Neglected Tragedy: Road Accidents Real Pandemic

The country’s roads are increasingly becoming a present danger, with accidents, including fatalities, reaching alarming proportions.

Statistics at the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service indicate that 771 people lost their lives in road-related accidents between January and March this year.

This was an increase of 29.58 per cent over the figure for the same period in 2020, which was 595.

The Head of Education, Research and Training at the MTTD, Superintendent of Police Mr Alexander Obeng, told the Daily Graphic yesterday that on the average, nine people died from road accidents on a daily basis.

More statistics

In 2015, some 1,802 people lost their lives through road accident.

The number shot up to 2,084 in 2016, reduced to 1,823 in 2017 but jumped to 2,020 in 2018, 2,284 in 2019 and 2,589 in 2020.

Figures available at the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) website indicate that in addition to the 2,084 people who died from road accidents in 2016, some 10,438 others were injured.

The figures represent an increase of 15.6 per cent and 6.77 per cent in fatalities and serious injuries, respectively, but a reduction of 11.7 per cent in crashes, over 2015 figures.

This means while the number of crashes reduced, the fatalities and injuries were on the rise.

The Ashanti Region recorded 403 fatalities, representing 19.3 per cent of all road fatalities in Ghana, which was the highest.

Public health threat

Experts consider road accidents as a national tragedy and public health threat.

This is in view of the fatalities and the financial cost to both the country and the individuals involved.

Joy News documentary

A documentary currently being broadcast on Joy News produced by Seth Kwame Boateng, titled: “Crush”, reveals a gloomy picture of the situation in the country and has many wondering how the canker could be curtailed.

The documentary, produced within a period of four months, has the Director of the Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Daniel Asenso-Gyambibi, expressing grave concern about the rising trend of road accidents and their attendant fatalities.

Others in the documentary are the Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah; the Head of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Dr Dominic Konadu-Yeboah; the Chief Executive of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Opoku Ware Ampomah; the Executive Director, National Ambulance Service, Prof. Ahmed Nuhu Zakariah, and the Executive Director of the NRSA, Mrs May Obiri–Yeboah.

Dr Asenso-Gyambibi said accidents cost the country about 1.6 per cent of GDP, which in terms of numbers is about $800 million.

Causes

Experts have identified indiscipline, poor road engineering and the lack of enforcement as the key causes of the rising fatal accidents on the roads, especially the highways.

In the Joy News documentary, Mrs Obiri-Yeboah expressed concern about the increasing number of accidents from motorbikes.

“If it weren’t the number of deaths and injuries that people sustain from motorcycle accidents, I am sure Ghana would be one of the best in Africa, probably in the world. But, unfortunately, each year, the numbers are increasing and so something needs to be done and I need to champion that,” she said.

The issue of rising motorbike accidents was corroborated by Supt Obeng, who told the Daily Graphic that the inability to address the issue of motorcycles had led to motorcycles being responsible for about 45 per cent of road accident fatalities.

He said out of every 100 road crashes, between 90 and 96 were due to human error.

He said there was an urgent need for a policy that would regulate the ownership and usage of motorcycles.

“That is why we say the accidents are preventable,” he added.

Other causes, he said, were driver inattentiveness, fatigue, excessive and inappropriate speeding, lack of vehicle maintenance and failure to display reflective warnings when vehicles break down.

On the part of pedestrians, Supt Obeng said many refused to use safety crossings, such as footbridges and Zebra crossings, while others crossed the roads when the traffic lights had given an indication for vehicles to move.

He said road safety managers were also to blame for some of the road accidents, and cited the unavailability of road markings, footbridges and a robust and efficient towing system to address the problem of breakdown vehicles.

Other experts believe that the dualisation of the country’s major roads will reduce the spate of accidents on the roads.

NRSA action

Also in the documentary, the Minister of Transport said the institutions involved in road safety, such as the NRSA and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), needed to be strengthened further to enable them to effectively carry out their mandate.

“Even if one person dies, a death that we can prevent, I think we don’t have to be proud of it. The figures are not good. We don’t even have to go into them,” he said.

He said the NRSA, in partnership with the private sector, was currently working on a Transport Manifest at the Takoradi Station at Kaneshie.

“Any passenger who boards a vehicle at that place has his or her information on the manifest, and so if anything happens, we will be able to follow up. We are trying to incorporate this manifest into the DVLA system.

“Speed is also a factor, so now we are going to determine what time you moved from Kaneshie and what time you got to Takoradi.

“Now we have enhanced powers in such a way to enforce institutional compliance. For instance, if the Ministry of Roads and Highways did the road, it is supposed to put road markings on it. If it doesn’t put road markings on it, the NRSA, as it is today, will force the ministry to do that.

“Going forward, the authority is going to enforce institutional compliance to make sure that all those institutions which are responsible for safety on our roads do their work according to what they are supposed to do,” he said.

The minister said the budgetary allocation for the NRSA when it was a commission was woefully inadequate and, therefore, it could not perform its functions well, noting that the situation had changed since the commission was changed into an authority.

Enforcement

On enforcement challenges, Mr Obeng said an automated system with traffic cameras and sensors was needed to address the problem of interference by law enforcement.

“Without it, we will continue to have interference with enforcement, which gave room for some enforcement personnel to take advantage to do untoward things,” he stated.

Proper handling

Sharing his views in the documentary, Prof. Zakaria spoke about what needed to be done when accidents occurred to save lives.

“Sometimes the victim of an accident is trapped in a vehicle. Some of the body parts must have been stuck to parts of the vehicle. In pulling the victim, you are likely to even damage some of his or her internal organs. So if the professionals arrive and they see that pulling the victim may not be adequate, they have to wait and get the Fire Service, which has the extraction machine to cut the various parts of the vehicles and release the victim,” he said.

Source: graphiconline.com

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