You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2009 04 21Article 160732

Opinions of Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Columnist: Yiadom, Joseph Boakye

Measures To Deal With Carnage On Roads Are Unsustainable

The recent spate of road accidents in the country has alarmed government and stakeholders in the road transport industry. This therefore informed the president’s decision to summon stakeholders in the industry to an emergency meeting and tasked them to find a lasting solution to this national disaster. Road accident cases involving high profile personalities like the former President in 2007, medical specialists, professionals, journalists, politicians, students, musicians, actors etc indicate the extent of the problem and the fact that everybody in Ghana is at risk.

The stakeholders met, deliberated and within a week they came out with measures to deal with the carnage on our roads without outlining what they found to be the causes for which their proposed measures can deal with. The Executive Director of the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) who is an influential stakeholder described the death situation as not alarming but normal.

The current road accident situation where within three months over 300 innocent Ghanaians have been killed and several others sustaining serious injuries is being described as normal by the Executive Director of the NRSC because he claim that a similar number of people died through road accidents during the same period in 2008. Some officials of the NRSC even claim that this year is better than other years. This is because as a country we have accepted death of a certain number of people through road accidents in a year as normal. Until that number increase significantly, the situation is described as normal.

In a developing country like Ghana, it is normal for between 1500 and 2000 persons to die annually through road accidents. Also $165 million of Ghanaian tax payer’s money is wasted annually because of road accident, when $10 million cannot be raise to fund the establishment of an ultra modern cardio-therapy centre to treat patients with heart problems.

The table below summarises available data on Ghana’s accident fatality rate from 2000 to 2008.

Source: National Road Safety Commission of Ghana

Year Total No of Accidents Deaths

2000 11714 1578

2001 11291 1660

2002 10718 1665

2003 10644 1718

2004 12164 2185

2005 11328 1784

2006 11668 1856

2007 11648 1346

2008 11209 1652

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that over 1.2 million people are killed on roads every year with over 50 million more injured. The organisation has predicted that if care is not taken, the number of people killed and injured on the worlds roads will rise by more than 60% with most of the victims living in developing countries like Ghana. Road safety has therefore been declared a public health issue that needs urgent attention.

With reference to 26th March 2009 edition of the daily graphic, the stakeholders prescribed six short term and three medium term measures to deal with the carnage on our roads which we believe are UNSUSTAINABLE. These measures are scheduled to become operational from Monday 6th April 2009. The measures are addressed below with its shortcomings.

SHORT TERM MEASURES 1. PRE-DEPARTURE CHECKS: Tyres, brakes, lights, alcohol, and driver’s license.

Checking tyres, brakes, lights, driver’s license and alcohol requires technical persons and special equipment. Do we have enough personnel and equipment to assign to every lorry station to check every vehicle before departure? These checks are supposed to be done by the DVLA and the police. This measure should have been directed at the DVLA to stop issuing (selling) drivers license and road worthy certificates to unqualified drivers and vehicles which have not been physically examined. Officials of the various transport unions do not have the technical expertise and the mandate to determine the road worthiness of a vehicle. Some executives of the various transport unions are caretakers of most of the non road worthy vehicles at their station. It is not every vehicle that belongs to a union, so who determines the road worthiness of these vehicles? The DVLA can ensure that every commercial vehicle is properly maintained at least twice in a year if every vehicle is made to pass through the mandatory vehicle inspection procedures.

2. All vehicles to carry double function advanced warning triangle. All vehicle owners and drivers are already aware of the fact that it is mandatory to carry and use a warning triangle in case of a break down but the issue is whose duty is it to enforce this regulation? These days people use tree branches and tyres to warn other drivers and even policemen drive past these broken down vehicles.

3. Long distance vehicles to enter log books.

Most drivers don’t know how to read and write, how can they enter log book? Again who is going to ensure the enforcement of this policy and at what time (day or night), because fatigue normally occur in the evening and at night when there are no policemen on the road. Who will provide the log book? What is a long distance? Is this a law or a directive?

