The carnage on our roads has become one of the leading causes of deaths in Ghana. On the average, 6 people die daily and 2,000 lives perish annually through road traffic crashes; a situation that poses a major threat to the road transport sector.
Barely three months into the year, over 2,500 road accident cases were recorded, thereby resulting in 426 deaths and 2,523 injuries nationwide. This is a bitter pill to swallow.
According to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), about 90 per cent of road crashes were due to human error. The Commission revealed that April and December were the most accident-prone months.
During the just ended Easter festivities for instance, the total number of road accidents recorded stood at 120, where 25 people died and 93 sustained various degrees of injury.
As of the end of December 2016, an overwhelming number of motorists totaling 2,198 died that year through motor accidents across the country.
Statistics indicate that road accidents are predominant in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Brong Ahafo and Ashanti regions. Be that as it may, these regions constitute about 64 per cent of motor accidents countrywide.
The bigger picture of road fatalities leaves much to be desired. In fact, anybody at all can fall victim to the menace, since there are enormous disaster written all over our roads.
Not long ago, 6 people were confirmed dead and 7 others injured in a fatal accident involving a Hyundai mini-bus and a Burkinabe articulated truck at Odumasi on the Accra-Kumasi road.
An eyewitness recounted how the driver of the mini-bus attempted overtaking another vehicle and ended up crashing the side of the articulated truck.
Causes of road crashes
In actual fact, there is an upsurge of road traffic crashes worldwide due to population growth and other demographic factors.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 1.25 million people die every year through road crashes across the globe. There are several factors that account for traffic accidents.
In Ghana for example, majority of the accidents are attributable to human error such as speeding, wrongful overtaking, drunk-driving and gross indiscipline.
Others are fatigue driving, corruption, flouting road safety signs, lack of maintenance, broken down vehicles, overloading, unworthy vehicles and bad roads.
The Road Safety Commission has identified factors such as speeding, drink-driving, poor driving skills and fatigue driving as the major causes of accidents.
Meanwhile, speeding alone accounts for more than 50 per cent of road accident cases per the national statistics.
Road safety campaign
As part of measures aimed at reducing road accidents, the NRSC launched distinct road safety campaigns ahead of the Easter and Christmas festivities every year.
The Commission deserves commendation for the tremendous initiative. The long-term exercise seeks to raise public awareness of the alarming number of road accidents in the country.
It must be emphasised that the fight against road carnage is a shared responsibility.
Therefore, it behooves every motorist particularly drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and pedestrians to act responsibly in order to ensure their own safety.
From experience, I can state for a fact that most passengers who use public transport shy away from rebuking offending drivers. There is no denying that most passengers bear the brunt in case of a tragedy.
In a solidarity message, former President John Dramani Mahama was reported to have admonished road users to speak up against drivers’ misconduct and report them to the police.
The NRSC should kill two birds with one stone by extending road safety campaign to other motorists including non-commercial drivers, passengers, motorcyclists and pedestrians.
Why should commercial drivers be the sole beneficiary of road safety education?
Effects on socio-economic development
The effects of road accidents cannot be underestimated, particularly in terms of agribusiness, trade, tourism, transport industry and business, just to name a few.
Ghana loses about 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) through road accidents per annum. Some of the factors are medical expenses, loss of job, property damage and loss of productive hours.
Sadly, about 60 per cent of motor accident victims are males between the productive ages of 18 and 55 years. This development has negative impact on the labour force, to say the least.
As a matter of fact, road traffic crashes affect the global economy, since most countries lose between 1 and 3 per cent of their GDP to motor accidents every year.
In most developing countries like Ghana, road accident victims become a huge burden on family members and society as a whole. The worst of all is when bread winners die or become maimed.
The way forward
As a country, we haven’t done much to enforce road traffic laws on seatbelt, drink-driving, speeding, motorcycle helmet and reckless driving.
For instance, most motorcyclists are fond of flouting traffic regulations with their eyes wide open; although they are highly vulnerable to road crashes.
It is therefore indicative that motorcycle accidents constitute 23 per cent of the total number of road traffic deaths nationwide.
The surest way of curtailing road accidents is through attitudinal change, improved legislation on traffic laws and effective implementation.
The Motor Traffic and Transport Department must enforce traffic laws to the letter. And every professional driver must be a literate, skillful and knowledgeable to qualify for a license.
Furthermore, unworthy vehicles should be flushed out from our roads. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) should nip overage and rickety vehicles in the bud during roadworthy test.
The MTTD should be equipped and well-motivated to enforce road traffic laws. Corrupt officers who extort money from motorists should not go unpunished. Forewarned is forearmed!
ASP James Annan
Ghana Prisons Headquarters
• The writer is an Assistant Superintendent of Prisons (ASP) at the Prisons Headquarters, Accra