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Opinions of Friday, 16 June 2006

Columnist: Appiah Kusi Adomako

Indiscipline And Corruption As Major Causes Of Road Accidents

We were concerned about the mechanical device ? the vehicle as the cause of accidents. People are calling for the ban of 207 mini buses but no one has called for the withdrawal of licenses from undisciplined drivers. Today there is a paradigm shift from blaming the vehicle to human beings who man the vehicle.

Most of the accidents on our highways can be prevented if drivers, DLVA, MTTU and GPRTU do their work well. When one fails to do the correct thing, it is the passenger who presents his or her body as the sacrifice to somebody?s inaction. Indiscipline is the cause in most cases amongst Ghanaians, even more than HIV/AIDS. Even bad eating habits, as a result of indiscipline, sends most Ghanaians to the grave ahead of their time.

According Dr. Lawrence Edusei, Pathologist, Department of Pathology, Korle-bu Teaching Hospital, most drivers have high percentages of blood alcohol (ranging from 300-383/100ml), which is far above the accepted level of 2.43/100ml. This is enough to cause motor accidents.

MTTU statistics estimate that most accidents are caused by broken down vehicles on our roads. It is sad and disheartening to see a broken down vehicle on our highways with no warning triangle to warn oncoming vehicles. On the Kumasi-Accra and Kumasi-Tamale highways, there are enough incidents of this sort at any point in time to prove this point. The police see this and do nothing about it. They only come in when it causes an accident.

Impatience on the part of drivers is also a major cause of accidents on our roads. We are told that the accident that took the lives of thirty nine members of the Roman Catholic Church in Kumasi recently was caused by the 207 min bus driver?s impatience. The taxi driver had indicated his intention to do a right turn. Instead of the former slowing down, he decided to overtake the taxi and in so doing crushed into the oncoming STC from the opposite direction. There is virtue in patience and if one cannot be patient on the roads, he might learn patience whilst lying in the grave where there is no hurry at all. In England and other parts of Europe, the police can fine a driver for riding on bad or worn out tyres. It appears in Ghana there is a leeway for drivers to drive on worn tyres. This gives rise to the issue of imported used or secondhand tyres. The question is; what causes a European or American user to throw away his tyres? Yet we rush to import them to use on our cars. The process of acquiring driving licenses is marred with corruption. Driving licenses have become like a commodity available to those who can pay. It is like the Ghanaian passport, which many non-Ghanaians manage to acquire. There are some people who have never before sat behind a steering wheel but are able to pay their way through to acquire licenses. What is the implication of this? When this happens, we leave all road users at the peril of inexperienced drivers.

The Vehicle Examination and Licensing Department must wake up. There should be proper training before one can secure a driving license. This brings to mind the issue of the driving schools we have in the country. Who sets the curriculum? How long should training of new drivers last? What should be the qualification of an instructor at a driving school? These are the questions that ought to be asked and most importantly, answered!

Another thing we can talk about is the unworthiness of some cars on our roads. A recent TV3 programme demonstrated how most of the vehicles in the Central Region are not road worthy and yet have valid VELD and National Insurance Commission sticker firmly glued to their windscreens.

In most advanced countries, drivers who commit traffic offences are fined and penalty points put on their licenses. The points are predetermined for the different categories of traffic offences. Up to a certain level of penalty points accumulated, one can lose his or her license either for a specified time or even in some cases for good.

Owing to the socio-economic impacts that road traffic accidents generate, it deserves to be given political priority and commitment. Unfortunately in Ghana, there appears to be a lack of political will to make interventions that support road safety campaigns, such as in developed countries like the United States, Japan and Finland, where the personal commitment and interest of their heads of state in the maintenance of sanity on the roads has culminated in a drastic decrease in road accidents and adherence to road regulations. In Ghana, wearing of seat belts is yet to become mandatory, yet a lot more people are dying through accidents where seat belts could have saved them.

Other issues that need to be considered in order to curb road accidents are sustained public awareness, information dissemination, public campaigns, and making road safety an integral component of the curriculum for basic and second cycle schools.

Reviewing and enforcing appropriate legislation as regards road safety, training and retraining of drivers on the Highway Code and defensive driving techniques, introduction of the safe community concept (a concept that promotes injury prevention activities at the local level to solve local highway and traffic safety and other injury problems.

It uses a bottom-up approach involving ordinary citizens in addressing key accident and injury problems), managing drivers through collaboration, cooperation and commitment.

The urgency and the need for action lies in the fact that every nation?s best resources are its people.

Any death caused by road accident means we are losing the very resources that we need to move our nation forward. Enough has been said. Now we need all concerned to start acting to put an end to this perennial cause of woe in many a family

Appiah Kusi Adomako is an international freelance writer and the president of the Ghana Chapter of Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation. He can be contacted through: Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi. Tel www.leaders-of-tomorrow-inc.com E-mail: appiah@whatsonghana.com

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