Ghanaians have an incredible knack for making light, serious matters with amazing ease. When a truck carrying beer got involved in an accident on the Accra-Tema Motorway recently, an immediate beer party started!
Asked how many bottles of beer he had drunk that early morning, a man replied, only six! A woman declared she had just started with two and was making steady progress! It was also reported that a few people came with chicken to have a complete breakfast with the beer!
Unfortunately, not all accidents can be treated with such lightheartedness.
Indeed, on Saturday 19th September 2020, six youth footballers of the Ghana Football Association died in an RTA at Offinso.
In my article titled “Motorway Kamikaze Driving?” in 2017, I discussed RTAs in Ghana and made recommendations to stem the tide!
Last week, Kyekyewere on the Accra-Kumasi Highway hit the headlines for the wrong reason. It was the scene of an accident which saw fifteen persons dead on the spot and over forty injured. An over speeding DAF Bourkina-Fasso bound vehicle is said to have veered off its lane colliding with two Accra-bound buses.
In March 2019, a head-on collision of two buses near Kintampo resulted in over seventy dead. After the initial lamentation and sympathy by state officials, interest gradually died.
In January 2020, a head-on collision between two vehicles at Dompoase on the Cape Coast-Takoradi Highway in which thirty-four people died and fifty-four seriously injured made headline news.
Top officials who rushed to the scene introduced a new word “dualise” to Ghanaians. We were promised that major roads like the Accra-Takoradi road would all be dualised. It suddenly dawned on the authorities that, the current single lane “face to face” roads where overtaking constantly lead to head-on collisions needs dualising.
Somehow, with the arrival of COVID-19 in Ghana, discussions on RTAs went to the back-burner.
As a little boy living at Michel Camp with my parents in the early 1960s, I was one of the early users of the new Accra-Tema Motorway. It was a marvellous piece of civil engineering which was a prototype of what Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah intended to link Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi in what was to be the Golden Triangle! So how come this sudden discovery to “dualise” highways when it has existed since the early 1960s?
In all this, the question is who takes responsibility? In August 2018 in Bulgaria, a tourist bus was involved in an RTA in which seventeen persons died. Three ministers, the Minister for Transport, Minister for Public Works and the Minister for Interior all resigned for dereliction of duty and respect for the dead.
In Ghana, despite the number of fatal accidents, the sense of failed responsibility and therefore ministerial resignation on moral grounds is totally alien to our culture.
Until ministers either resign or are fired for non-performance leading to mishaps, we shall continue paying lip service to problems, and not solve them.
After the Dompoase accident in January 2020, new engineering designs were talked about for our highways to include “dualising” the roads. Darkness on our road is a major contributor to night accidents which must be addressed.
The state of roads aside, the poor state of vehicles also contributes to accidents. A cursory look at some vehicles makes one wonder how they acquire roadworthiness certificates, knowing the stringent procedure I went through renewing mine.
Worn-out or over-inflated tyres cause accidents. Not supervising a vulcanizer after my instructions to pump my tyres to 32 psi once, my car started bouncing as soon as I got on a highway. When I went back immediately, he confidently said: “I give you 54 front, 52 rear!” He justified it saying, it makes the vehicle go faster and therefore saves on fuel!
Constant education on safety is necessary for drivers.
Roads and vehicles aside, perhaps the most important factor is the driver. No matter how good the road is and how roadworthy the vehicle is, a reckless, tired or drunken driver will still crash.
Elsewhere, an accident automatically increases a driver’s insurance premium. Subsequent infractions lead to a revocation of one’s driver’s license. Famous footballers like Didier Drogba and David Beckham were at a time banned from driving.
Anytime I cross into our neighbouring countries, the first thing which strikes me is discipline. Unlike the impunity here, all motorbikers wear helmets and obey traffic rules. Are we proud of branding ourselves as undisciplined people with excellent laws but no enforcement?
Ghana Police, please assert yourselves!
Until leaders lead, followers will capitalize on their weakness and do the wrong thing with impunity. RTAs will reduce when laws are enforced.
Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!
Brig Gen Dan Frimpong (Rtd)
Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association