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Opinions of Thursday, 31 May 2018

Columnist: Dr. Mawia, Zakaria

Re-$1.5 million road safety education; Ghana being led by mad people again

Having read a news item criticising the road safety commission for budgeting $1.5 million on road safety education rather than investing in street lights on the motorway, a story attributed to Imani’s Bentil and which has received wide circulation and positive comments, I noticed a genuine gap in knowledge regarding road safety issues in Ghana.

The statement showed extreme lack of knowledge and information on road safety as it failed to consider available statistics on road accidents which support any serious policy maker to prioritise education rather than the provision of street lights on roads.

Road transportation still remains the major means of transport in Ghana and offers enormous economic benefits that can transform the economy by supporting the efficient movement of goods and services. However, road transportation in Ghana is saddled with many safety challenges which make the roads unsafe and susceptible to preventable road traffic fatalities and injuries.

Road traffic accidents have emerged as an important public health issue which needs to be tackled using a multi-disciplinary approach. The trend in Road traffic accidents injuries and death is becoming alarming not only in Ghana, but globally as well. The number of fatal and disabling road accidents happening in Ghana (1,800 deaths and 14,500 injuries
annually) is absolutely high and is a real public health challenge for all the concerned agencies.

The approach to enforce the rules and regulations available to prevent road accidents is often ineffective and half-hearted.

“The National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) has expressed great worry over the rise in the number of road crashes especially in 2016, having recorded remarkable drops in such cases since 2012. The Commission, as of the end of November 2016, had recorded a total of 11,378 road crashes countrywide involving 17,746 vehicles, of which the total number of
casualties stood at 12,154 comprising of 1,990 deaths and 10,154 injuries.”

Traffic indiscipline has been identified as major contributor to Ghana’s rising Road Traffic Crashes and lack of operational capacity on the part of the enforcement agency and behavioural change programs have been the key challengesto effective enforcement.

Under the decade of Action for Road Safety and the Third National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS III: 2011 – 2020), the Police needs to improve enforcement and the Road safety Commission needs to improve public education to achieve positive behavioural change amongst road users to address the wider range of behaviours that create risk on the roads.

The implementation of Regulation 157 of Road Traffic Regulations LI 2180 (Spot Fine) and vigorous education programs are the established means to curtail traffic indiscipline which is a major cause of road traffic crashes and deaths in Ghana.

The Road safety Education and the Spot Fine Projects are therefore very key projects that will build capacity of the enforcement agency to improve road safety, and will be one of road safety measure that the NRSC seeks to implement to make the Ghana roads safer.

The provision of street lights has not been found by any known research as an effective intervention in the control of road accidents. It is true that the provision of street lights do contribute to crime prevention but its relevance in the prevention of road accidents relative to education cannot be made by anyone who is guided by the results of painstaking research in the area of road safety.

The term road safety education refers to teaching actions to children and young people primarily, to help and assist them in developing their behaviour on roads. Thus, road safety education goes far beyond the pure teaching of traffic rules, and includes the areas of social education, road signs, inclusion, diet, mobility as well as environmental, safety and health
education.

Background and objective is to realise road safety education not only at school but as a task of the whole society where different partners are playing an increasingly important role. In addition to police, associations, road patrols and other external partners and institutions also publishers have an increasingly important part. They develop educationally valuable
and practical materials and media for the target groups to effectively support all actively involved in road safety education. With the help of road safety education young people at an early stage can learn and practice sustainable mobility that helps them to cope with future challenges safely and confidently.

The Spot Fine Project Description

Spot fines are money a person pays as punishment for flouting the law, in this case, the road traffic regulations. The spot fine project implementation provides an effective tool for attitudinal change in motorists and an impetus for minimizing preventable/avoidable road crashes and casualties. Evidence from spot fine practices globally shows a significant improvement in driver behaviour and road safety.

Conclusion /Recommendation

I wish to caution that personalities who have reasonable access to media and whose statements have significant influence on society should be guided by available evidence on the subject been discussed before making public statements. Adopting this proposed evidence
based communication ensures that the unsuspecting and gullible public are not polluted with viewpoints that could be counterproductive.

Again, based on the outcome of saving lives, the road safety education’s positive financial outlook and socio-economic benefits, it is recommended that government should not be distracted in its quest execute the project.

Dr. Mawia, Zakaria
Executive Director
Institute of Social Research and Development (ISRAD).