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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Columnist: Alex Blege

Road accidents and the need to be safety conscious

Reports on road accident from January to May 2018, state that, one thousand and eight (1008) lives have been lost through road accident and this is more than ten percent over last year.

Are majority of Ghanaians aware that in the last five months this number of lives have been lost on the road? Does the ordinary driver and “bookman” in the branches of the Ghana Private Transport Union (GPRTU) and other transport unions across the country know this? Is the police officer who receives money from a driver so as to turn a blind eye to overloading of luggage and passengers aware of this? There’re more questions than answers.

One can’t dismiss with the wave of a hand the importance of such information. Knowledge of such an information has the tendency of changing attitudes of all and sundry. Again, one will think that statistics on road accidents have been generated over the years and yet the same problems keep existing – the reason, we keep doing the same things the same way and are expecting different results.

It then brings to the fore how the media, GPRTU, other transport unions and owners, the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) and the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service have relayed these statistics to the public, commercial drivers and other road users. It seems the issues on road safety are reported and interviews conducted with newsmakers to complete it. What then makes news about road accidents? Is it when some number of people are involved in an accident or when a statistic on road accidents are released?

With the proliferation of radio stations nationwide, it is expected that such information will go down to the grassroot and this will lead to a safety conscious attitude on the part of all road users. The situation is given a short attention span and then the agenda moves on to something else unless there’s some issue on road safety especially during festive occasions or when there is some accident, like the recent Accra – Suhum Highway.

The NRSC and the MTTD are supposed to ensure that road accidents are brought to the barest minimum. The situation on the ground depicts that either the education on road safety is nothing to write home about or the public are just refusing to abide by road safety measures.

Obviously it is a combination of the two. The recent carnage and its consequent statistics should be a wake-up call for the NRSC, GPRTU, sister transport unions, private transport owners such as VIP and OA, and the MTTD of the Ghana Police Service.

Some measures that can be undertaken are: the GPRTU and other sister transport unions should collaborate with the NRSC and the MTTD to train Road Safety officers for all its branches across the length and breadth of the country. This may be seen as seeking a perfect situation; but, as Nelson Mandela once said, it seems impossible until it is done. Imagine that some people who are known as bookmen encourage overloading and sometimes ask passengers to sit on the roof of passenger vehicles – an act that happens in Yendi and some rural parts of the country.

These safety officers should ensure that before a vehicle leaves for its destination, all the safety tips are considered. These safety officers should also be trained to take passengers’ complaints of recklessness of drivers.

The NSRC and the MTTD should begin to ensure that private transport owners such as VIP and OA whose vehicles ply long journey should employ two drivers instead of a driver who has to drive for twelve to eighteen hours. These drivers run a return journey as they resort to drinking bottles of energy drink so as to keep awake on the journey. No wonder most of the accidents that these vehicles are involved in is a consequence of driver fatigue.

The MTTD and NRSC should take the road safety campaigns to the lorry stations and offices of the transport unions with the target of seeing a drastic reduction in road accidents. This campaign should be done together with GPRTU and other sister transport unions as well as private transport owners.

The MTTD of the Ghana Police Service should discourage police officers from receiving bribes from drivers so as to turn a blind eye to overloaded vehicles of luggage and passengers. In addition, passengers should speak up for their safety.

1008 dead people are irredeemable; however, the road carnage can be reduced to the barest minimum when the media, NSRC, MTTD, GPRTU, other sister transport as well as private transport owners pursue an aggressive road safety agenda throughout the country. We can do this!