So, the President’s frontal attack on the soaring auto accidents is three-pronged: Education, Engineering and Enforcement: right?
1) Resourcing the National Road Safety Commission to scale up public education and sensitisation on road safety may be unnecessary, quiet frankly. If you release what allocation the NRSC is entitled to from the 2018 Budget to do sensitisation and other chores, you don’t have to pour another GHC6.5million into the coffers of the commission. Fact is all drivers, motorists, commuters and pedestrians are conversant with the rules; non-enforcement gives licence to the unruly and puts the vulnerable at unnecessary risk 2) Engineering solution as in resourcing the Ghana Highway Authority, Department of Urban Roads and Department of Feeder Roads with GHC335million to provide signages and road markings over a three-year period can only be justified, if it is a novelty. If those departments have been doing those duties with resources allocated them within national budgetary constraints, which I know to be the case; then number two, is just an extension of the knee-jerk reaction to the horrifying crashes. Some info I gathered on Tuesday is that 73,000km is the total length of roads Ghana has as tarred. On that we have spent like US$42billion in the last 22 years. Over the same period, France has invested just about 14billion Euros on her roads but the French are much the better off. Aren’t they?
The crux of the matter is number three: Enforcement. The three things Nana President should have employed, as arsenal are enforcement, enforcement and enforcement. I say, the enforcement of Road Traffic Laws by the Police through spot-fines by automation of operations of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department – as directed by the President – is spot-on! And that is all that we need.
The news release conveying the President’s directive adds that the relevant state agencies should partner with private towing companies and the nationwide Traffic Management and Enforcement Limited to vigorously enforce road regulations. Well, additional fish in that regard may not spoil the soup; but, hold the police directly responsible for enforcing all traffic rules. And, I dare add that, were you to restore sanity on the roads, the skyrocketing accident figures would come plummeting only tomorrow morning.
The Finder found out and published on Tuesday that as many as 592 (almost 600) human beings were killed in just the first three months of this year. As many as 3,343 other auto crash victims sustained various degrees of injuries. That is like all the people in your hometown bedridden or hospitalised because they lost limbs from auto crashes, probably. The dead are made of 439 males and 153 females. The figure is also an 11.7% increase over the 530 commuters killed by accidents January through March last year. Similarly, the 3,343 people injured equated an 11.32% increase over the 3,003 injured in the first quarter of the base (last) year. You clearly see that all the figures are rising; the only thing falling is security on the roads.
The Finder quotes the Motor Traffic and Transport Department of the Police Service as reckoning the number of automobiles involved in accidents jumping from 4,498, first quarter last year, to 5,348 in the past three months. In percentage terms, 18.87; almost 20%! But there is worse news: I98 – almost 200 poor pedestrians – killed, from as many as 792 knocked down by vehicles. Failure to stamp out okada: 13.31% rise in motorcycle accidents. If you have an idea how many MTTD people have okada and rickety buses on the roads, you’ll be even more convinced they are both the problem and solution. The policeman wants the big man to pass quickly so he has peace of mind to extort money from the wretched commercial driver: private vehicle accidents jumped to 2,214; up from 1,846 only a year ago. Commercial vehicle accidents wouldn’t be outdone, of course: from a bad figure of 1,823 last year, the buses, tro-tros and cargo trucks hit 2,175.
On Sunday, 15 April, there were two accidents at separate places in the Northern Region, one involving two buses that claimed more than 20 lives. Indeed, before after then, the figures had been disquietingly high. It isn’t that we are so naïve as to dream of an accident-free republic or era; we’re damned worried that our country retains the unenviable record of placing persistently high among the top 10 auto accident countries in the world. When a single accident claims 60, 40 or 20 lives; that is a whole village population size wiped out. When as many as 2,000 people die in a single year, that is a whole town cleared from the surface of the earth – something akin to mass destruction.
It hurts like hell to lose a loved one. Last November, I lost a bosom friend: Benson Korshie Amegavlui, 70-year-old retired Senior Technical Officer (photography) of the Information Services Department. He was killed in an accident somewhere in the Volta Region on his way from Anloga to a funeral near Kpando. Since his death I’ve not stopped having jitters; Benson was a good man.
