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Opinions of Monday, 22 February 2016

Columnist: Abdulai, Alhaji Alhasan

Public safety office needed to ensure less accidents in Ghana

Just as happen when serious disasters occur in the country, almost all well meaning citizens were amazed over the fatal lorry accident on the Kintampo road which claimed the lives of over 70 people with many others getting seriously injured. Many are those who said the nation has not experienced a calamity of this magnitude before on our roads. Apart from exposing our poor maintenance culture, the accident also blew the lid on lack of preparedness on the nation for an accident as huge as we experienced. We need to question all the institutions such as hospitals, the ambulance service and the police on their ability to handle emergencies. If we had no adequate facilities in all parts of the country, we need to do all we can to acquire them now that the nation’s economy and social settings are growing.

Almost all the presidential candidates for this year’s elections , religious leaders and traditional rulers are expressing sorrow and their condolences to the bereaved families of the dead men, women and children some of whose bodies are said to be mutilated. Although the government has promised to foot the bills on medical care for the injured and burial of the departed souls most people feel the accident could have been avoided if steps were taken to follow the rules governing the use of the vehicles involved in the accidents. The government public transport involved in the accident was said to be faulty and overloaded at the time of the accident but the driver refused to curtail the journey to get the vehicle attended to. But this is wrong on the part of the driver who unfortunately died in the accident. The President John Mahama joined the scores of Ghanaians to lament the poor maintenance of commercial vehicles as well as the reckless driving on roads in Ghana, saying they are the main causes of the many road accidents in the country.

He expressed the desire for stakeholders in the transport sector to do a lot more work to make the roads safer for users. Although the president is right we need to probe further on whether the vehicle owners and the intuitions in charge of checking the roadworthiness of vehicles are doing their duties to the letter. Although vehicle owners especially the state owned are required to make sure their vehicles are driven by qualified drivers who are required to stop to seek help when their vehicles develop serious faults while in motion most drivers do not do that. Again when some of the drivers are tired and are required to stop midday to take a rest they do not do that. Again most vehicles including the government owned that are running around our nation especially in the rural areas are not in the best of shape. Even when traffic wardens from the Ghana Police Service are aware of the faulty vehicles they hardly call those driving them to book largely because of the little monies they get from the drivers. We are told that apart from the accident at kintampo road some other road accidents were recorded within the same period in Accra and other parts of the country. There is no doubt that National Road Safety Commission is busy the whole year round educating vehicle users on how to drive safely together with the police service who are seen checking vehicle users at vantage points. However due to the bitter experiences we have gained on our roads the authorities must take steps to improve on methods of checking vehicles on our roads. The Ministry of Transport in conjunction with the National Road Safety Commission and the Ghana police service must intensify their education for road users in the cities and rural areas where road offences such as overloading and reckless speeding and overtaking are rampant. We need to urge police officers to arrest offending drivers. Apart from vehicles the safety of our ferries that carry people, vehicles and goods from one point to the other seem no longer safe due to lack of periodic maintenance on them. Quite recently one of our ferries run by the Volta Lake Transport carrying more that 500 people from Makango to Yeji nearly sank in the Volta Lake with all the people on board. The ferry was said to be in use without adequate regular servicing. The time has come for us to turn our attention to good maintenance culture to ensure that our vehicles and ferries are in good shape. Apart from fatal accidents, and the fear of our ferries running aground, we have also been suffering from fire out breaks which have often claimed the lives of people and caused damage to properties in homes offices and markets. In view of the need to ensure the safety of the people, we ought to move a step further by dealing with ways of encountering all possible life threatening incidents in the country. To achieve this We must set up a Public Safety Office within the presidency. Together with the ministry of transport the police service, NADMO other relevant agencies the new office could study ways of reducing accidents to the barest minimum. The Public Safety Office must move fast enough to remove all rickety vehicles on our roads in both the cities and the rural areas. All government commercial vehicles must all be made to adhere to the rules governing passenger vehicles by getting them insured against accidents. Vehicles plying our roads especially in the rural areas must be made to run at acceptable speet limits and stop from overloading, overspending and reckless overtaking. All ferries must also be insured if that has not been done against accidents. The office must take a hard look at our government offices and our markets to ensure that they are provided with fire safety facilities. The recent murders committed by cutlass wielding youngmen on farms in parts of the country are all issues that can be studied in the new office to ensure that the causes of those crimes are dealt with. Because such an office is required to be proactive it must be given enough support to be able to work around the clock to ensure the safety of all the people in cities and rural areas of the country.

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