How bad it feels when you answer the phone and you don’t hear the usual how are ‘yous’ and I’m ‘fines’ When all you could hear is how a friend you just laughed with yesterday has lost his or her life to road accident. Accident kills suddenly, so is the pain caused, giving shocks and other psychological problems to some bereaved members of a family.
Nations have lost great people, people that if they had the chance to live, like the universe would have been bettered than now. But they are gone with all their potentials.
Road accident is really on the rise now, and we can’t really tell who is to be blamed but mostly we point fingers at the government, is that it?Just January and February 2018 alone, there were 2,085 crashes recorded, 336 deaths, 2272 injuries involving 3415 vehicles of which 1394 were commercial vehicles, 1401 private vehicles and 620 motorcycles according to Ghana News Online. With this, do analysis and predict how many is recorded by now.
These days, what we hear on the news platforms from authorities and public figures concerning this topic is Road Safety Campaign, and this only comes in when a tragedy has hit the nation, when a public figure is involved in an accident. Immediately the issue tends to lose public interest and fades, all the intensive motivational speeches made by concerned authorities and public figures also fade. This is Africa, and this is what we are good at; giving theoretical solutions to problems. But we deserve more.
Whenever a road accident occur, what comes into minds is bad roads, no road signs, the government is not planting this facilities on our roads, this government is not good, the other one didn’t do well, by the time we realize we are arguing over Party A and Party B. The literacy rate is very encouraging now, yet how we address matters of the nation as citizens sometimes questions our literacy state of being. We politicise everything, and it blinds us from identifying our problems as a country and who should take responsibility for that and the appropriate measures to solve it.
I think its time we switch attention onto the users of our roads, especially the commercial drivers, and some other bodies involved as talked about in the proceeding paragraphs.
When you study the reports from National Road Safety Commission, you would realize that there is a persistent increase in road accidents daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. Now it is estimated that averagely, 6 people die of road accident everyday. I think it should be 7-8 by now. However, the roads were worse in the past than now, but we record more accidents than then. So do you think the problem is the roads and not the drivers? What is a good road with well marked and clearly positioned signs to a careless driver?
This is 21st century, and people are motivated more to pursue a career by the monetary value attached to it. Money is the factor here. People look at how much they can get, than the mere joy and satisfaction they could get .Its obvious vehicles wait on passengers these days. Unlike the past where there were lesser vehicles so passengers wait on vehicles. As a result, drivers compete on road trying to pick passengers on the next junction or town, or to go and come back early to load again. I often visit Nkawkaw, and the suburb I live is along the Kumasi road, and I wonder if there were planes on the road or buses, looking at how the Sprinter Buses compete on the road with much speed even in the town where there are rumps they ignore just to go ahead and pick the passengers in the next town. They are more intrigued to making more sales to win the vehicle owner’s interest, especially when there are other drivers using same vehicle.
A driver would boldly tell you, if I don’t take alcohol I can’t drive well. Lot of drivers these days sniff substances, how are our lives safe in the hands of these, and what is a road sign to such a driver? There are some who can’t even tell how the accident happened, and you think its a result of shock? They just don’t remember because they were high on something else.
Some drivers sit behind the steering wheel with frustrations taking over their being. Psychological problems from home, work, and all sort of issues. There are some who are really stressed and sick and are not seeking medical attention, they would drive anyway to make sales, or for fear that the owner of the vehicle would give it to another driver and he may lose chance having it back. Imagine someone with high blood pressure driving commercially. There are aged ones too, and there is nothing like a retirement age for driving and most importantly for commercial drivers.
On one occasion when I was traveling from Accra to Nkawkaw, I boarded a nice looking bus and seated at the front. The engine revved and my instinct told me this isn’t a good sound, I’ve been deceived by the looks of the bus, it’s not supposed to be on the road and even for commercial use, but the driver would say I would manage – managing lives of husbands, wives and children of some people with this sick vehicle all in the name of getting your sales or doing Ghana a favour? Upon the first stop when a passenger alighted, the driver asked me to step on the break, and pull a string down where the pedals were located as he went and opened the bonnet and fixed something there. I frowned, but I had to, else I wouldn’t be here sharing this piece today. Whenever a passenger alights it is an opportunity for him to go to fix the bus and I have to go to work too, I was a mechanic by circumstance that day, he should have refunded my fare or part..yeah I murmured. We got to the checkpoint, and there was no special checks. I don’t know why they even call it checkpoint… What do they really check there? He just exchanged words with them, gave them his license ID with something buried in it and drove away.
That is the law enforcement agencies found on the roads. I think they have lost their mission (intermission). They are doing a different thing altogether from what they are suppose to. So drivers are not scared anymore when they are not having all requirements, because they have money for ‘offertory’. The law enforcement agents would tell you if they report you, you would be sent to court and be fined with an amount that could ruin your entire generation, so settle them with the little they are asking and go. Its funny you would give, and they would tell you they are 4 or 5 and can’t share the amount given evenly so add something to it.
Some things are not going right. There are incidents where people go and attain driving license for ‘disabled’ fellows. One was observed, and then they laughed heartily, as the foreigner drove off with one hand hanging. The Ghanaian thought he has done a good favour, but an innocent soul might pay for that favour one day. That day, I questioned how a driving license is issued. What goes into it? Are there some checks? Or since your driving school or there is a report you can move a car and read and understand road signs, there it is, take it and go. People are pocketing monies and issuing licenses to people that don’t deserve. If you have money, you can have your way out in every system in Ghana.
These are the people responsible for the rampant road accidents in the nation, and not the government. However, it is the government, because he or she needs to speak up, order, make policies and it will flow downstream to the bodies in charge to affect a positive change.
Its good to build more good roads, fix road signs and markings, but what is the impact of these when there are careless drivers, where there are physically or mentally challenged drivers, where motorcyclists don’t obey traffics and signs, where the vehicles are not in good conditions and drivers rely on substances to work, when law enforcement agencies are corrupt, along with the body in charge of issuing licenses?
I believe even if the roads are not good, bad markings and no good or visible road signs, but there are strong vehicles, upright and deserving licensed drivers, decent enforcement agencies, road accident would be minimized. For if there is a pot hole, which a road sign doesn’t tell, it takes an upright driver to know to slow down the speed.
There should be restructured terms and conditions with the licensing system of the country. The commercial vehicle unions should be charged to hold seasonal counseling sessions for their workers, and seasonal prompts for health screening and health talks for commercial drivers. There should be a system where the law enforcement agencies who are corrupt could be reported and sanctioned. Necessary equipments should be available at checkpoints to check the health of vehicles and even drivers under influence of alcohol and drugs.
As said earlier that the roads were worse in the past than now yet we record more accidents than then, I will conclude by establishing the fact that even though poor roads is one of the factors causing road accidents in the country, the major causes are unhealthy vehicles, careless and unhealthy or unqualified drivers, corrupt road safety enforcement agents and agencies and poor driver licensing procedures. These factors should be seriously checked on.
Innocent souls are dying on the roads for the reckless decisions others take upon discharging their duties. Its time we wake up, Ghana, and help solve this problem, for we all use the road, we can be victims too.