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Opinions of Monday, 30 July 2018

Columnist: Alex Blege

Pedestrian safety: in light of pedestrian crossing and traffic lights

Everybody is a pedestrian: no matter who, where and when. Consequently, issues that concern safety of pedestrians should be a matter that concerns everybody.

It is worthy to note that pedestrians are legitimate road users, and as such it is appropriate and prudent to provide safe and convenient pedestrian crossings and traffic lights to facilitate their mobility on the road.

Crossing the road safely is the right of every pedestrian so it is crucial to observe the rules that guide facilitating the rights of the pedestrian. Since the issue of pedestrians’ safety on the roads border on human life, the sixth target of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 aims at halving the number of global deaths and injuries from traffic accidents. Meanwhile, in Ghana, media reports on the facilities that enhance the safety of pedestrians across most metropolitan and municipal assemblies leaves much to be desired.

In a Joy News Agenda on damaged traffic control signals, out of a number traffic control signals that have been installed in the Ashaiman Municipality only one is functioning and thereby endangering the lives of pedestrians especially children. While at the Palm-wine junction in the La Dadekotopon Municipality the traffic control signal at the intersection is dysfunctional; consequently lives are lost every now and then at the intersection.

It looks as if we live in a country where human life means next to thing to individuals who work in the district, municipal, metropolitan and regional offices of the Urban Roads Department. And while this anomaly persists lives are lost by the day. The issue looks as if there’s nothing wrong if lives are lost as a consequence of negligence as well as dereliction.

In our country we have a negative trait that has permeated the very fabric of our sense of responsibility. While in some developed countries, officials who have oversight responsibilities over safety of the citizenry will resign for not performing a perfunctory function, officials on this side of the globe will give lame excuses such as the contractor says he has not received the full payment so the work is not done.

What a shame? Should we allow pedestrians especially school pupils to die before we’re jolted into action? In urban areas of this country where children cross the busy roads in the mornings and afternoons on their way to and upon return from school, the lives of these school children are in one danger or the other in the course of crossing these roads. A careful observation of the attitude of those driving or riding towards pedestrian crossings in the Wa Municipality is nothing to write home about. Unfortunately, motorists usually spotted speaking on the mobile phone while they are drawing closer to a pedestrian crossing at top speed.

In apprehension these school children and other pedestrians are seen running across the pedestrian crossings. Sometimes one cannot blame the sense of apprehension of these pupils and other pedestrians who run instead of walking briskly across the road; since those motorist are on top speed. On some occasions one has to shout to these motorists in an attempt to remind them that it is important to slow down upon reaching a zebra crossing.

It’s true that most schools in the Wa Municipality have school buses which convey their pupils from their homes to the schools and back; while this is good for business, it is important that these private schools take the initiatives of providing wooden boxes together with green and red flags for pupils to use in drawing attention to motorists when they want to cross the roads. These boxes with the flags can be positioned at intersections across the municipality.

This will show that the schools are not only interested in the academic and business benefits of the children who attend their schools, instead they have interest in their safety on the roads too. In addition, the Motor Traffic and Transport Department of the Ghana Police, National Road Safety Commission and the Ghana Private Road Transport Union should embark on a campaign on educating the public and school children on the importance of pedestrian crossings.

Road safety experts argue that, “Pedestrians have a right to cross roads safely and, therefore, planners and engineers have a professional responsibility to plan, design, and install safe crossing facilities”. Thus, allowing accidents to happen because a traffic control signal is dysfunctional or the dereliction of the duty to educate the public on the importance of a pedestrian crossing is an infringement of the rights of everybody who crosses the road.

We can avoid the needless deaths!

The writer is a freelance journalist.