4. All roads to be cleared of disabled and broken down vehicles by NRSC and police.

This measure is long overdue. Some truck drivers deliberately park at unauthorised areas and pretend that their vehicle has broken down. Also some vehicles are death traps and only get on the road to break down because it is obvious that they are too old and not road worthy but they carry goods which weigh four times the maximum gross weight. These old, overloaded and non roadworthy vehicles drive past numerous police barriers before arriving at their destination. We are hoping that the NRSC and the police will be well resourced to be able to clear all disabled vehicles on all roads. Since the 6th of April 2009 innocent lives have been lost through vehicles that crash into stationary vehicles on Kumasi – Accra highway.

5. All commercial vehicles to be fit with retro-reflective tapes on designated parts.

Almost all registered vehicles in Ghana have retro reflectors on the front and back bumpers so this measure is not necessary now.

6. Regional managers of NRSC to intensify campaign.

This should have been an internal arrangement of the commission. The commission must take stock of the impact of their campaigns over the years to ascertain whether they ever met their target. The campaigns of the NRSC is targeting drivers but it is being absorbed by unqualified drivers therefore the much anticipated impact to change driver attitude and behaviour has never be achieved. It has been established that lack of funds is a major problem of the NRSC, yet the specific resources which will be provided for the NRSC for the purpose of intensifying their existing campaign is not clear. Again their campaign strategies, policies and programs must be reviewed because most of the campaigns of the commission are not effective.

MEDIUM TERM MEASURES

1. Establishment of National Drivers Academy to assume leadership role in driver training and upgrading.

Currently there is no regulation on the means by which a learner driver should be trained so far as the person is able to pass the test requirements for licensing. It is an established fact that over 85 percent of drivers in Ghana have not attended any driving school and 82.2 percent of these drivers have taught others to drive. Already there are very good driving schools as well as very bad ones. There should be proper collaboration and monitoring of driving schools to get rid of the bad ones and a policy to empower the good ones and support them. Again the services of driving schools are not being patronised because the DVLA issues (sells) driving license to people who don’t know how to drive. So why will someone attend a driving school to learn how to drive anyway. This is the reason why most of the driving schools in Ghana are collapsing. GPRTU had a driving school but because of the system it has collapsed. So the establishment of a National Drivers Academy will achieve very little if the system is not changed

2. Installation of speed limiters in all commercial vehicles to enable drivers to adhere to its wish and not their desires.

3. Install speed cameras.

Since medium term measure 2 and 3 are new measures to be introduced in the country, we are hoping that there will be enough resources available to purchase the needed materials for this purpose. However we think that there are more realistic measures which may yield better result.

At AKWAABA FOUNDATION GHANA we believe that these measures prescribed by the stake holders are UNSUSTAINABLE and cannot stand the test of time however well it may be intended. Our investigations have however proved that the proposed measures are not even APPLICABLE to sustain because ten days after the short term measures were scheduled to take effect, nothing has being done and most drivers are not aware of these measures. So we were even charitable to say that they were unsustainable.

Human life is priceless and irreplaceable and as a country we must not accept as normal even one preventable death through road accident.

Again we think that it would have been prudent if the stakeholders had outlined what they came up with during their deliberations as the causes of the problem for which reasons they think that these measures will be the best option in solving them.

The risk of over-reacting to recent events and in the process adopting unrealistic measures are as bad as not reacting at all and for that matter the government should initiate measures that can be sustained for a long term solution to the carnage on our roads.

In Ghana road accident issues come up for discussion after a fatal accident has already occurred and goes away a few days later only to resurface again after another accident has claimed many lives. This approach is the reason why as a country we do not have comprehensive measures to deal with the carnage on the roads.

However, we wish to humbly propose that the following key measures be considered by government and stakeholders in our quest to find a lasting solution to the carnage on our roads.

