Woes on our roads, 50,583 die in 30 years

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
  Such indiscipline on our roads lead to crashes and fatalities. Inset: A mangled vehicle.
Such indiscipline on our roads lead to crashes and fatalities. Inset: A mangled vehicle.

Many survivors of road crashes are battling with various forms of disability and emotional scars. Some of them who the Daily Graphic encountered, have given chilling accounts of their experiences.

One of such victims is 29-year-old Nsuimor, who suffered multiple fractures in a road crash on September 10, 2019.

He was returning from Kpassa in the Oti Region, and upon reaching the Monkey Sanctuary stretch of the Atimpoku-Afienya road, the Sprinter bus in which he was travelling veered off the road into the bush.

Ghana has a high accident mortality rate and the pictures on our front page tells a macabre story of woe and misery for a large number of people in Ghana who have lost someone in an accident or suffered one themselves.

It is why the National Road Safety Authority is rolling out a new road safety initiative known as Arrive Alive to reduce the number of road accidents in the country and make scenes like the photo on our front page a rare scene in the country.

This assurance was given by the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) when the Daily Graphic last Saturday contacted the organisation for its comments on the high number of road fatalities in the country.

Sounding upbeat and optimistic, the Director-General of the authority, Mrs May Obiri- Yeboah, explained that “having attained the status of an authority, more work was being done to live up to its mandate of ensuring safety on the roads”.

On the face of it, road accidents are among the most dangerous activities in the country, having claimed more than 50,000 lives in Ghana over the last three decades, according to the NRSA. To put this number in context, during 20 years of war, Afghanistan lost a similar number of soldiers, which Ghana has lost in a country at peace.

Partial disabilty

For Nsuimor, although he survived the fatal accident on the Monkey Sanctuary stretch of the Atimpoku-Afienya road, he is currently battling with partial disability in his leg. He told the Daily Graphic that a metal implant that was placed in his femur as part of the surgery, would be taken out in October, 2022, next year.

Asked how the accident had affected him, he said "I spent a lot of money on the surgery and other treatments at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH). Even currently, I am still paying monies I borrowed to take care of my hospital bills."

"I had bought a form to get enrolled into the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), but the accident has crashed that dream," he added.

Legislaive instrument

Many innocent people are expereincing similar fate and are expecting help to come. However, to ensure that such needless road crashes are avoided, the NRSA says it is pushing for the passage of a legislative instrument (L.I) to support its new mandate of regulating road transport and related services.

Mrs Obiri-Yeboah also outlined a number of initiatives including the "Arrive Alive," policy, which would in effect constitute different elements such as more stringent regulation of commercial road transport operators, training of motor riders as well as outreach and road safety education programmes that would be rolled out, in partnership with other stakeholders, to tackle road crashes.

Broken down

However, there already exists the Road Traffic Regulations, 2012 (L.I 2180), which was established with specific directives on the movement of breakdown vehicles.

Regulation 102 (1) of L.I 2180 states: “An owner of a vehicle or person in charge of a motorcycle or trailer who causes or permits the motorcycle or trailer which breaks down on the road to be left on the road shall give notice to the nearest police station or authorise a towing service provider within an hour, if the broken down vehicle or trailer is located within a built-up area; and within two hours, if the broken down vehicle or trailer is within a place other than a built-up area.”
Despite the existence of this law, some breakdown vehicles are left on the road for many days and, sometimes, months without being cleared.

The Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council (GRTCC) said there was the need to strictly apply the regulations 102 (1) to bring sanity to the roads.

The council, therefore, has called on the NRSA to engage other stakeholders for the speedy roll out of an efficient vehicle towing service to reduce road crashes that occur as a result of abandoned vehicles on the road.

The General Secretary of GRTCC, Mr Emmanuel Osei Yeboah, told the Daily Graphic that many of the road crashes could have been avoided, if vehicles which broke down on the road were towed promptly.

He said the council would fully support an initiative that would ensure that abandoned vehicles were removed as required by law.

Mr Yeboah also called for investment in road infrastructure and retooling of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service to boost their capacity to enforce road traffic regulations.

Enforcement

For his part, the Commander of the Accra Central MTTD, DCOP Martin Ayiih, said although the law required that broken down vehicles be towed, the police was ill-resourced to fully enforce that law.

"In Ghana, we take a lot of things for granted. The road towing system that was introduced about four years ago did not work because people kicked against it; but now, we are facing the dangers of abandoned vehicles killing people all the time.

"The police have just a few vehicle towing cars, but they can only tow saloon cars. We cannot tow heavy-duty vehicles," he said.

