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Opinions of Friday, 23 June 2006

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

It's Time To Take A Second Look At Benz 207 Buses

Road accidents have dominated our press again. It has become 207 buses taking a toll on precious lives on our roads. It is now safer to walk in the bullet-ridden streets of Baghdad than to sit in an automobile in Ghana. The accident in which members of the Abuakwa Catholic Diocese were killed in an accident involving a 207 Mercedes Benz bus has awakened the questioning minds of many Ghanaians about the type of vehicles on our roads.

This is not the first time this issue has come into the public domain for discussion. It appears that we are a generation of forgetful people. Today we are making noise about 207 buses and its safety on our roads. Tomorrow the debate will die down and we would assume that nothing has happened. Realities are realities. Early last year, an honourable member of parliament made a statement on the floor of parliament about the need for 207 buses to be banned from long distance travelling.

Available statistics from the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service says that two-thirds of accidents that occur on the Kumasi-Obuasi road involves 207 buses.

In the late 90’s the NDC banned Nissan Urvan vehicles from plying the Kumasi-Accra road. The motivation for this ban was simple because most of the accidents that occurred on the roads involved Nissan Urvan buses. This helped to restore sanity on the roads. 207 buses have become another problem on our roads.

By design 207 buses were made to carry goods not passengers. Human bodies and goods have different structural arrangements.

When the conversion is done, it makes the cars a little unstable on the road. There is a concept of mechanics called centre of gravity. The stability of an object depends on the centre of gravity. Once the orientation of the design is changed without any structural and mechanical redesigning, it disturbs the manufacturers settings.

One thing that we must know is that every car has its maximum load and tensile strength. Once we exceed this, the center of gravity of the car is displaced causing the car not to be stable on the road. We must come to see that every vehicle is not either four-row seater or five-row seater for cosmetics purposes. They manufactured by purpose and by design.

What are our engineers saying about the practice of car owners installing additional seating on their own without engineering certification? Should we allow car owners to be increasing their number of seats at the expense of the passengers and other road users? I believe that the VELD needs engineers from the KNUST to sanction such modifications. We need more engineers at VELD more than before.

This is a serious national crisis, because road traffic accidents are becoming very common and are robbing the nation of valuable human resources. Some of the socio-economic impacts include disability and therefore a high dependency burden, and for some victims the gravity of their disability could render them jobless. With men representing 67% of national casualty it has serious implications.

The casualty is made up of those killed and injured.

The implications of this are increasing number of widows and female-headed households. The implications for children are the inability to complete their education or acquire skills for life, making them school dropouts, destitute and social delinquents. In addition, long periods of hospitalization the increases the plight of the poor. In situations where they are unable to pay their bills, they are detained, an experience which can affect them socially, psychologically and mentally.

Costs for road traffic accidents include direct costs, namely medical care, property damage and insurance administration and indirect costs which include property damage, delays on the roadway, fuel consumption as a result of road accidents and resultant traffic jams, loss of earnings, loss of household productivity and environmental costs.

On the way forward, we need to establish a strong regime of discipline on our roads. First we need to ensure that only vehicles that are road worthy ply our roads. This will reduce the probability of accidents occurring as a result of mechanical failure. Most of the cars that display roadworthy certificates are simply not fit-for-purpose and should be in the scrap yard. I wonder if the government can find the funds and compensate owners, of all the dangerous metals on our roads that pass for commercial vehicles so that they withdraw them voluntarily. I have mentioned the issue of badly worn tyres and other dangerous tyre products, especially cheap imports.

Why on earth will we import tyres, which have been thrown away by users in another country, all in the name of home-used products?

We need a strong system of regulation at the ports to ensure that just like the taxes on over-aged cars, imports of used tyres and other categories of used car parts attract taxes that will discourage cheap and dangerous imports by unscrupulous businessmen.

Driver training, especially for commercial drivers, is also very essential. However safe a car is to drive, it would be equally dangerous if the driver is not well trained. Then of course with road maintenance, the Highways Authority needs to rise to its responsibilities.

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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