Where are we with the implementation of Action Plan to curb road accidents?

Motor accidents in the country appear to be reaching perennial proportions. It is becoming increasingly difficult to halt the cancer as the figures ironically continue to soar.

Concerns from all quarters are extremely high all these years with the current and former Presidents of the land noting with dissatisfaction. 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. This is coupled with bad roads some of which could be best described as death traps.

One is not too sure of what came out of the interminiterial 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.

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 was 623 in 2016 and 732 last year.

Ironically, over 75 percent of these accidents, according to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) of Ghana occurred on what it describes as good roads. 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.’

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 subsequence years.

The years 2020 is just so fresh but has already recorded alarming motor accident figures. Just this week, another fatal accident has claimed tens of precious souls. “Thirty-five people, including women and children, were killed on Monday 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.

Earlier in 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.

Like victims of all forms of accidents, victims of road crashes do not suffer serious injury or death alone. The negative emotions obviously affect families of these victims and present more pronounced psychological, emotional and financial suffering than the victims themselves.

More often, depression, anger, anxiety attacks, loss of drive and at times suicidal feelings, set in the lives of relatives and friends of victims left with disabilities than the victims themselves.

In fact, the effect of motor crashes around the globe and also in Ghana cannot be quantified by any means. Today there are thousands of breadwinners who are out of jobs primarily due to life changing disabilities ensued from road traffic accidents.

Some have struggled to go back to work chiefly because unlike other countries, there is no proper insurance cover on regular income gabs for such victims with severe injuries in Ghana.

The United Nations estimates that the overall economic costs of road crash range from 2-5 percent of GDP in many countries.

This is worrying and the urgent need for high level of improvement of road transport safety plans such the provision of good roads, a statutory road traffic regulatory body, efficient policing on the roads, and early hazard location alerts will help this this direction.

The big question is, has the NRSC and other stakeholders done enough by way of their mandates and functions? This is an organisation which was established by an Act of Parliament (NRSC Act 567 of 1999) to among other things to “plan, develop and promote road safety and to coordinate policies related to road safety” it is also to “undertake nationwide road safety Education, Information and Publicity; Carry out special projects for the improvement of road safety; Co-ordinate, monitor and evaluate road safety activities, programmes and strategies.”

This institution is seen as a toothless bulldog as it has not enough powers and resources to executes its core functions. Therefore, its existence appears meaningless in the eyes of the general public.

Its clarion call for more powers, therefore must be heeded to by the authorities to enable it function properly.

Today in Ghana deaths and injuries in road traffic accidents have rather unfortunately become more of socio-economic challenge. This stand to reasoning why at the 2014 General Assembly of the UN, member states were encouraged to take road safety into high consideration in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda, while recognizing the importance of a holistic and integrated approach to sustainable transport.

Road accidents in the country has become one too many as souls (both great and small) continue to perish.  The sudden deaths of some Ghanaian celebrities such as Terry Bonchaka, Suzzy Williams, Kwame Owusu-Ansah, Vybrant Faya as well as Ferdinand Ayim, who was a Special Assistant to the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the then Minister for Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City in the Kufour administration through road traffic accidents are still sad times for this country not to talk about the devastation of trail on friends and family members.

Ministers Ambrose Dery, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah and Kwasi Amoako Atta who the President of the land has ordered to help find some appreciable solution to the cancer, must work hard in this direction.

It is clear that the President wanted a clear and an urgent plan to help reduce road accidents in the country, when he tasked his Ministers to work towards finding solution to it, so they must act swiftly and pragmatically to buttress the vision of the president and also allow Ghanaians to travel in confidence and joy taking into consideration punitive measure for careless driving, mechanical fault, careless parking, loss of control whilst driving or riding, and indiscriminate crossing or roads among other common causes of road accidents in Ghana.

Sooner than later President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo approved an action plan to deal with road accidents in the country.

There were three key areas of action which I term as the 3Es, Education, Enforcement and Engineering.

The state was to resource the National Road Safety Commission to scale up public education and sensitisation on road safety with an additional GHS6.5million from the road fund while the enforcement of road traffic laws by the police through spot fines by automation of MTTD operations.

There was also the urgent need per the report to resource the Ghana Highway Authority, Department of Urban Roads and Department of Feeder Roads with at least GHS335million a year to provide signage and road markings for roads over a three-year period.

Two years is enough for three Ministries to implement the recommended action to help curb road accidents in the country. It is a problem, yes real identified one. We should not give up and we should not allow this problem to defeat us as a country for it is said that “Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution”

Nana Sifa Twum

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