DCOP Ayiih said there was the need for a "pay as you tow" towing service to be deployed instead of an upfront payment option.

"We need a firm decision on matters relating to road safety; it should not be politicised because road crashes do not know political colours," he said.

Collaboration

The MTTD commander said the police was collaborating with other state institutions such as the NRSA and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to deal with the triggers of road crashes.

For instance, he said the three institutions were working together to check fake road certificates that some drivers of rickety vehicles used for their business.

"Now, we are able to identify the fake roadworthy stickers, and when we get errant drivers, we prosecute them," he said.

Touching on the increasing motor cycle crashes, he said the three state bodies were rolling out a training and education programme on road traffic regulations for users of motorcycles.Road traffic statistics

The Daily Graphic's comprehensive analysis of road traffic statistics from the NRSA revealed that between 1991 and 2020, a total of 50,583 persons died from 308,183 reported road crashes in the country. The statistics further showed that 414,653 people suffered varying degrees of injury, with many of them becoming permanently disabled.

A detailed look at the cumulative distribution of the road traffic fatalities between 1991 and 2019, excluding the 2020 figures, revealed that 19,975 of the fatalities involved pedestrians while 9,204 persons died in crashes involving buses.

Additionally, crashes involving private cars claimed 5,495 lives, with motorcycles and heavy goods vehicles (HGV) accounting for 5,105 and 4,361 deaths, respectively. Also contributing to the fatalities are cycles and pick-up vehicles which claimed 1,861 and 1,242 lives, respectively, with 553 persons also dying through other factors on the roads.

Worrying trend in crashes

An analysis of the trend in the crashes over the last decade (2010 - 2020) showed that the road crashes are beginning to rise again after an initial decline. For instance, in 2010, the country recorded 11,506 road crashes.

This figure went down to 10,886 in 2011 and shot up to 12,083 in 2012. The next six years saw relative stability in the road crashes, with all those years recording figures below 10,000. However, in 2019, the crashes zoomed past the 10,000 mark by 808 and further went up to 14,886 in 2020.

The NRSA blamed these alarming road crashes on road-user indiscipline and the laxity on the part of policy makers and implementers. Specifically, the authority cited excessive travel speed, inattentiveness and improper overtaking on the part of drivers; jaywalking by pedestrians; passenger irresponsibility in the form of failure to wear seat belts and unwillingness to speak out against irresponsible drivers as major causes of road crashes.

It also blamed the crashes on the indiscipline on the part of motorcycle and tricycle users who disregard road traffic regulations and also failed to wear helmets and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

From the policy perspective, the NRSA blamed the skyrocketing road crashes on poor road infrastructure, operation of substandard vehicles, inadequate emergency response system and lack of political will to implement drastic policies that would address the menace.

NRSA worried

During the conversation with the NRSA boss, she agreed that the resurgence in the road crashes was worrying. "The figures are worrying because we do not want to lose a single life to road crashes, so if we have thousands of people losing their lives over 30 years, we should be worried," she said.

She said it was, particularly, worrying that while pedestrian deaths kept reducing steadily (from the highest figure of 930 in 2012), fatalities from motorcycles continue to soar in recent years (210 in 2010 to 1,056 in 2020). Mrs Obiri-Yeboah said the time had come for decisive action to tackle the challenge head on.

The NRSA director-general, however, said although there had been increases in the absolute numbers in terms of crashes, when compared with the changes in vehicle population over the same period, the story did not look too bad.

For instance, NSRA statistics show that as of 1991, there were 132,051 registered vehicles in Ghana, but 920 fatalities occurred that year.

With the vehicle population currently about 2.9 million, according to the NRSA, Mrs Obiri-Yeboah said more crashes could have been recorded if NRSA had not implemented a number of initiatives to tackle the menace.

It is for this reason that the authority has set itself the task of introducing the new interventions, including the Legislative Instrument (LI).

Advice

While reflecting on the twist of events in his life, Mr Nsuimor advised road users to be extra careful to prevent road crashes.

"Some passengers influence drivers to do wrongful overtaking because they keep urging drivers on to overtake other vehicles. We must stop this attitude and value our lives.

" Drivers too should be more careful on the road and stop overtaking anyhow. If you are sitting behind a steering wheel, you should know that you have people's lives in your hands," he said.

Towed promptly

He said the council would fully support an initiative that would ensure that abandoned vehicles were removed as required by law.

Mr Yeboah also called for investment in road infrastructure and retooling of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service to boost their capacity to enforce road traffic regulations.

Enforcement

For his part, the Commander of the Accra Central MTTD, DCOP Martin Ayiih, said although the law required that broken down vehicles be towed, the police was ill-resourced to fully enforce that law.

