Seth Kwame Boateng’s view on road accidents must be a national agenda

One of the long-lasting perennial challenges that have faced the country is road accidents. It has been occurring very often every year.

When they start occurring, then the talking about it vehemently begins in earnest, especially in the media and by the authorities. The public sphere strangely ceases as soon as road accidents appear to have reduced on our roads. One listens to the debate in the media on road accidents and they are brilliant and very convincing, good to resolve any challenge we face as a country on our roads.

One would ask, when would the talking be turned into action to be taken to address this cancer on our roads once and for all. Certainly, we are not expecting an accident-free country but to the barest minimum as in other countries.

Ghana, unfortunately, is among the list of countries with high road traffic-related death, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Available figures show that road traffic injuries caused an estimated 1.35 million deaths worldwide in 2016.

This means one person is killed every 25 seconds. Only 28 countries, representing 449 million people (seven percent of the world’s population), have adequate laws that address all five risk factors (speed, drunk driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints). Over a third of road traffic deaths in low- and middle-income countries are among pedestrians and cyclists.

It is estimated that seventy-four percent (74%) of road traffic deaths occur in middle-income countries, such as ours. This accounts for only fifty-three percent (63%) of the world’s registered vehicles.

In low-income countries, it is even worse. Only one percent of the world’s registered cars produce 16 percent of the world’s road traffic deaths. This indicates that these countries bear a disproportionately high burden of road traffic deaths relative to their level of motorisation.

For this and other reasons, the WHO has classified road accidents as a public health issue and working with affected countries to find lasting solutions to this pandemic.

“The socioeconomic impact of life years lost from road traffic accidents with child victims across eight countries is $21.8 billion a year, according to a new report from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), with traffic accidents involving children posing a particularly grave public health issue.”

The interest of a Ghanaian journalist and a Public Health Professional, Seth Kwame Boateng, was whipped into drawing the entire nation’s attention to the ‘bomb’ we are joking with as a nation.

Seth Kwame Boateng is a Senior Journalist with the Multimedia Group Limited. He has received many awards in recognition of his outstanding performance in journalism. His achievements include the Global Health Reporting Award 2017 and GJA Journalist of The Year for 2014. Besides his vast journalism academic and professional exploits, he has obtained a Master’s Degree in Public Health from an England University.

His view of the road accident situation in the country, therefore, becomes a national agenda to be explored thoroughly for a solution and not the usual talk shop.

At least from in his latest documentary on road carnage, it is evidently clear that the talking is too much. We need now to walk the talk.

The courses, effects, handling of accident victims, economic and social implications, and driver training were some of the documentary issues. He also touched on hospitalisation and death, rapid responses to distress calls and fatalities caused by motorbikes.

He revealed, at least they are already known facts, that road accidents have a long chain of effects. Many people have lost family breadwinners, several others have been incapacitated, millions of cedis worth of properties damaged, some beyond repairs, while huge sums of monies were involved in repairing others.

Motor accident figures in the country appear to be growing with the population. Figures available indicate that 2,284 lives were lost in 2019 through motor accidents. “This marked a significant increase from 2018 where 2,020 died on Ghana’s roads.” This is comparatively high as against figures from the previous years.

Indeed, the figures are nothing to write home about as they continue to soar each passing year. 2016 road crashes figures rose from 937 to 1071 in 2017 majority of them being commercial vehicles which were 623 in 2016 and 732 last year.

Ironically, over 75 percent of these accidents, according to the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) of Ghana, occurred on what it describes as good roads but all single carriage roads where severe collisions occur.

It stands to sound reasoning that bad roads are not necessarily the major contributing factor to motor accidents on roads in the country.

One can cogently argue that overspeeding is the primary cause as practically, it is extremely difficult for motorists to speed on ‘bad roads,’ but the question still remains: head-on collision is 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 number of 4,598 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.

The year 2020 recorded alarming motor accident figures. fatal accidents claimed tens of precious souls. “Thirty-five people, including women and children, were killed on when two buses collided.” Reports have it that over 30 souls were burnt beyond recognition during the accident, which happened in a town near Kintampo in the Bono East region.

The figures may be more alarming at the end of the year as per the trend between January and now, if something drastic is not done about it. Figures from the Motor Traffic & Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service have it that there have been more road accident-related deaths this year than all COVID-19 related death put together.

The efforts of the journalists such as Seth and some media houses need to be commended and supported to drive home the urgent need to bring all on board the sensitisation and education on good driving practices on our roads.

The government efforts, too, have not been bad but just that it has not been enough to arrest the menace. The upgrading of the National Road Safety Commission into an Authority is good but does not by itself solve the problem.

Logistics and resources as well as professionals to lead the fight against the pandemic have to be provided. For the Authority, education and sensitisation, as well as practical measures on the road, must be vital in solving the challenge.

I will discuss this in detail in my subsequence articles. Watch out

Nana Sifa Twum

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