Early this year I saw a woman hold her breast and cry, ‘course her son had been knocked down in the street and killed. All I remember her manage to murmur was “Abu was a good boy.” That was one boy. Multiply that by 592. Think of how many mothers, fathers, siblings’ hearts are bruised. These days there’s nothing like ‘atↄfo-wuo’ as evidenced by the generous funerals for Ebony and other accident death memorials that went before hers. If it takes GHC40,000 to hold an average funeral, multiply 600 by GHC40,000 and that is how much we blew on reported auto accident deaths January through March alone. As for souls lost; they simply cannot be quantified in money. But, are we going to carry on this way till the Armageddon, or, till we make this country too uninhabitable and desolate?
We need to beat a decent retreat. And, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We as ordinary citizens should endeavour to deliver ourselves from harm’s way. Passenger, if the bloke is over-speeding, talk some sense into his coconut to sober down; if you fail to rein him in, plead with him to stop for you to alight, whether the sun will singe you, the rain will soak you or even you’ll be late for that once-a-lifetime job interview. Where there’s life, there’s always hope.
One is hesitant in believing that government can stop auto crashes in a country where the ban on commercial use of motorcycles never get enforced and MTTD staff bargain with drivers on how much bribe their offences are worth. You can almost prophesy with the exactitude of a Jewish prophet that this and subsequent regimes will fail to stem the carnage on our roads. But Ghana Today is open to pleasant surprises. To show good faith, let me proffer a few suggestions on how best the government should play its one and only role of getting the police to enforce the rules. 1) Task your Police Inspector General to stop all forms of police misconducts on the roads. Give timelines and fire for failure to hire new ones for success. 2) The spot-fine that was proposed while Hackman Owusu-Agyeman was still Interior Minister in about 2007 must be enforced without further delay. 3) Avoid signing another bank cheque for the police, after we wrongly presumed putting them on Single Spine to take better salaries would stop them from corruption and other misconducts. If it is just an innovation called spot-fines not accompanied with plugging of corruption holes, things will get worse. Spot fines? The police already take spot-fines; trouble though is that they never turn in the revenue. Equip them properly for the official spot-fines, but, also ensure that all MTTD police on duty compulsorily wear cameras that capture their crime – if they take bribes.
4) Government should get it straight: it isn’t bad roads that kill people necessarily; blatant, brazing violation of the traffic laws does. Don’t also deceive yourself, or anybody for that matter, that you’ll ever get all the roads well-paved and they won’t deteriorate fast in this tropical environment. Yes, when the roads get better paved, accidents tend to reduce to about 20%. What the figures don’t tell you is that accidents on good roads claim more lives and cripple more people and, so, are costlier. Reason? With our laws taking a sabbatical, automobile drivers here press the gas to ‘nonsense degree’ and the impact, during accidents, is far heftier than cars struggling through potholes and on bumpy surfaces till they veer off into a ditch. 5) Government should remember that, if it prescribes the medication actually meant for tumour on the nose (hwenpor) as antidote for knock-knee (ananta) disease rather, the solution to our accidents will remain elusive.
The youth are yet to recover from the shock of 20-yrear-old Priscilla Opoku Kwarteng’s demise on February 08, 2018 on the Sunyani-Kumasi road. I remember travelling early October 30, 2003 morning from Koforidua to see a mahogany avenue tree at the University of Ghana Junction into which Terry Bonchaka had rammed his car. The 21-year-old Nii Okang Mensah Adjetey (his actual name) had just finished a performance to the tumultuous applause of his teeming Akuafo Hall audience that dawn. The rest is history. You probably remember actress Suzie Williams and how her life was truncated at age 23, at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel in another accident, September 08, 2005.
Also, during the Kufuor era, three topmost doctors of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital: Professor J.M.K. Quartey, Dr. Isaac Bentsil and Dr. Benjamin Osei Wiafe, all of the Urology Department of the school and each above 70 years, were crushed to death on the Apedwa-Bunso section of the Accra to Kumasi road. That August 2005 annihilation of three of Ghana’s most distinguished experts was by the kind courtesy of an irresponsible taxi driver. The head of state and the whole nation rose up in wailing; but, mellowed like in a typical goat fight. Between Suhum and Amanase about three years ago, three senior military officers crashed into an abandoned concrete pillar in the middle of the road.
In 2003, when our mutual friend and ex-government Minister Patience Abena Adow died; Benson Amegavlui and I kept vigils, brooding over the loss of a good friend and blaming a reckless tanker driver that had thrown her car into a ditch. After auto accident came next for Benson, I have felt even more vulnerable. Indeed, all of us are at risk. Our best way out of most of the accidents; our best bet on road safety is to instill discipline on our roads. If that is not the policeman’s job, I am ignorant!
…with A. C. Ohene (email@example.com)