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Opinions of Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Columnist: Obed Samuel Obeng Dadzie

Dualise our highways now!

The rate at which accidents are claiming lives on our highways in Ghana is becoming increasingly alarming. It is not surprising that the most fatal of all accidents on our highways occur during head-on collisions.

It is simply because despite how busy our highways are, they are single carriageways and not dualized, causing vehicles that involve in accidents to crash into each other.

Many drivers have no regard for human lives. It is alleged that when some drivers are carrying eggs or have other delicate stuff in their vehicles, they take more caution than when carrying passengers.

Records indicate that drivers or passengers suffer serious injuries or fatalities in accidents involving head-on collisions as compared to other accidents.

On February 17th, 2016, 61 people were killed and 25 got seriously injured when a Metro Mass Transit bus and a cargo truck collided between Kintampo and Babatokuma on the main Kintampo-Tamale road. An 8-month old girl survived but unfortunately lost her mother. On 22nd March 2019, about 60 people were also killed and 53 passengers injured when two buses collided head-on at Amoma Nkwanta, between Techiman-Kintampo roads.

One of the buses caught fire, resulting in some passengers burning beyond recognition. On that same day, another gory accident as a result of a head-on collision involving a Metro Mass Transit bus and a Yutong bus occurred at Ekumfi Dunkwa, between Winneba-Cape Coast highways in the Central Region.

Over 30 people died while several others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Oh, what a bloody and sorrowful day it was for mother Ghana!

We woke up to be greeted with news of another accident when an intercity bus and another bus had a head-on collision as a result of wrongful overtaking. It claimed 34 lives, leaving others in critical condition on 14th January 2020. It also happened at Dompoase, near Elmina, between the Kasoa-Cape Coast highway, one of the accident-prone stretch of roads in the country.

It was reported that a 10-year old girl survived but lost both parents, rendering her a complete orphan for the rest of her life. Again, 35 people got killed in a head-on collision involving two buses that caught up fire on the 9th of March, 2020 around Kintampo, another area that has gained notoriety for accidents.

Out of the 35 persons that died, 27 of the victims were burnt beyond recognition, leaving other survivors in critical condition.

Moreover, two horrible accidents occurred within two days, specifically, 15th and 17th September 2020. In the first incident, a Burkina Faso bound DAF cargo truck crashed into two vehicles at Kyekyewere, on the Nsawam–Suhum stretch of the Accra–Kumasi highway, recording 17 deaths.

The second accident occurred at Gomoa Adam, between the Kasoa–Cape Coast highway as usual, which also claimed 7 lives and injured several others.

Other accidents have occurred just at the beginning of this year. They include the 19 people that perished in the Buipe-Tamale crash on 3rd February; the 19 persons that died (16 on the spot and 3 later) at Akyem Asafo on Accra-Kumasi highway on 26th February; and the 13 people that died at Alice, near Yapei, on the Buipe-Tamale highway on 13th April 2021.

This is to mention but a few. They all occurred as a result of wrongful overtaking that resulted in head-on collisions. It is evidently clear that most accidents on our highways, particularly head-on collisions, have been the severest and deadliest.

Over the years, many stakeholders, especially the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) have played various roles in sensitizing and educating drivers to cut down or avoid accidents on our roads but have not achieved many results with respect to carnage on our roads. The majority of drivers despise road traffic regulations.

When traveling on our highways, the over speeding, wrongful overtaking, recklessness, or indiscipline exhibited by them are unfathomable. They have become recalcitrant and incorrigible to the extent that even the latest news or being eye-witnesses to horrific accidents do not prompt them to drive responsibly.

What is more frightening and disheartening is that even the most responsible driver and innocent occupants could be killed or are often killed by a reckless and irresponsible one. It leaves one to wonder whether some drivers have more than one lives to live on earth to enable them to gamble or experiment with the first.

Since some drivers have proven that our safety cannot be trusted in their hands by their manner of driving, the most effective and reliable alternative against head-on collisions is the dualization of our highways.

Our highways seem to have turned into death traps or ‘cemetery junctions’ (crossroads between life and death). Most travelers when traveling on them often have their hearts jumping into their mouths because one either reaches his or her destination safely by grace or joins the ancestors abruptly.

Financial cost in respect of dualization of our highways must not be an excuse because having our highways dualized would save us more costs than we can imagine.

It is reported that Ghana loses a whopping $3 billion every year through corruption, a gargantuan amount of money. If corruption is reduced or avoided, it would save the nation several billions of dollars within few years to enable our highways to be dualized.

Again, it is on record that Ghana spends $230 million every year treating injuries and traffic fatalities. It means in every ten years, the nation spends $2.3 billion on victims of road traffic crashes alone.

Statistics indicate that an average of over 6 people daily and 2,000 yearly, die on Ghana roads. In 2019 alone, 2,284 lives were lost through road crashes in Ghana, while 2,080 people died in road accidents between January and October last year, confirming the aforementioned statistics. This means about 20,000 persons are killed every ten years on our roads.

The loss of this number of persons necessitates the dualization of our highways, irrespective of the financial cost to the nation. If within a year (March 2020 – February 2021) the dreaded coronavirus pandemic killed about 600 people in Ghana as compared to about 2,000 yearly deaths on our roads, it makes it imperative to pay even more attention to the dualization of our highways.

The accidents on our roads have far-reaching consequences. Aside from the loss of precious lives, the anguish, emotional and psychological trauma they unleash on the nation cannot be quantified monetarily.

Most of the victims tend to be prominent personalities and others with needed skills in both the formal and informal sectors contributing their quotas to the growth of the economy.

Consequently, the valuable human resource or manpower capacity of the nation is adversely affected. Other victims are often breadwinners of their respective families causing the loss of daily bread to their spouses, children, and other dependants.

Most dependants of the accident victims get their education truncated, become vulnerable or go wayward, and indulge in all forms of social vices that pose threats to the nation.

Some accident survivors die later due to the life-threatening injuries they sustain, while others get limb(s) amputated or rendered incapacitated for the rest of their lives.

Irrefutably, our dear nation needs several infrastructural projects for development and nation-building but priority must be given to the dualization of our highways to save human lives.

This is because what would be the usefulness of an ultra-modern hospital, world-class university, or state-of-the-art infrastructure after we are all dead, leaving Ghana behind in a desolate state through road accidents, particularly head-on collisions?

Should we create a paradise in Ghana without human beings to enjoy it? Dualisation of our highways is, therefore, a prerequisite for enjoying other needed infrastructural projects because we need to be alive to enjoy them.

It is said that as a nation, we only lament over such horrible occurrences and forget within few days, without ensuring that the requisite solution is found.

Nobody knows who the next accident victim would be. It could be a father, mother, sibling, uncle, dear colleague, or a loved one. May God forbid though! It is imperative to act now because ‘a stitch in time saves nine'.

It was quite gratifying when the minister for roads and highways mentioned during his vetting that dualization of Accra-Kumasi and Accra-Takoradi roads is in the offing.

We beseech the minister not to renege but expedite action and include all the other highways in the country.

Let us arise with one accord and clamor for #DualisationOfOurHighwaysNow!