1. DRIVER TRAINING AND LICENSING

2. CONDITION OF VEHICLE

3. WEATHER AND ROAD CONDITION

4. ESTABLISHMENT OF ROAD ACCIDENT PREVENTION AUTHORITY WHAT IS ROAD TRAFFFIC ACCIDENT

An accident is an unpleasant event especially in a vehicle that happens unexpectedly (not planned or organised) and causes damage, injury or death.

CAUSES OF ROAD ACCIDENT IN GHANA

1. HUMAN FACTOR

2. CONDITION OF VEHICLE

3. CONDITION OF ROADS

4. WEATHER CONDITION

5. LACK OF ENFORCEMENT OF ROAD TRAFFIC RULES AND REGULATIONS

1. DRIVER TRAINING AND LICENSING

It has been established that drivers (human error) contribute to about 93% of road accidents in Ghana. Therefore the question that needs to be asked is WHO IS A DRIVER?

DRIVER: A driver is a person who drives a vehicle.

LEARNER DRIVER: One who has not yet passed a driving test.

DRIVING TEST: A test that must be passed before you are qualified to drive. DRIVING LICENSE: An official document that shows that you are qualified to drive a particular type of vehicle.

WHO IS AN UNQUALIFIED DRIVER?

UNQUALIFIED: Is defined as not having the right knowledge, experience or qualification to do something. Therefore an unqualified driver is a person who drives a vehicle without having the right knowledge, experience and qualification.

WITH these explanations as to who a driver and an unqualified driver is, we can say that there are two types of drivers that is QUALIFIED DRIVERS and UNQUALIFIED DRIVERS in Ghana. We have mistaken unqualified drivers for DRIVERS. Both drivers and unqualified drivers are holding genuine drivers licenses.

Even though unqualified drivers are holding genuine driver’s licenses, they bought it without passing through the legitimate process of acquiring driver’s license. It is about time we separate these two contradictions.

It has been established from a research by AKWAABA FOUNDATION GHANA (evidence available) that over 70% of commercial vehicles in Ghana are operated by unqualified drivers and not drivers. Again in the Ashanti Region over 50% of driving schools are operating illegally for over three years.

These unqualified drivers are careless, untrained, greedy, impatient, have gross disregard for human life, over speed, drink and drive, overload, practice poor vehicle maintenance, wrongfully park and overtake and have total disregard for rules and regulations of driving. These are acts that are contrary to the rules and regulations that govern driving and therefore they are always involved in accidents which claim innocent lives.

There is a saying that when one wicked man lives in a society, he takes the whole community to ransom. The activities of these unqualified drivers have resulted in the erection of unnecessary speed ramps, roundabouts, police barriers. In areas where there are no official speed ramps, residence dig across the road etc yet instead of these measures helping to reduce road accidents, the spate of accident is rather on the increase.

We are of the conviction that unnecessary speed ramps are going to be prescribed by the Ghana highways authority as the engineering remedy to recent accidents on the Winneba to Cape-coast road.

The country loses precious human lives and waste about $165million which is equivalent to 1.6 percent of GDP annually due to the activities of unqualified drivers.

Some people have unlawfully been taking out of business by the banning of drinking spots at lorry parks and the proposed ban on the importation of used tires because of the activities of these unqualified drivers. These drinking spot operators had employed other Ghanaians and these people have been rendered unemployed. Why wasn’t the Kotoka International Airport and Tema Harbour closed down when it became obvious that Cocaine was imported into and exported from Ghana?

A DRIVER CAN DRIVE A VEHICLE WITH DEFECTIVE BRAKES FROM KUMASI TO ACCRA SAFELY. AN UNQUALIFIED DRIVER CAN BE INVOLVED IN ACCIDENT EVEN WHEN HE IS DRIVING A BRAND NEW VEHICLE FROM THE SHOW ROOM.

It must be noted that a driver has no excuse for getting involved in an accident. For e.g. tyre burst, bad roads, mechanical fault etc. Driver training, especially for commercial drivers, is very essential. However safe a car is to drive, it would be equally dangerous if the driver were not well-trained.

