Stopping the carnage on our roads

BY: Daily Graphic

Accidents are becoming quite rampant on our roads. On Wednesday, February 3, 2021, the nation woke to the sad news of a fatal accident that claimed the lives of 19 people at Mile 40 (Sarekyekura), near Fulfulso on the Buipe-Tamale highway in the Savannah Region.

About 90 people got injured in the horrific crash involving two Yutong buses, with each carrying more than 50 passengers.

In the early hours of last Thursday, one person also died in a fatal accident on the Wenchi-Wa highway.

The accident occurred when a DAF truck with registration number GR 2707 -J collided head-on with an Urvan bus with registration number GP 4288-17.

Six other persons on board the two vehicles who sustained varying degrees of injury were transferred to the Wenchi Methodist Hospital for treatment.

These, otherwise, avoidable accidents seem to strongly suggest that some fundamental issues need to be addressed. And key stakeholders, from policy makers and enforcers, owners of vehicle, drivers and road safety educators cannot escape blame.

Death in its natural form is inevitable and it is a fact accepted by all mankind. However, death that comes through actions and inactions of men is painful, more so when it could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, too many lives have been destroyed through road crashes and from the look of things, there is no end in sight because the nation is yet to come to the realisation that something profound and urgent needs to be done. Regrettably, accidents are seemingly becoming institutionalised in the country and the earlier something drastic is done to reverse the trend, the better.

It is important, however, to turn our eyes on the impact of road crashes to the household level. The impact on a family who loses a loved one is enormous, both in terms of emotional trauma and loss of income or probable disability, especially when many poor countries do not have enough safety nets for victims of road crashes.

If a member of a family is involved in a road crash, what kind of changes are likely to occur in that particular family? If the head of household or breadwinner is killed or severely injured, the impact to that household can be devastating.

Erroneously, there is a belief, particularly, among some commercial drivers that road traffic crashes are predestined and inevitable. Indeed, strongly superstitious individuals believe that their fate is controlled by unseen forces and that chance and luck are crucial for human survival.

These beliefs have emboldened and hindered individuals from taking personal action to promote their safety and health care.

Indeed, research has shown that not only do individuals who hold fatalistic beliefs engage in more unsafe driving behaviour, but they also underestimate dangerous driving situations.

At this stage we are not so much interested in apportioning blame but rather our interest lies in finding a lasting solution to the rampant incidents of road crashes which sadly have been claiming precious lives.

Even though the government is investing in road infrastructure, it needs to do much more because we note with great concern that few resources are devoted to road safety education and research.

We suggest that the National Road Safety Commission take the campaign a notch higher and develop road safety campaign messages for drivers targeted at the belief that road crashes are controlled, in part, by fate and destiny. This would help deconstruct the notion that personal safety actions by drivers could do little to prevent road crashes.

The campaign may take the form of persuasive messages through traditional media and social media aimed at drivers. This would target dominant cultural and religious beliefs, norms and value systems from which some superstitious beliefs are thought to arise.

Beyond that, there is the urgent wish to fix our roads needs. The issue of dualisation of our highways needs to be taken much more seriously now that fatal road crashes are getting out of hand. We know that dualisation of the highways will require serious investments, but that is the way to go as the current situation is deplorable and we find ourselves where our options are limited.

Definitely, this is the time for collective action to stop the carnage on our roads.