Quite a number of road traffic accidents, sometimes mild or repulsively ugly, leave people every day with temporary or permanent disabilities alongside emotional pain and sometimes death. Debatably, road accidents are the new leading cause of death by injury – and the tenth-leading cause of all deaths globally.
And if present trends continue, road traffic injuries are predicted to be the third-leading contributor to the global burden of disease and injury by 2020.
It has become too much of a bad situation for one to accept. And I repeatedly asked myself deep thinking questions like: why should we have such a very high rate of road accidents? The roles of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) and National Road Safety Commission are laudable, but a lot more needs to be done because as a citizen the carnage on our roads bring me so much fear.
This has necessitated an examination of the root causes of these gruesome accidents. Some major causes of road accidents in Ghana include poor driving skills and indiscipline on the part of our drivers. Drivers using mobile phone while driving has caused several road accidents. Reckless driving and excessive speeding on the part of drivers, drink-driving, receiving phone calls while on the road, overloading of vehicles, unnecessary overtaking and not obeying traffic lights, especially on high-ways, all result in road accidents.
As per surveys, many of the road accidents in Ghana are due to motor vehicles. Statistics also show that 60 percent of road accidents are caused due to drivers under the influence of alcohol as well as over-speeding. Undoubtedly, our bad roads are also an additional factor. Shoddy work by our very own contractors is the primary cause of our major road accidents.
However, proper construction of roads can be ensured when they are put into the hands of able-bodied men who genuinely have wellbeing of the country at heart.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year the lives of approximately 1.35 million people are cut short as the result of a road traffic crash. Between 20 and 50 million more people suffer non-fatal injuries, with many incurring a permanent disability as a result of their injury. Road traffic injuries cause considerable economic losses to individuals, their families and to nations as a whole.
These losses arise from the cost of treatment as well as lost productivity for those killed or disabled by their injuries, and for family members who need to take time off work or school to care for the injured. Road traffic crashes cost most countries 3 percent of their gross domestic product.
Also, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years. Also, from a young age, males are more likely to be involved in road traffic crashes than females. About three-quarters (73 percent) of all road traffic deaths occur among young males under the age of 25 – who are almost three times as likely to be killed in a road traffic crash as young females.
Statistically, here in Ghana we have over 5,000 fractures reported in the period of one year. Annually, Ghana spends over GH¢230million on trauma! Can you imagine?? Significantly, it is estimated that road traffic accidents in Ghana have killed 46,284 between the years 1991 and 2018 – large enough to fill Ghana’s biggest stadium, Kumasi Sports Stadium.
Data compiled by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service has revealed that persons killed through road accidents rose from 2,076 in 2017 to a total of 2,341 in 2018, and then declined a bit in 2019 to 2,284. The MTTD again indicated that on average 1,714 people are killed each year on our roads. Also, 50 percent of road accidents happen due to over-speeding, and 10 percent of road accidents in Ghana are caused due to drunk driving. And this is a great amount of terror!
What is really the problem with us as pedestrians and drivers (both large vehicles and motorcycles)? What are we not doing right as citizens? Although there are many road safety campaigns, there is little or no effect on the rate of road traffic accidents as they keep increasing day by day.
In general, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcycle riders are the most vulnerable road users as well as the heaviest users of roads. It has also been noted over the years that more men than women perish in road crashes, with some being pronounced dead on arrival at health facilities. Among these complex challenges with injuries are some health workers which lack knowledge in administering first-aid that could buy victims extra time before being taken to emergency units.
With the WHO projecting that by the end of 2020 road traffic accidents could become the third major killer and leading cause of death and disabilities after human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) and Tuberculosis(TB), this is enough reason for us as a country to have upright minds in order to fight road accidents.
In this vein, what can we do to curb all these?
As is often the case, those who are walking on the road also have responsibility to cross the road carefully. Behavioural practices of humans are the major causes of road accidents. To address this, organise regular teachings by MTTD and NRSC heads at various bus terminals to educate drivers.
Similarly, there can be education through the use of traditional media such as radio and television – and even the use of billboards and posters to constantly remind both pedestrians and drivers on the dos and don’ts of road use.
Nearly a year ago, Joy News began a massive campaign on road accidents, and must be commended for that. Also, road construction should be put in the hands of professionals in order to avoid shoddy work being done. Furthermore, the Police Service should also continue to uphold its integrity and do away with all bribery and corrupt acts when they are on road duties.
Government must also enforce strict road laws and see to it that anyone, be it a pedestrian or driver, who violates the law will be punished accordingly to serve as a deterrent to others. In spite of our public transportation system’s shortcomings it can be improved, which can help reduce exposure. Let us all adhere to and be mindful of road signs and traffic rules, while we limit over-speeding, avoid overloading and reckless driving. When we come together, we can help to make Ghana an accident-free nation.
And most importantly, don’t forget to commit your life in the hands of the Almighty God before embarking on any trip, no matter the distance. Road accidents can also turn children into orphans and wipe out the entire family, so be careful while driving.
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana!!
>>>The writer is a Level 300 Journalism student at the Ghana Institute of Journalism. She can be reached on [email protected], or 0547868993. On social media, Facebook: Jessica Henampong; Instagram- jessi_henampong; and Twitter: Adjoa_Asabea