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Opinions of Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Columnist: Shaban, Abdul Rahman Alfa

The Drunk Commercial Driver – Life and property in Danger

Introduction

Majority of us use the roads when we have to move from one place to the other. Whiles some use the road as passengers, others do so as vehicle owners. Any way; there is a certain interplay between both sets of road users.

According to road crash statistics from the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), majority of Ghanaians patronize public transport to get around in search of their daily bread.

At any point that a passenger enters any public transport be it a taxi (cab) or commercial bus; they (as passengers) have effectively entrusted their collective safety and their properties for that matter into the hands of the man behind the wheel.

The collective trust being that the driver would apply his knowledge and skill with tact and prudence to steer them safely on the road till they arrive at their destination for which reason they agree to pay the driver an agreed amount called 'fare.'

More often than not, we have boarded vehicles without asking whether a driver is a holder of a valid license and/or a check if his roadworthy and insurance documents are valid. We trust the transport unions so to do. But the question is do they check all these?

Drunk Drivers Exposed: Anas Aremeyaw Anas's DOOM

In his documentary film titled DOOM, the silent killer next door; viewers would undoubtedly have been surprised to see a driver take some shots of alcohol before taking the wheel.

Replay that same scenario if the passenger had seen the driver taking the alcohol and whether he or she would have comfortably joined the particular bus.

Of the many amenities at the 37 lorry station (first point of investigation), there are stalls selling any and everything, there are communication centers, the hawkers of course cannot be left out as they mill through the labyrinth of cars trying to clinch a sale.

Of course there is a newsstand at the exit point; then there is also a public place of convenience, which I must admit is an eye sore; given the very deplorable state in which it has been for the past few years.

Operators of the place continue to take their charge from users usually those who want either to pass water or attend nature's call (i.e. defecate), they simply enjoy taking their money rather than taking care of the place (sad indeed!).

The fitting shop is situated to the far eastern part of the station; right in front of the big gutter that runs behind the station. The small mosque is also situated very ironically close to the place of convenience admittedly has a convenient ambience.

As for the offices of the various transport unions, there are so many of them usually wooden structures, where the drivers sit to discuss issues be it on the road, politics, football and about social life.

These are the sights.

Of the sounds however, screeching tyres of that vehicle rushing to only God knows where, tooting horns; sometimes indiscriminately by 'horn happy' drivers, drivers and their conductors trading invectives on the top of their voices be it at each other or a heated argument with a passenger over most possibly 'small change.'

The bigger noise comes from an obscure part of the station, I walk there to know what goes on there; the entrance has strings hanging and the stench of liquor that greeted me upon entry quickly told me what is done here. It is a drinking spot called 'Sane' Spot. The word 'sane' has the equivalent of 'problem' in the Ga dialect.

A drinking spot in a major transport terminal; but could there ever be a driver who takes alcohol? Is there ever a qualification as to who hard drinks in the station should be sold to?

My point of intrigue and reason for writing this article is premised on a research finding by no mean an agency as the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC)

Recently as 2012, an NRSC research on the magnitude of driving under the influence of alcohol and its impact on Road Safety in Ghana, found that of the 2,736 drivers randomly stopped and tested for Drink Driving with Breathalyzers, they gave reasons why they drank alcohol yet drove.

Among drivers who tested positive for alcohol, 48% drank it for pleasure, 20% for mourning, 16 % for medical reasons and 1% to enhance their driving performance.

The need to curtail this frightening state of affairs is a non - negotiable matter of national concern, because for the better part of the time; we all have to patronize the roads to move from one point to the other. Potentially, we are all at risk.

Road accidents occur for several reasons, be it a mistake on the part of the driver or on the part of other road users.

Even though we cannot rule out the natural causes of some accidents, majority of the accidents that occur on our roads are as a result of negligence on the part of drivers and road users alike; and that leaves much to be desired.

At this stage, how safe you all are depends on how well the driver can comport himself on the street, whether when it comes to dealing with other road users and pedestrians not forgetting the law enforcement officers.

Sale of Alcohol in Lorry Stations

At 37 and Kaneshie lorry stations, where Anas's documentary caught drivers drinking minutes before taking the wheel, the question has often come up that should or can the sale of alcohol be banned from lorry stations.

Proponents of that school of thought opine that it would lower the instance of drivers taking alcohol before driving. Those against it however say that the lorry park is a public place and as such alcohol sold there is not for consumption of the drivers.

They further challenge that alcohol is served in aircrafts but hardly ever can a pilot be drunk and take the seat in the cockpit. Furthermore the issue of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit for drivers come to play.

Question is; how much can a driver drink and who determines that a driver is capable of transporting people or otherwise? According to the United Nations Report on Road Safety; "drinking and driving increases the risk of crash and the likely hood that death or injury may result." As the debate goes on earnestly to find a middle ground on the matter, the overriding consideration is that we can all guarantee the collective safety of each other as we ply the roads. God bless our homeland Ghana.

Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban newcguide@gmail.com @alfaallahguide