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Opinions of Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Columnist: D. C. Kwame Kwakye

The road carnage in Ghana: Who is concerned?

Just yesterday, it was reported that an accident has occurred in the northern part of Ghana and 16 persons have been reported dead. In today's Ghanaian Times, Monday, 16th day of April, 2018, it gave the details that the said accident occurred on Sunday at about 1:42am and also confirmed the person who lost their lives and several other are receiving treatment.

The story went on to explain the accident happened on the Yapei-Yapala stretch of the Tamale-Kumasi highway. The police PRO who confirmed the story, said a Neoplan bus with registration number GW 2659 T which was carrying 70 passengers tried overtaking a cargo truck, resulting in the accident. In this case, we could say indiscipline resulted in this unfortunate accident because, indeed, the driver of the Neoplan bus would know that, as a driver, he should not overtake another vehicle at a curve. Unfortunately, as a result of indiscipline, he went on to violate a rule he very well, should know. I am pleading with all drivers in this nation, to endeavour to obey the road safety regulations formulated for their own safety and for the safety of the Ghanaian citizenry.

Another tangential issue I would want to raise concerns the likely age of the bus. We can guess from the registration number of the bus that, it is old; likely above 15 years. I am wondering why we should allow such aged vehicles to ply such long journeys. I would illustrate by giving the example of a lot of aged Metro Mass Vehicles plying long journeys, which we see regularly spoilt on the road between their journeys. I would want to commend the management of the Metro Mass Transit in the steps they are undertaking to strengthen their relatively aged fleets with new buses. But I think they could do more to prevent their vehicles breaking down between journeys posing a danger to their passengers and other road users.

Further, according to Citifm online's story published on May 9th, 2017, statistics released by the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) indicates that 708 persons died from 4,049 road accidents as of April this year. Out of the figure, 3,983 persons sustained various degrees of injury with 1,199 pedestrian knockdowns involving 6,468 vehicles and 1,289 motorbikes.

In 2018, further statistics released by the NRSC and published by Citifm online revealed that a total of 2,095 road crashes were recorded in January and February of 2008 alone, representing a significant rise from the same period in 2017. Within the same period, 336 people lost their lives in road accidents.

From the above, we can realise that there has not been a significant or drastic reduction in road carnage in the country. Taking the 2018 figures into consideration, let us assume that half of those who lost their lives were adults. That gives us 168 out of 336. Assuming again that, the families of the dead spend a minimum GH¢10,000.00 on funerals on each of the dead, that adds up to about GH¢168,000.00.

If families spend such quantum of cash on funerals for such avoidable deaths of their relatives as a result of road accidents, then we all need to pay attention and address this avoidable road carnage. Why should most families be reeling under debt from such avoidable expenditure? Could we say this situation has contributed to making some children in this nation orphans because they are made to lose their parents through these preventable accidents?

Now, in 2017 within the first quarter, 6,468 vehicles were involved in road crashes. Assuming all the vehicles involved in the accidents spent an average of ¢6,000.00 each; this amounts to GH¢38,808,000. All these are monies could have been put to better use if the preventable accidents did not occur. If we allow such amounts to be spent on vehicles, as a result of needless accidents, then couldn’t this pose as a challenge to the Cedi through the importation of spare parts to repair these damage vehicles through avoidable accidents?

On the 15th of February, 2016, Peacefm online reported a story where Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom commenting on the outbreak of pneumococcal meningitis said among other things "Every week, our media houses feature report after report of road accidents and resultant deaths. Sometimes over 20 people die from one road accident and nothing is heard from transportation and other government officials.

No alarm. Is the Ghanaian life that cheap to be taken for granted in this way? What concerted efforts are being made to prevent such avoidable loss of Ghanaian lives? What do we do to drivers who cause these accidents"? It looks as if no one cares about the lives lost through road carnage and I cannot agree more with Dr. Nduom.

Somewhere in October 2017 at a meeting with the National Road Safety Commission, President J. J. Rawlings said, “It was time drivers who caused deaths on our roads were prosecuted on manslaughter charges and sentenced appropriately." I'm tempted to agree with him. It looks as if no one cares and we allow drivers to waste lives and when they escape death nothing happens to them. It's time to act as has been admonished by Flt. Lt. J. J. Rawlings.

That notwithstanding, I sincerely think that some cars are too old and should not be allowed to ply long distances as in the case of the Yapei-Yapala road accident. The car that caused the accident was more than 15 years old and shouldn't be plying such long distances. There should be a law if we don't have one that limits commercial cars to the distance they can travel depending on the age of the vehicle.

Another important area that also needs our attention is the calibre of people we allow to drive commercials vehicles especially long distance drivers. We need to ensure that there is a rigorous process to screen out people who are not qualified to drive commercial vehicles on long distance; and that those who qualify are indeed so well-trained and disciplined to ensure defensive and safe driving on the road.

The NRSC was established to help reduce road accidents on our roads but as it stands, either they are overwhelmed by the enormity of the task or we are just not enforcing our laws enough. The MTTD are always on our roads but the statistics is just too amazing to comprehend. This means something has gone amiss.

In conclusion, I think some drastic measures need to be taken to to curb the road carnage. Terry Bonchaka, Suzzy Williams and recently Ebony Reigns lost their lives through road accidents. Former President J. J. Rawlings, J. A. Kuffuor, and J. E. A. Mills (of blessed memory) were involved in road accidents.

The Shai Osudoku NDC parliamentary candidate lost his lives before the 2016 general elections through road accident. Kwabena Agyei AGYAPONG, then NPP General Secretary aspirant was also involved in road accident before the NPP's annual delegates conference. The time to wake up from our slumber and act is now. Let's all help to stop the road carnage before the carnage stops us. Life is too precious.