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Would the New Year bode well for us? – Radio Central’s Kwame Kwakye Writes on Ghana’s Road Carnage

Most of us were ushered into the New Year with hope, aspirations, and thanksgiving to our Creator for how far He has brought us. 2020, though most prophets have said it is a year of fulfillment did not begin well for some families at all. On Tuesday, January 14, 2020, two buses collided head-on killing at least 34 persons and injuring about 54 others at Dompoase on the Takoradi-Cape Coast highway.  It was reported by the Police that, 29 people died on the spot while 5 others died at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital(CCTH) latter. The accident involved Yutong and Hyundai buses which collided head-on at Dompoase near Komenda Junction.

According to the police, the Yutong bus traveling from Accra to Takoradi tried to overtake the vehicle in front of it and ended up running into the oncoming white Takoradi to Accra bound Hyundai bus.

Consequent to this sad situation on the 20th of January 2020 according to graphic, a team of government delegation including Kwasi Amoako-Atta, the Roads and Highway Minister, Kwaku Ofori-Asiamah, the Transport Minister and Kwamena Duncan, the Central Regional Minister, visited the injured who were still on admission at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital.

Mr Amoako-Atta requested the hospital authorities to furnish the Ministry with all other bills that the hospital would incur through the Central Regional Minister since the government has decided to settle all medical bills of the accident victims.

Following from this, Dr Eric Ngyedu, the Chief Executive Officer of the CCTH, has directed that all monies earlier paid by some of the victims be refunded once they provide their receipts while a comprehensive report on patients including all those who would need surgery and other assistance be compiled for onward submission to Accra.

These pleasantries from our leaders are good and helps to sooth the pain of victims and alleviates the healthcare cost of the injured and lessen the burden of family members were involved. But, are these what we need? What can be done differently to curb such unwarranted and needless deaths on roads?

I have asked the questions above because the number of road users killed in the first quarter of 2019 recorded a 17.57% increase over figures for the first quarter of 2018. Commuters and pedestrians killed increased from 592 in the first quarter of 2018 to 696 in the same period of 2019. 506 of the number killed were males, made up 62 below 18 years and 444 above 18 years. Similarly, 190 of the number killed were females, 55 of them below 18 years and 135 above 18 years.

The regional statistics of deaths are: Northern – 59, Upper West – 19, Upper East – 28, Accra – 69, Tema – 38, Eastern – 108, Central – 45, Western – 38, Ashanti – 113, Volta – 34 and Bono Ahafo – 145 (mobile.ghanaweb.com). Are we going to see a similar trend this year or something different would happen?

Road crash fatalities is becoming a common feature on our roads and that is very worrying. I have attempted to recount a few of such incidents in recent past. An accident occurred in the northern part of Ghana and 16 persons have been reported dead. In the Ghanaian Times of 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 happen on the Yapei-Yapala stretch of the Tamale-Kumasi highway. The police PRO who conformed the story to the newspaper said a Neoplan bus with registration number GW 2659 T which was carrying 70 passenger tried overtaking a cargo truck, hence the accident.

From the narrative, and looking at the bus number which was carrying 70 lives, in my estimation was too old. It is about more than 15 years old and how come we allow such old vehicles to ply such long journeys?

The state spend huge sums of money to construct very good asphaltic roads but due to road fatalities, the state spends additional monies constructing road rumps on almost all our highways leading to major cities across the length and breath of our dear motherland. As to whether those road rumps serve the purpose is another matter for another time. But, what is disturbing to me is that, in this modern day and age, apart from road rumps which destroys otherwise beautiful road and impedes smooth travel, causes vehicles to break down easily and also causes accidents by itself. Can’t there be other alternatives to help curb road fatalities?

The Roads and Highways Minister, Kwasi Amoako-Atta has disclosed following the Dompoase accident that, government intends to dualise the road from Accra to Takoradi. This is my view is one measure good measure government can take to reduce fatalities. But it is an expensive venture. Are there no other cost effective ways to reduce road crashes in Ghana in areas where we cannot dualise now?

Another contributor to the high figures of road accident deaths is the increase in the usage of motorbikes and tricycles for commercial transport in Ghana. According to a story published on April 8th, 2019 on www.newsghana.com.gh and titled “Motorcycles and Tricycles have become Killers”, the Director of Programmes and Planning at the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), Mr. David Adonteng, has said out of 411 road accident deaths recorded between January and February in 2019, 108 deaths were through motorcycles and tricycles accidents. He further explained that the statistics indicated in 2010 only 210  motorcycle and tricycle deaths were recorded within the whole year, however, the figure rose to 437 deaths in 2016. This is my view shows the direct correlation between the usage of tricycles and motorcycles for commercial transportation and the increase in the fatalities on our roads. Similarly, Diana Ngon in her article titled “Diana Ngon writes Tricycles for commercial transport illegal; but has it come to stay?” quoted the northern regional directorate of the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), and said, the introduction of the tricycle has seen a disturbing increase in road accidents and deaths through head injury. “The NRSC says more than 60 percent of all road accident deaths recorded in the country have been young men aged below 25 years” (citinewsroom.com). This does not bode well for developing nations like ours. We are losing the lives of our youthful population to needless deaths.