As a matter of fact, in the specific case of the accident involving the Abuakwa choristers in 2006, Police investigations established that the driver of the Mercedes Benz 207 bus was following the taxi so closely and that he failed to slow down when the taxi tried to branch at a junction at Akropong. To avoid hitting the taxi, the driver of the Mercedes Benz 207 bus, now deceased, veered into the other lane, crashing into the oncoming STC bus and killing 35 people. The Police went further to state that if the driver had exercised a little patience and slowed down for even a second that fatal accident could have been avoided. This therefore should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that the accident was caused by human error or careless driving, and over 90% of recent accidents in 2009 have traces of similar circumstances. If an unqualified driver drives his over-loaded vehicle into a wrongly parked vehicle or collides with an on-coming vehicle while attempting to overtake another vehicle on a curve or hill, the accident cannot be said to have occurred because of witchcraft or the condition of the vehicle, weather or road. The blame should rather be put on the unqualified driver.

The value and importance of a driver’s license must dictate a stringent procedure of acquiring it. The sale of driver’s license must stop now. No citizen of Ghana has an automatic right or privilege to own or hold a drivers license and the issuing authority should revoke, cancel or suspend the license it has already issued to an applicant if they have enough reason to suggest that the holders continuous hold of the license may pose a threat to life and property of the holder as well as other road users. The acquisition of a driver’s license comes with responsibilities. A ‘B’ class driver’s license comes with the immediate responsibility that property and lives of at least five persons can be entrusted into the drivers care and that the driver is capable, experienced and qualified enough to be able to get them to their destination safely.

It is an established fact that DVLA officials issue (sell) any class of driver’s license to unqualified applicant depending on how much the applicant is willing to pay as bribe. Leaving commercial vehicles in the hands of unqualified and irresponsible drivers is almost the same as leaving guns in the hands of crazy people.

For example an unqualified D class driver who is driving a heavy duty vehicle, bus or coach which is in good condition, on a good road and during a good weather condition will over speed, overtake wrongfully, drink and drive, disregard all driving rules and regulations and will be involved in an accident.

The acceptance of unqualified drivers into the driving profession must stop now and stringent efforts are made to weed out or retrain those who are already in the system. It is very easy to compel drivers to abide by traffic rules and regulations whereas it is very difficult to compel an unqualified driver to obey traffic rules and regulations. Unqualified drivers can easily be identified and their license taken from them or they may be retrained. This can easily be done when the public trust that their interest and safety will be assured but not a means to extort monies from drivers.

The whole system of driver training and licensing needs a complete overhaul to ensure that:

o There is proper collaboration between registered driving schools and the DVLA in the areas of curriculum setting, duration of training and the qualifications of driving instructors.

o Driving schools are empowered to train prospective drivers with defensive driving ethics.

o Only qualified applicants who have passed through the mandatory driving tests are issued with driver’s license and that drivers who commit driving offences are fined and penalty points put on their licenses.

o Stiffer punishment is meted out to unqualified / unlicensed drivers and officials of the licensing authority who assist such people to acquire driver’s license through dubious means.

o Drivers who are involved fatal accidents must be made to write the theory exams again before their drivers licenses are released to them.

o At least one week in a year mandatory refresher courses be instituted for all commercial drivers to refresh their knowledge in the profession.

2. CONDITION OF VEHICLES, WEATHER AND ROADS

Again it is an established fact that road worthy certificates are issued to vehicles that have not been physically examined by officials of the DVLA. In spite of the existence of an elaborate procedure for the inspection and certification of vehicles, a cursory examination of commercial vehicles working in the country will leave one to wonder how these vehicles were able to pass the test. The following are the reasons why this happen:

? Vehicle owners are able to acquire road worthy stickers from the DVLA without presenting their vehicles for inspection by paying bribes to some corrupt officials of the authority.

