BY: Rev. Ismaila Awudu
IT’S RATHER unfortunate and sad to have our able-bodied and future leaders perishing on our roads daily,something that is avoidable and needs to be condemned in no uncertain terms. We’ve watched and seen gruesome deaths gradually wiping us out and causing us sorrow, pain, and endless agony in families that has greatly affected our noble country, it human capital and GDP.
Road fatalities are the highest among other related deaths in the world. The frequent occurrences of road injuries and death are becoming alarming. These victims are living but have become incapacitated and a burden to themselves, family and their community.
One may ask, what has accounted for all these unfortunate deaths, human pain and deformation.
Indiscipline by drivers and pedestrians, lack of state priority in tackling projects, unnecessary political equalization, lack of project continuity, poor road engineering, delays in accident response, poor maintenance culture, disjointed inter road sectorial collaboration, inadequate funding, and lack of enforcement. All these constitute to the major causes of road crashes in the country.
Indiscipline on the part of drivers and pedestrians
Sad to say but factually, majority of our deaths and misery on the road result from indiscipline on the part of drivers and pedestrians. One must know, the first safety rule is to think and act safety personally.How do we drive in this country? We have become comfortable with some bad road practices such as over speeding, overtaking, total disregard for road signs and traffic regulations, display of impunity, drink driving and substance abuse.Other areas worth looking at are pedestrians crossing roads at unapproved places, jay walk, the use of mobile phones by drivers and pedestrians and ignoring the dangers of incoming vehicles at the peril of their lives.
Poor Road Engineering
Our population keeps increasing, both human and vehicular yet our roads have not been improved to meet national demands since independence. We have become a reactive society without proper planning. Motorways have become death traps with inadequate street lights etc. Road engineers do not think of human safety when constructing the roads. They leave sand, packed vehicles, open trenches and other materials without caution, just like the case of Ebony. May her soul rest in peace. Long stretch roads are single lane instead of it being a dual carriage way. There are no rest stops for long distance drivers hence they drive tired, sleepy and stressed.
Responses to accident related issues and equipping of road agencies by subsequent governments leave one to wonder whether government really considers this sector as a priority to national development. Though there had been some interventions in this regard, it sometimes comes very late when much damage had been done.
One thing that really saddens my heart is the continuous political equalization. Over the years, the problem of continuation of projects funded by the state by successive governments has resulted in most of our pain and needless deaths. We tend to politicize some of these things and look for avenue to attack each other instead of tackling this accident menace as a State.
From a health and safety point of view, what could be done to stem the gradually rising morbidity and mortality associated with Road Transport Accidents (RTA) in Ghana? Various measures have been recognized and tested which granted not specifically directed at the factors contributing to the Ghana situation listed above, but clearly will impact positively and help stem this health and safety problem.
Driver behavior and education can be highly influenced by targeted health promotion campaigns. Seat belts, alcohol, drug regulation and monitoring are preventive interventions. Pedestrian education and protection, especially for the LAMIC sphere like Ghana, should be given due attention.
Development and maintenance of strategically placed emergency response and trauma centers for timely attendance to RTA victims must be given attention. Additionally, appropriate capacity building in the areas of regulatory bodies, legislation, data collection and management, count greatly towards curbing this important health and safety problem.
Also, citizens and organisations must contribute to safety by sponsoring road projects such as construction of footbridges, speed ramps, zebra crossing, lollipop stands, etc. and not only wait for things to get out of hands before they act.
Moreover, our response to accident victims leaves much to tell. It’s sad to see road crashes victims dying due to delays in saving their lives. People will have pleasure in filming an accident to share on social media rather than calling for help or making an attempt to send the victim to hospital for treatment.
To add up, some road users obstruct the smooth movement of ambulances responding to emergencies. Individuals who go through training on how to administer first aid to road crashes victims sometimes lack the basic knowledge in handling them. In an attempt to assist, we end up killing or worsening their situation. Logistically, we have inadequate ambulances, lack of health care facilities as well as health trained personnel to help save lives during accident.
Finally I would like to comment about the enforcement and education in respect to Road Safety. Majority of drivers on our roads have license but are visually impaired, emotionally and psychologically unstable. While some have not gone through proper test, others do not understand road signs and other traffic regulations but are operating within our road space.Political and personality interference has also accounted for enforcement challenges not to talk of nepotism, open taking of bribe from drivers by some corrupt law enforces.
Road safety education
Road safety education has not been intense, well engaging and deliberate enough due to human, logistical and financial challenges.
RTA related fatalities and injuries continue to be a health finance problem in Ghana requiring urgent attention. The problem of Road Transport Accident in Ghana must not be seen as ‘being just a safety issue” as reflected in the past. What this article stresses and brings to discussion is that, the problem of RTA containment should primarily focus on prevention by utilizing a multifaceted public health approach.
This approach draws on all the relevant public health disciplines of epidemiology, statistics, environmental sciences, behavioral sciences, safety and injury prevention, health services administration and the incorporation of emergency and advanced trauma support services, to guide and formulate policies towards containing the scourge of the RTA problem currently confronting the country.
The public health implications and solutions discussed above apply as much to Ghana, as well as other countries in the Sub-Saharan region. The urgency for containment of the RTA situation is important therefore the United Nations considers this problem a global public health priority, and has declared the decade 2011 to 2020 as the “decade of action for road safety”.
In conclusion, I would like to recommend the following: We must wake up as a nation to deliberately tackle our road sector by providing effective road engineering, strong enforcement of road traffic regulation, to help bring sanity and discipline among drivers and pedestrians.
In addition, communities and stakeholders must assist in championing the cause of safety by contributing towards safety measures. The media must be the leading voice in terms of advocacy to help curb this monstrous canker.
Also, government must see the issue of safety as a national concern. There should be less talk and more action.Agencies such as MTTD and National Road Safety Commission should be well resourced to be able to carry out their mandate. The NRSC for instance, should be extended to all districts, increase their staff strength and empower them to undertake institutional enforcement of their stakeholders such as MTTD, DVLA, etc. We all have a role to play in solving this carnage on our roads.
The writer is the Board Chairman of the National Road Safety Commission.