Not a single day passes without news of road traffic crashes. Statistics available to the National Road Safety Commission indicates that 6 persons perish on our roads daily, translating into about 2,000 deaths yearly.
The role of road transport in a country’s socio-economic development cannot be over- emphasized as it forms the basis of its development. It is an undeniable fact that road transport is the most patronized means of transport in Ghana.
Road transport is the most preferred mode of transport because it is relatively cheaper compared to other means of transport. Every day, thousands commute across the length and breadth of the country. Goods are transported and services are executed everyday largely through road transport.
Ghana has about 64,000km of road made up of about 11,000 kms paved and about 53,000 kms unpaved (gravel and earth surface). Road network in Ghana carries about 95% of all inland passenger and logistic traffic and therefore contributes significantly to transport related crashes.
The sector is faced with many challenges including poor road network, indiscipline of drivers, high fatality rate, poor maintenance of vehicles, lack of enforcement etc. One major road safety challenge in the West Africa sub-region is the rising deaths among passengers of buses. Pedestrian fatality is 42% of total deaths whilst bus occupants accounts for 23%.
Currently, Ghana does not have an efficient public transport system working. The transport business is largely operated by private owners/individuals who have invested in it and the transport industry is regulated through unions and organizations. The absence of a regulatory body is however largely to blame.
The importance of road safety education and campaigns cannot be over emphasized. The Commission generally employs road user educational campaigns to help compliment other road safety measures in Ghana. One major sensitization tool mostly deployed by the Commission as part of its advocacy efforts is such campaigns.
In the recent past, the Commission has implemented series of campaigns on ‘Use of Crash Helmet’, ‘Don’t Drive Tired’, ‘Drink Driving’ and most recently the National Pedestrian Safety Campaign dubbed the ‘’Be Alert! Look out for other Road Users”’ campaign.
The NRSC can report from a study conducted in 2008 that almost 58% of road users confirm the knowledge of these campaigns and their impact on their safety.
While the NRSC continues to work hard in its outreach efforts, the support of stakeholders is imperative to force a reduction in the numbers of road fatalities and their resultant impact on our families.
Apart from the several Campaigns, it is the expectation of the Commission to work with its stakeholders to scale up advocacy for road safety.
Passenger Empowerment Campaign
Passenger Empowerment simply requires of passengers or bus occupants to demand from transport operators, unions and drivers some best road safety practices. It also requires bus occupants to be active participants and speak out against any misbehavior on the road.
Instead of assuming a passive posture, passengers must take an active interest in their safety. It is not enough to commit journeys to the Almighty God. The campaign is on the theme Be Alert…Speak Up! Don’t get killed on the road.
In Ghana, the 2nd most vulnerable road user class is the Passenger. Passenger deaths account for almost 23% of all road traffic deaths in Ghana. Many a time passengers assume passive roles and do not speak against any wrong doing on our roads largely due to fear of intimidation and being branded ‘too known’ in our local parlance. This situation has otherwise led to several avoidable instances.
As an example, passengers must not remain silent or assume a passive role when the vehicle in which they are seated is rickety, not road worthy by all standards, drivers driving tired, speeding, wrongful overtaking, etc. To help reverse the problem of driver indiscipline and passenger deaths, the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) has introduced a concept of Road Safety Officers (RSOs) as part of a broad guidelines for commercial passenger operations.
The essence of the campaign amongst others is to nurture a critical mass of passengers with the courage to speak out against any unhealthy road user behavior.
Road Safety Officers
The NRSC as the lead agency in the road sector charged with the mandate of coordinating all road safety activities has developed the code of conduct which has been made available to transport operators and unions for their study and application.
The Commission acting on the orders of the Ministry of Transport also has developed operational standards and guidelines for operators. Amongst others, transport operators are required to appoint a Road Safety Officer (RSO) charged with the sole responsibility of ensuring the practice of pre-departure checks, regular maintenance of the fleet of vehicles and so on.
Effects of Road Traffic Crashes
Road Traffic Crashes have dire consequences on households and the nation as a whole including incapacitation, destruction to property, loss of time, etc. The effect of road traffic crashes may be viewed at the micro (family) and macro (nation) levels.
Road traffic crashes are a Public health as well as a developmental issue. If the productive work force is attacked by road traffic crashes then the development of the country is under a serious threat.
The loss of innocent lives through road traffic crashes shatters families. Every individual who perishes through a road crash has an impact on the family. The loss of parents/guardians or bread winners may end the dream of some children who may not be able to continue their education and by extension afford basic living expenses.
About 90 percent of causes of road traffic crashes can be attributed to human error. Negative road user behavior including speeding, drink driving and others have culminated in indiscipline on our roads. These crashes have a very huge impact on the productive human resource base of the country especially the young. About 60 percent of crash victims are between the productive age bracket of 18-55 years.
What NRSC is doing
The NRSC established by an Act of Parliament (Act 567) in 1999 with the mandate to develop and promote road safety and coordinate policies in relation to them. One of the major activities of the Commission is nationwide road safety education through its regional offices.
• The NRSC through the Ministry of transport is advocating the establishment of a regulatory framework for Commercial transport operators.
• The Commission has also instituted Operational Standards, Pre-departure checks and Safety Performance Award Schemes at lorry stations.
• Periodic driver education and campaigns through outreach and the media
• In collaboration with the DVLA and the Government Technical Training Centre (GTTC), a National Driver’s Academy (NDA) has been established to provide professional upgrading and refresher training for commercial drivers.
• Mandatory upgrading and refresher training for commercial passenger vehicle drivers which will serve as a condition for upgrading and renewal of licences.
Source: ISD (Emmanuel K. Nartey)
Journalist/Communications Assistant National Road Safety Commission (NRSC/ISD)