Unauthorised stops along main roads by commercial vehicles
Unauthorised stops along main roads by commercial vehicles

Indiscipline on our roads: When does it stop?

Road safety remains one of Ghana’s most pressing public health concerns, with many people dying from it than from terminal diseases.

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At the heart of this problem lies a pervasive culture of indiscipline among some road users that manifests in various forms, posing a significant threat to lives and property.

Despite numerous campaigns and interventions by the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service, non-governmental organisations and other partner agencies, indiscipline on our roads persists, raising the question: when does it stop?

Reckless driving: Menace on wheels

Today, one of the most glaring forms of indiscipline on our roads is reckless driving. This includes speeding, dangerous overtaking, driving on shoulders of roads, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The combination of these factors creates a lethal environment on the roads. 

The allure of speed, coupled with the absence of stringent enforcement of speed limits, often leads drivers to push their vehicles beyond safe limits. According to the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), speeding is responsible for about 60 per cent of road crashes.

Dangerous overtaking, particularly on narrow and poorly maintained roads is prevalent, often resulting in head-on collisions. The stretch of the Accra-Kumasi highway, for instance, has seen numerous fatal crashes due to such reckless behaviour.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is another critical issue. Despite laws prohibiting drunk driving, enforcement remains weak, and many drivers continue to operate vehicles which are functionally impaired.

Drunk driving does not only endanger the lives of the drivers, but also puts passengers, pedestrians, and other road users at risk. Statistics from the NRSA indicated that alcohol was a factor in approximately 20 per cent of road crashes in 2022. This underscores the need for stricter enforcement of existing laws and more robust public education campaigns.

Ghana’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), currently pegged at 0.080 mg/ml, is above the World Health Organisation’s 0.050 mg/ml recommendation. There is therefore the need to review it downward to meet international best practices and standards to save lives and reduce crashes. 

Maintenance

Poor vehicle maintenance is a significant form of indiscipline that contributes to road crashes. Many rickety vehicles on Ghanaian roads are not roadworthy, with issues ranging from faulty brakes and worn-out tyres to broken headlights.

The NRSA’s 2021 road safety report indicated that mechanical faults accounted for about 15 per cent of road crashes. Regular vehicle inspections and strict adherence to roadworthiness standards are key to reducing these incidents.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the Police and NRSA should collaborate to rid such vehicles from our roads. 

Pedestrian indiscipline

Indiscipline on our roads is not limited to only drivers as we have it; pedestrians also contribute to the chaos. Jaywalking, crossing roads at unauthorised points, and ignoring pedestrian traffic signals are common, contributing to crashes.

In Accra and Kumasi, pedestrians often weave through traffic effortlessly, putting themselves and drivers at risk. According to the NRSA, pedestrian-related accidents accounted for over 25 per cent of road traffic fatalities in 2022.

Creating more pedestrian crossings, overpasses,and educating the public on safe road use can help mitigate this problem.

Indiscipline among motorcyclists

The rise in the use of motorcycles and tricycles, commonly known as “okada” and “aboboyaa,” respectively, has brought about new challenges in road safety. Many motorcyclists disregard traffic rules; they run red lights with impunity, ride on sidewalks and carry more passengers than allowed without wearing helmets.

These behaviours not only disrupt traffic flow but also lead to frequent crashes. In 2023, the MTTD reported that motorcyclists were involved in nearly 30 per cent of road crashes in Accra.

Strict regulation, licensing and training for motorcyclists are essential to address this issue. Initiatives such as ‘TrafficTech Gh’ implemented by the Ghana Police Service is apt and should be sustained to punish such reckless behaviours.

Public transport drivers, particularly those operating tro-tros (minibuses) and taxis, are notorious for their indiscipline. They often stop abruptly to pick up or drop off passengers, disregard traffic signals and overload their vehicles.

The pressure to maximise profits leads many of these drivers to adopt unsafe driving practices. The chaotic scenes at major bus terminals such as Circle and Kaneshie in Accra exemplify this issue.

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Here, drivers compete aggressively for passengers, leading to frequent altercations and hazardous driving. The situation is further complicated by the lack of a robust regulatory framework for the informal transport sector. 

Public attitudes, education

Finally, a significant challenge is the public's attitude towards road safety. At Kasoa, Lapaz and other places, hawkers and sellers have taken over road lanes and pedestrian walkways, putting themselves at a high-risk of knockdown.

The use of mobile phones while driving has also become increasingly prevalent. Casually observing cars drive by revealed many drivers are distracted by phone calls, texting, or social media notification. This form of indiscipline is particularly problematic given the rising number of smartphone users in the country.

This form of indiscipline is difficult to change but not impossible. Continuous public education campaigns, starting from schools to work places and communities, can help inculcate a sense of responsibility and discipline on the roads.

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Initiatives such as the NRSA's "Stay Alive" campaign and Citi FM/TV’s War Against Indiscipline (WAI) have shown positive results, but need broader reach, sustainable funds and consistent implementation.

Conclusion

Let me end with a quote from Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO): "Road safety is not just a matter of improving infrastructure but a fundamental issue of behaviour and discipline. Without addressing the indiscipline on our roads, we cannot hope to achieve significant reductions in traffic crashes and fatalities."

Indiscipline on our roads requires a comprehensive approach to address. The government, media, civil society and the public must collaborate to instil a culture of discipline, enforce and respect traffic laws.

Only then can we hope to see a significant reduction in road crashes and fatalities, making our roads safer for all.

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The writer is a development professional with CUTS International, Accra. 
E-mail: [email protected] 

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