The news report about 16 people dying in a gory accident at Gomoa Okyereko on the Accra-Cape Coast highway in the Central Region in the early hours of Tuesday, May 30, 2023 provides clear signals that Ghana appears far away from halting fatalities on its roads.
Reports have it that the accident occurred after a head-on collision between a petrol tanker and a bus at about 5 am on Tuesday accusing the bus driver of sleep driving.
The bus was travelling from Abidjan to Buduburam while the tanker was filled with petrol, travelling from Accra heading towards Takoradi. This is just one of numerous such accidents occurring on our roads daily.
Investigations reveal that seven such fatal accidents have occurred on that particular stretch of the road alone this year most of them head-on collision.
Accidents and indeed avoidable accidents are becoming one too many on our roads. This year alone, a total of 3,340 road accidents cases have been recorded between January to March. A total of 544 individuals were killed in these road accidents in the country.
Over the week, one major issue that has been a subject for discussion especially in the media has been the alarming spate of road accidents in the country.
Much as the issue is so much worrying, what appears to be much more disturbing is the fact that accidents on our roads have become perennial.
Many others believe that such motor accidents in the country are completely avoidable if the nation sets its priorities right.
This argument is based on the fact that over 80 per cent of fatal accidents that have claimed lives occur on trunk roads that are not dual carriage, it could be in the rural or urban area.
Head-on collisions on our roads are those that are deemed fatal and cause high number of deaths.
Head-on collision, which sometimes is referred to as frontal collision occurs too often on the trunk roads especially during the dark hours. Two vehicles travelling the opposite direction collide into each other in some cases when making wrongful overtaking or when one driver is dozing off or in some cases sleeping. Others drive straight into broken-down vehicles.
In such cases the point of impact is on the straight line connecting the center of gravity of each of the two vehicles resulting in deaths of passengers. Certain times other vehicles also get involved as drivers of these vehicles have very little control, if any, to avoid hitting their vehicles into the already collided vehicles causing side collision or rear-end collision.
“The likelihood of surviving a head-on collision. Research compiled by The Car Crash Detective has shown that the likelihood of fatalities in a head-on collision increases at speeds above 55 kilometres per hour. That number comes from research related to Vision Zero, a global initiative dedicated to reducing auto fatalities.”
In Ghana almost all roads and highways that form the trunk routes between major urban centres are single carriage ones. These ones are the N Routes, they are 18 in number across the country. The Accra-Kumasi and the Accra-Takoradi roads, are the two major and busy highways in the country.
Research findings indicate that the greatest risk reduction in terms of head-on collision all over the world, comes through the separation of oncoming traffic. This is also known as median separation or median treatment. This according to experts can reduce road collisions in the order of 70 per cent.
Much as this is understandable, one does not need to undertake any study before this conclusion. Most head-on collisions on our roads are simply avoidable if roads especially trunk roads are dualised. Elsewhere, such as Ireland and Sweden there are large programmes of safety fencing on some trunk roads.
This is not the case in Ghana, for instance, the Accra-Kumasi road, which is one of the major and busy highways in the country has just a portion of it dualised making it riskier to drive on. Much as it is agreeable that most accidents are humanly caused, such as the one that happened last Tuesday, some deficiencies in road engineering cannot be left out as the causes.
Some two years ago Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo called for an inter-ministerial action to help curb the menace, which now is among the major causes of death in the country.
The President’s order to his Ministers of Interior, Transport, Roads and Highways came at a time when the citizenry appeared helpless as their precious lives continue to be in the unsafe hands of dangerous, careless and in some cases mindless drivers some of whom are alleged to be driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
One is not too sure of what came out of the interministerial action and its effect, if any, in respect to safety on our roads. This is because fatal accidents continue to occur every now and then and in greater fatalities and numbers.
Ironically, over 75 per cent of these accidents, according to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) of Ghana occurred on what it describes as good roads but all single carriage roads where severe collisions occur.
It stands to good reasoning that bad roads are not necessarily the major contributing factor to motor accidents on roads in the country.
One can cogently argue that over speeding is the major cause as practically, it is extremely difficult for motorists to speed on ‘bad roads’ but the question still remains that is head-on collision not much more fatal than the rest of the accidents that occur on our roads?
Globally, some 1.3 million people die on the road every year and up to about 50 million suffer injuries and Ghana through diverse means, most of them avoidable, unfortunately, has been contributing to these figures. Between 2016 and now, a total of about 8,598 individuals have lost their lives to road accidents, if measures are not made to help halt the trend who knows how many will die this and the subsequent years.
In 2020 for instance, alarming motor accident figures were recorded. In that year, it will be recalled that a fatal accident claimed tens of precious souls. “Thirty-five people, including women and children, were killed when two buses collided”. Reports had it that, over 30 souls were burnt beyond recognition during the accident which happened in a town near Kintampo in the Bono East Region.
In early January, 34 people died with many others injured in an accident that happened at 12:15 am Tuesday, January 14, 2020, on the Cape Coast- Takoradi Highway.
On the Asuboi stretch on the Accra-Kumasi, trunk road alone the same year, about four accidents occurred all involving passenger-ferrying vehicles in head-on collisions.
We need our roads to be dualised and policies to protect passengers in commercially operated passenger-ferrying buses, minibuses and trucks because these vehicles carry a higher risk of being involved in fatal crashes.
Excessive vehicular speeds, inappropriate use of goods vehicles for passenger transport, excessive loading which often breakdown on the road posing danger of collision, and inadequate trauma care are the key contributory risk factors to the high number of road traffic fatalities.
“Concerted efforts spanning education, engineering, enforcement and trauma care are needed to stem the rise in fatal crashes in Ghana”.
BY NANA SIFA TWUM(PHD)