? Middlemen popularly known as ‘Goro Boys’ issue fake stickers to vehicle owners who do not want to go through the official procedure. We think that there should be stringent measures to ensure that road the worthiness of every vehicle is established before certification by the DVLA and that a valid road worthy sticker does not guarantee the road worthiness of a vehicle.

Also every commercial driver should be able to defend the road worthiness of the vehicle he is driving on the road and should be held responsible if it is established that his vehicle is not road worthy.

If these measures are strictly adhered to and we have qualified drivers driving road worthy vehicles, safety on our roads will be assured. The police can only come in to ensure safety on our roads after the DVLA has professionally carried out its mandate.

Furthermore it is a fact that weather and road condition can predispose a vehicle into an accident but a qualified driver will adopt defensive driving methods in every situation to maneuver safely even in the event of an emergency.

The resources are not available to construct first class roads all over Ghana. Even now, most fatal road accidents occur on the good portions of the road where unqualified drivers over speed and overtake wrongfully. This means that the accident situation will worsen if more roads are constructed for unqualified drivers.

The easiest and cheapest solution is to ensure that DVLA officials and the police conduct themselves professionally to guarantee that only qualified drivers and road worthy vehicles ply our roads.

Weather conditions like rain, fog and high wind are natural phenomenon and man cannot do anything about it and therefore drivers have to adjust their speed to suit the road and weather condition. A qualified driver driving a road worthy vehicle can react positively to any weather or road condition.

3. ESTABLISHMENT OF ROAD ACCIDENT PREVENTION AUTHORITY

This institution will be devoid of political influence and pressure and shall be the source where road safety will be demanded. This is a better option to the proposed establishment of a transport police. It is an established fact that most of the fatal road accidents are caused by the lack of enforcement of road traffic rules and regulations. This authority will be tasked with the responsibility of preventing all avoidable road accidents and will be held responsible when they happen. Currently when there is a fatal road accident, none of the road safety agencies and institutions like NRSC, DVLA, Urban Roads, Ghana Highway Authority, and the Police MTTU is prepared to take responsibility for their inactions. They give excuses and blame each other for not enforcing their portion of the law. This authority will be solely responsible for all avoidable accidents and therefore they will demand and ensure that all road traffic and safety rules and regulations are enforced by the various agencies and institutions.

The lack of public trust and professionalism in the police service will make it very difficult for the police to regain the lead role in the enforcement of road traffic rules and regulations

In Ghana most road accidents don’t just happen but they are caused and can even be predicted. For e.g. the insight carried a serious story on Monday 23rd March 2009 in which a ‘D’ class driver’s license was issued to a journalist after paying GHc 170. This journalist has not even ridden a bicycle before. The license officer who issued (sold) this ‘D’ class drivers license to this journalist who doesn’t know how to drive, knows definitely that this person is likely to be involved in an accident and kill innocent people.

This murderer, criminal, greedy and unprofessional license officer who issued this license is still at post. Also a drunk driver driving a truck which is overloaded with people from a funeral at top speed is likely to be involved in an accident and kill people.

This authority will investigate into issues like these to help reduce the loss of at least 1500 lives as well as the $165 million that is wasted annually through road accidents by half in three years.

The frequent amendment of the road traffic acts are unnecessary, waste of time and resources.

The solution to the carnage on our roads is very simple and so close, yet the government and stake holders are looking so far. We believe that if these measures are considered, enhanced and implemented, it will help to reduce the carnage on our roads drastically. There is a comprehensive and detailed action and implementation plan by the foundation to address the situation and we are ready to make it available for discussions with government and stakeholders. It is very well structured that its implementation will not make the government unpopular but rather the public will rather be guaranteed of their safety on the roads.

Time and tide waits for no man and every Ghanaian life is important. The time to act to save our people from these avoidable deaths is now.

Thank you Best Regards,

JOSEPH BOAKYE YIADOM

(EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR)

AKWAABA FOUNDATION GHANA P O BOX SE 2643 SUAME-KUMASI 051-21462, 0244434522, 0208121199. EMAIL: akwaabaf@yahoo.com