project to ensure a uniform vehicle registration system in the sub-region.
It has also introduced Passenger Manifest aimed at collecting information on both drivers and passengers at bus terminals before the start of a journey.
To this effect, passengers on board a vehicle can easily be identified in the event of any crash or hazardous condition.
WARSO is also advocating incorporating road safety into basic education curriculum.
This has been a common goal for all member countries who are working hard to ensure that road safety education is taught as an examinable subject.
It is in this light that the World Bank has supported Ghana in developing textbooks and training School Help Educational Programme (SHEP) Coordinators nationwide.
WARSO is again championing the installation of speed limiters in commercial vehicles.
The Road Traffic Regulations, LI 2180 in Regulation (1) states “A person who operates a commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of at least three and half metric tonnes shall ensure that (a) the vehicle is fitted with a speed limiter determined by the Licensing Authority in consultation with National Road Safety Commission”.
Governments in the sub-region need to strengthen the various institutions mandated with promoting road safety to be effective. In fact, throughout the world, it is strong-lead institutions that are able to better manage road safety
By Emmanuel Kodjo Nartey