Overloading of passengers on both commercial and private transport will gradually become a thing of the past with the war on the use of seatbelts, which kicks off on Monday, September 1.
In fact, owners and drivers who would be going to register their motor vehicles or renew their roadworthiness certificates whose vehicles do not have seat belts will be disappointed.
This is because vehicles, whether for private or commercial purposes that do not have seat belts fixed in them, will not pass the roadworthiness test or be registered.
The war on seat belts was declared few months ago by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service, supported by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).
Basically, the job of the seat belt is to secure the passenger in place, so the passenger is almost part of the car. It also prevents the passenger from flying forward as the car stops abruptly in case of a collision.
A seat belt has two parts. The first part rests over the passengers? pelvis, and the second part rests over the shoulder and across the chest.
When the car stops abruptly the seat belt applies the stopping force across a large section of the body, so that injury is reduced.
Seat belts originated in the 19th Century, and have become not just standard, but also mandatory the world over as research, and numerous tests have proved that they protect vehicle occupants and save lives.
In 2004, a World Health Organisation (WHO) report recommended the use of seat belts to ensure traffic safety. Research shows that the wearing of seat belts remains low unless it is mandated by law.
According to the WHO, 70 per cent of the world’s population is currently covered by a seat-belt law.
However, in Ghana, seat belts are of no significance to most drivers and vehicle owners. The worst offenders are commercial vehicle owners and importers who do not care whether there are seat belts in their vehicles or not.
These have resulted in several people who could have been saved by the seat belts dying in needless accidents. On the other hand, there are numerous cases in which passengers were saved from death because they had buckled themselves up.
A notable case is that of 2008 and 2012 NPP Presidential Running Mate, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, who escaped death in a ghastly vehicle accident on the Bole-Bamboi road early last year.
In a subsequent media interview, he advised, “I want to say to everybody who travels in a car to remember that a seat belt is very, very important. I believe it is important in saving our lives.
We all were belted-in and so people should remember that seatbelts are very important. I think without us having our seat-belts on, it would have been a different story.” Media shots of his mangled vehicle was a testimony to his public exhortation.
Besides, barely two weeks ago, the Editor of the Daily?Graphic, Ransford Tetteh, also escaped death although part of the vehicle he was travelling on was mangled.
According to him, he slipped away unhurt because he wore his seat belt.
The officer in charge of Research and Training at the MMTD, DSP Alexander Kwaku Obeng, in an interview with The Mirror, said currently, they were encouraging all vehicle importers, assemblers, owners and drivers to safeguard the lives of people who ride in their vehicles by ensuring that seat belts are fixed before they are imported, bought or driven.
?This is simply a self-compliance order to protect the precious lives of Ghanaians on our roads and reduce the spate of road accidents. Therefore, by the end of March 2015, it is expected that this order will be complied with by all and sundry.”
DSP Obeng explained that since the DVLA was their partner in enforcing this rule, they would ensure that mechanics from garages across the country are trained on effective ways of installing seat belts in vehicles.
According to him, all long-distance vehicles must have seat belts affixed for all seats. Gradually, buses like the Metro Mass Transit Buses would also be made to have seat belts as well.
He added that this would go a?long way to prevent overloading and make passengers sit comfortably without any stress.
DSP Obeng therefore urged all vehicle importers, owners and prospective buyers to endeavour to inspect vehicles they intend buying thoroughly to ensure that they have seat belts else they would not be registered at the DVLA.
On Wednesday morning when The Mirror visited some bus terminals in Accra Central, most commercial vehicles usually used for ?trotro? for both long and short distances had no seat belts in them.
Besides, most of the drivers this reporter spoke to admitted they hardly use seat belts when driving, and that was evident as most of the seat belts looked so worn out and dirty.