Why more deaths on the roads

BACK AT my holy village, one popular question we regularly posed at kiddie times was “I didn’t say?”  Obviously, this was a transliteration from the Akan one-word sentence “Manka?”  You used it when what you predicted, or forewarned of, but which people rejected or underrated, came to pass.  “Manka?!” you would ask with exclamation.  Often you would demand your stone: Fa me buor ma me!” Give me my stone is the direct translation.

Often, those that disputed your prediction or ridiculed your warning would, without you asking first, carry a piece of rock and place it safely under your feet. “Gye wobuor,” or “Wobuor nie!” settles the call for vindication.  Otherwise the rejected stone that had now become the cornerstone for the building reserved the right to press for acknowledgement and even apology from the builders who rejected the stone in the first place.  I didn’t say?

Three Es

What am I saying?  I am saying I told you so.  I told you that most of the prescriptions of the President for remedying the escalating auto accidents on our roads – though obviously well-intended – were going to be unnecessary, ineffectual and plain waste of resources.  Of his three pillars of Education, Engineering and (Law) Enforcement, you’d recall me saying only the last E – Enforcement – was necessary and likely to be efficacious.  Why do I feel vindicated?   No road markings have been added to the existing ones as a result of the President’s instruction.  If our drivers, motorists and pedestrians were uninformed on the dos and don’ts of roads and highways use, they still remain ignorant whether or not some educational campaigns have been launched or intensified.  Surely, enforcement of traffic regulations remains as lax as they’ve been from the foreseeable past.  And the result?  More auto crashes.  More deaths.  More broken limbs.

New cases

This nation’s heart sunk on May 14, when it was announced that another fatal accident had erupted at Akwatiakrom – somehow close to where Priscilla Kwarteng, a.k.a. Ebony Reigns – got crushed only last February.  In this week’s accident, we learnt – not a single digit – but as many as 12 had been killed and one injured at Akwatiakrom.  A few hours later, we were to be further rocked by another announcement that an extra accident had happened on the Sunyani – Techiman road, claiming two lives and maiming nine others.  Same May 14, three were killed at Yendi in the Northern Region, injuring eight.  Before then, an accident had been recorded at Kpandai in the Northern Region on the 6th; fortunately, it claimed no life; but, unfortunately, it injured four persons.  Next day, on the 7th, Cape Coast was the trouble spot: two deaths, two injured.  On the 11th, in the Northern capital of Tamale, an accident struck, devouring five lives and injuring as many as 23.  Roll call: six major accidents in a week; 24 deaths; 47 persons variously injured.  Reported cases, that is.

Yesterday morning, while I was surfing my mind for a less scary topic than auto crashes to write on, the car radio kept cataloging accidents that had happened that dawn or the previous days.  Among them, three persons were feared killed in a head-on collision between a Kia truck and a Kia bus at Abofuor, Offinso South, in the Asante Region…and so on and so forth.

Reckless crashes

Mark my words, Ghana Today is not so idealistic or naïve as to expect a society of about 30million people absolved from accidents.  What worries this column is precisely what worries you, cherished reader: the senseless and avoidable carnages on our roads.  Just a month ago, Ghana Today diagnosed the accidents on our roads and highways vis-à-vis the three-pronged approach the President had announced.  In all humility, this column forecasted two of the methods were unnecessary ab-initio.  Here are some recaps:

“1) Resourcing the National Road Safety Commission to scale up public education and sensitisation on road safety may be unnecessary, quite 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 license 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…” I further gave the following for my conviction:

Law enforcement

“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.”

Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, I stress. Look, the latest crash at Offinso South – according to eyewitnesses – was because a driver was recklessly changing a CD playing music for him. This weekend, take a position at a safe place beside any of our highways for about an hour: you’ll be bemused by the overloaded rickety and speeding vehicles that have been flagged on at the dozens of barriers by the police to proceed into accidents. Bet you, drivers of these lions on the road have given Motor Traffic and Transport Department personnel just GHC5.00 or some coins to be allowed to “carry on.” If it is education, road marking, or engineering – and not law enforcement – we need to inject sanity into our chaotic transport system, judge for yourself.

Unnecessary burden

The solution implementation gets even murkier and more pathetic, if Government is unable to raise the money for the supposed education and engineering as soon as demanded by the exigency of the situation. That, kind of, looks like creating your own problem and struggling hard to emerge a hero of your own solution. Plain talk: Government didn’t need to create that additional bill of some GHC345.5million for itself. And, my checks suggest that the monies have not yet trickled down to the targeted recipients. Is that not a de-facto license for inertia?

In the ‘treatise’ I have so generously quoted from, I also noted thus: “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.” Today, I have bad news for us, cherished reader: the situation remains the same. In a matter of one week – between the 7th of May and 14th of May – 24 people have died, 47 others variously injured from six reported auto crashes. Thursday morning, I listened to a driver, who had the previous day witnessed a gory accident, wailing to the government to bail Ghanaians from these incessant fatalities. This column’s response is two-pronged, as it was in the previous article:

Self-protection

“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 speeding too much, 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.”

Government’s lifeline

“1) Task your Police Inspector General to stop all forms of police misconducts on the roads. Give timelines and fire for failure, 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 blank 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. 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.”

Today, many of the accidents are because the drivers are on tramadol and other restricted drugs; something a serious recruit policewoman can detect and initiate prosecution on. Aww, Ghana! Well; for yet another emphasis, I repeat: “Our best way out of most of the accidents is to instill discipline on our roads. If that is not the policeman’s job, I am ignorant!”

 

Ghana Today with A.C. OHENE

Writer’s Email: obk.press@yahoo.com

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