Meanwhile, tricycles and motorcycles for commercial transport is a breach of section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulations, 2012, (LI 2180). Section 128 of the Road Traffic Regulations states that “the Licensing Authority shall not register a motorcycle or tricycle to carry a fare-paying passenger”. But what do we see in Ghana today, in almost all our major cities including our national capital, motorcycles and tricycles are used for fare-paying passenger activities and the authorities sit down unconcerned?

In 2018, the statistics released by the NRSC and published by Citifm online also states “The National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), has revealed that 336 people lost their lives in road accidents in the first two months of 2018. The Commission also stated that a total of 2,095 road crashes were recorded in January and February alone, representing a significant rise from the same period in 2017.

According to Citifm online’s story published on May 9th, 2017, it states that ” 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”.

From the above, it is realised that there has not been a significant or drastic reduction in road carnage. Taking the 2018 figures into consideration, let’s assume that half of those who lost their lives were adults. That gives us 168 out of 336 for the first two months. Assuming again that, the families of the dead spent a minimum ¢10,000.00 on funerals on each of the dead, that adds up ¢168,000.00.

If families spent such quantum of cash on funerals from deaths which are needles and most of them are avoidable, then why wouldn’t we be where we are as a country? Why would most families be reeling under debt from such needless expenditure? Is it why ‘streetism’ has increased because some children have lost their parents through accidents?

Now, in 2017 within the first quarter 6,468 vehicles were involved in road crashes. Assuming 3,234 of those vehicles which represents about half of all those involved in the accidents need repairs, and the owners are spending an average of ¢10,000.00 each. That adds up to ¢32,340,000. All these are monies gone down the drain. If we allow car owners to spend such amounts on their vehicles, all because of needless accidents, then how do we expect our currency to compete favourably with major trading currencies? All the spare parts are imported. All these are just the first quarter of two years and that should tell all of us that the yearly statistics are very grim and the earlier we do something about it the better.

On the 15th day of February, 2016, peacefm online reported a story where Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom commenting on the out break 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 Ghanaian life that cheap to be taken for granted in this way? Where is the analysis of cause? 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 anymore with Dr. Nduom. This was said in 2016 and in January 2020, an accident occurs at Dompoase which claimed 34 lives of which 29 died on the spot. Speaking to Dr. Eric Kofi Ngyedu, the CEO of CCTH, he told me 56 sustained varying degrees of injury and are on admission at CCTH.

He further explained, the hospital would spend on average ¢1,500.00 on each patient and ¢2,500.00 each on of the dead. Multiplying 1,500 by 56 would be ¢84,000.00 and that of the dead would be ¢85,000.00. Adding the two would amount to ¢169.000.00. This is how much the government is spending on the Dompoase accident alone. This does not include the cost of the work done by the Police and Fire Service, and the prices of the vehicles involved as well personal belongings of the victims which might have been stolen or lost through the accident. Should we begin to multiply by the number of persons who die through road accidents annually then, then figure would be very high. According to a Ghanaweb story published on the 23rd of January, 2019, the nation spends up to $230 million every year treating injuries and traffic fatalities. Using the dollar rate of ¢5.58.00 would give us ¢1,282,250,000. Thus, One billion, two hundred and eighty-two million, two hundred and fifty thousand cedis. This is how much we spend on road traffic accidents and death in a year.

Assuming we have been spending same amount over the last ten years then we looking at ¢12,822,500,000. Thus, Twelve billion, eight hundred and twenty – two million, five hundred thousand cedis. Can we imagine what this amount could have done for our country? But, we spend all these on road accidents.

On the 4th of June, 2018, the former president and leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) speaking at this year’s June 4 revolution commemoration held at the Madina Social Welfare Street in Accra Monday, said among others ” it was time drivers who caused deaths on our roads were prosecuted on manslaughter charges and sentenced appropriately” (www.graphic.com.gh). 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, our former president.

That notwithstanding, I sincerely think that some cars are 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 should not be plying such long distances. There should be a law if we do not have one that confines 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. If the apprenticeship is a suspect, let’s improve on that also.

The motorcycle and tricycle issues is even worse. Because it is illegal, there are no regulations and licensing regime to regulate their activities and who qualifies to ride those machines for commercial purposes.

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 Motor Trafic and Transport Department(MTTD) are always on our roads but the statistics is just too amazing to comprehend. This means something has gone a mix and something different need to be done.

In conclusion, I think something drastic needs to be done to curb the road carnage. Terry Bonchaka, Suzzy Williams and recently Ebony Reigns lost their lives through road accidents. Former Prez Rawlings, Kuffuor and Atta Mills (of blessed memory) were involved in road accidents. Shai Osudoku NDC parliamentary candidate lost his lives before the 2016 general elections through road accidents. Kwabena Agyei Agyapong, then NPP General Secretary aspirant was also involved in a road accident before the NPP’s annual delegates conference in 2014. On November 3, 2018, Deputy Communications Minister George Andah and the MP for Awutu Senya West Constituency were involved in an accident. Just on the 22nd of January, 2020, the NDC, parliamentary candidate for Cape Coast North, Dr. Kwamena Minta Nyarku was involved in an accident at Budumbura close to Kasoa. 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 to be toiled with.

 

The writer is a broadcast journalist at GBC, Radio Central (Cape Coast)