Keep your eye on the roads, Mr President

BY: Kingsley Owusu-Achau
 Our roads are riddled with potholes making driving a nightmare
Our roads are riddled with potholes making driving a nightmare

Measured, weighed, numbered, counted, tabulated and cross tabulated, all add up to one thing - the unquantifiable and immeasurable value of the gift of life which we only live once and yet many a time carelessly lose through avoidable road or motor accidents.

Dreadful figures from the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC)  indicate that just last year, total road accident records amounted to 12,843, out of which some 2,076 people were killed while 12,166 sustained minor to critical injuries.

According to the NRSC, the first quarter of 2018 alone has recorded 1,703 crashes with 470 people killed and some 3,342 sustaining minor to critical injuries. Clearly, such disturbing and alarming statistics are highly unacceptable for a country of 27 million people, and hence calls for a very serious government intervention in the area of road network.

Causes

These road accidents are mostly caused by driver error, broken-down or still vehicles in the middle of roads, poor maintenance of vehicles and most critically the bad nature and sizes of roads. In Ghana today, one has to engage in constant prayers while travelling at night because of potholes and darkness or the absence of street lights, which gives armed robbers the impetus to rob and kill travellers at night on our major highways.


Is it, therefore, a curse for any minister in charge of roads to ignore the pressing and immediate need to patch the potholes and fix lights on a major highway like the Accra-Tema Motorway which rakes in several thousands of cedis every other day?

The absurdity and opprobrium in the mad rush to fix one particular pothole at Mankraso (Kumasi-Sunyani) because it took the life of a superstar songstress and two others on a stretch of road which is still laced with gullies, begs the question of ‘who made us this way or who did this to us’ – our thinking?

Ghana may be faced with  problems such as corruption, greed and poor politics which have claimed many innocent lives already, but of all these, road accident is the most debilitating cancer that is fast depleting our human resource base by the day; hence the need for proper thinking and a target-specific approach to mitigate it.

Business-as-usual approach

Anytime a motor accident claims the life of a prominent figure in society, we talk bitterly about it for a week or two and then it just ends there. If you are unlucky not to be a popular person or prominent in society, you don’t even get a mention and you fall off the face of the earth just like that; and life returns to normal for everyone else until another accident happens.

With just a spark of an idea and stern determination, the First Lady of the land, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, and the wife of the Vice-President, Mrs Samira Bawumia, separately on their own and with little support from corporate institutions are making giant and radical strides in their quests to eliminate maternal and neonatal mortality in Ghana.

Determination yields results 

Recently, Mrs Akufo-Addo launched the Save-a-child, Save-a-mother campaign which raised a whopping GH¢10m to start and complete the magnificent state-of-the-art 1000-bed capacity Child and Mother Unit at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), while Mrs Bawumia, for her part, has also recently initiated a nationwide ‘Safe Delivery Project’ to improve the chances of survival of mothers and newborns.

These are clearly angry women who are determined to save the situation of child and mother mortality. So I ask: Why can’t authorities invoke the same spirit and measure of determination to save or reduce the carnage on our roads given the dreadful figure of casualties each year?

Mr President, this carnage on our roads is like a weapon in your hand; you are the final ‘sayer’ on this matter at this time. You may have to shoot and kill the beast on our roads or watch the beast devour your folks one after the other, day by day till no one is left on the streets. 

Is it possible for the government to construct a triple-lane dual carriage from Accra to Kumasi and Accra to Takoradi as starters under a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) regime?

If yes, then why not? Because the government does not lose anything in that regard but rather saves lives in the process, reduces travel time, increases business activities (inter-city trade) and reduces the cost of maintenance (wear and tear) of vehicles as well.

The advantages and benefits of such a project cannot be gainsaid but of course, it comes with its own attendant realistic tolls which I am pretty sure stakeholders will readily accept and embrace because of what they stand to gain per the indicators mentioned above, i.e reduced travel time, reduced vehicle maintenance cost, trade dynamics and most importantly the safety of lives.

In America, for example, tolls on high-occupancy roads or lanes can go up to $34.50. To drive a 10-mile stretch from Beltway to Washington could cost you up to $40 dollars, which is nearly GH¢170. This is not to suggest that the triple-lane dual carriage, if constructed, should be tolled up to GH¢170, but we can always arrive at good and reasonable tolls if bidding or tender is properly scrutinised for best pricing.

Is a GH¢6.5-million budget for road safety campaign in 2018 alone really the way to go? I shudder. How many kilometres of good roads could that budget build sincerely?

Mr President, the world’s first road that allows electric vehicles to recharge as they drive has been installed in Sweden. It may appear unthinkable or unimaginable in our part of the world, but it has been done.

The 1.2 miles of electric rail has been built into a public road just outside Stockholm, and plans are in place to expand the project throughout the whole of Sweden. This is how far some nations are raising the bar in terms of building and enhancing their road network.

Mr President, I think this proposal is feasible and doable and could well be your biggest ever and an unforgettable legacy from you to the good people of Ghana if you are able to pull this off.

The writer is the President, Bechem United FC.