"In Ghana, we take a lot of things for granted. The road towing system that was introduced about four years ago did not work because people kicked against it; but now, we are facing the dangers of abandoned vehicles killing people all the time.

"The police have just a few vehicle towing cars, but they can only tow saloon cars. We cannot tow heavy-duty vehicles," he said.

DCOP Ayiih said there was the need for a "pay as you tow" towing service to be deployed instead of an upfront payment option.

"We need a firm decision on matters relating to road safety; it should not be politicised because road crashes do not know political colours," he said.

Collaboration

The MTTD commander said the police was collaborating with other state institutions such as the NRSA and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to deal with the triggers of road crashes.

For instance, he said the three institutions were working together to check fake road certificates that some drivers of rickety vehicles used for their business.

"Now, we are able to identify the fake roadworthy stickers, and when we get errant drivers, we prosecute them," he said.

Touching on the increasing motor cycle crashes, he said the three state bodies were rolling out a training and education programme on road traffic regulations for users of motorcycles.Road traffic statistics.

The Daily Graphic's comprehensive analysis of road traffic statistics from the NRSA revealed that between 1991 and 2020, a total of 50,583 persons died from 308,183 reported road crashes in the country. The statistics further showed that 414,653 people suffered varying degrees of injury, with many of them becoming permanently disabled.

A detailed look at the cumulative distribution of the road traffic fatalities between 1991 and 2019, excluding the 2020 figures, revealed that 19,975 of the fatalities involved pedestrians while 9,204 persons died in crashes involving buses.

Additionally, crashes involving private cars claimed 5,495 lives, with motorcycles and heavy goods vehicles (HGV) accounting for 5,105 and 4,361 deaths, respectively. Also contributing to the fatalities are cycles and pick-up vehicles which claimed 1,861 and 1,242 lives, respectively, with 553 persons also dying through other factors on the roads.

Worrying trend in crashes

An analysis of the trend in the crashes over the last decade (2010 - 2020) showed that the road crashes are beginning to rise again after an initial decline. For instance, in 2010, the country recorded 11,506 road crashes.

This figure went down to 10,886 in 2011 and shot up to 12,083 in 2012. The next six years saw relative stability in the road crashes, with all those years recording figures below 10,000. However, in 2019, the crashes zoomed past the 10,000 mark by 808 and further went up to 14,886 in 2020.

The NRSA blamed these alarming road crashes on road-user indiscipline and the laxity on the part of policy makers and implementers. Specifically, the authority cited excessive travel speed, inattentiveness and improper overtaking on the part of drivers; jaywalking by pedestrians; passenger irresponsibility in the form of failure to wear seat belts and unwillingness to speak out against irresponsible drivers as major causes of road crashes.

It also blamed the crashes on the indiscipline on the part of motorcycle and tricycle users who disregard road traffic regulations and also failed to wear helmets and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

From the policy perspective, the NRSA blamed the skyrocketing road crashes on poor road infrastructure, operation of substandard vehicles, inadequate emergency response system and lack of political will to implement drastic policies that would address the menace.

NRSA worried

During the conversation with the NRSA boss, she agreed that the resurgence in the road crashes was worrying. "The figures are worrying because we do not want to lose a single life to road crashes, so if we have thousands of people losing their lives over 30 years, we should be worried," she said.

She said it was, particularly, worrying that while pedestrian deaths kept reducing steadily (from the highest figure of 930 in 2012), fatalities from motorcycles continue to soar in recent years (210 in 2010 to 1,056 in 2020). Mrs Obiri-Yeboah said the time had come for decisive action to tackle the challenge head on.

The NRSA director-general, however, said although there had been increases in the absolute numbers in terms of crashes, when compared with the changes in vehicle population over the same period, the story did not look too bad.

For instance, NSRA statistics show that as of 1991, there were 132,051 registered vehicles in Ghana, but 920 fatalities occurred that year.

With the vehicle population currently about 2.9 million, according to the NRSA, Mrs Obiri-Yeboah said more crashes could have been recorded if NRSA had not implemented a number of initiatives to tackle the menace.

It is for this reason that the authority has set itself the task of introducing the new interventions, including the Legislative Instrument (LI).

Advice

While reflecting on the twist of events in his life, Mr Nsuimor advised road users to be extra careful to prevent road crashes.

"Some passengers influence drivers to do wrongful overtaking because they keep urging drivers on to overtake other vehicles. We must stop this attitude and value our lives.

" Drivers too should be more careful on the road and stop overtaking anyhow. If you are sitting behind a steering wheel, you should know that you have people's lives in your hands," he said.