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Tackle Ghana’s road carnage by fixing deadly highways(Article)

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Travelling by road between regions in Ghana is becoming a very risky adventure. For many, the only guarantee of a safe journey is having ‘the grace of God’ and so it is not uncommon to have relatives checking up often on their family folks who are travelling by road between any of Ghana’s 16 regions.

Road accidents are among the top 10 leading causes of death in Ghana according to the World Health Organization which estimates that about 33 people out of every 100,000 of the Ghanaian population will die through road accidents.

Despite being one of the most written about subjects in the country, not many positives can be recorded about Ghana’s road safety record. Lives are lost needlessly because of the same errors that have not been checked for so long.

Counting and announcing the death toll has become a fanciful duty, as the numerous deaths are nothing but statistics that are continuously reported and published in the media. The results? More deaths, more media publications, and a more impoverished Ghanaians who continue to lose their economically active dependents in very much avoidable road crashes.

Ghana’s Road Safety Commission and the Motor Traffic and Transport Division of the Ghana Police Service have on numerous mainly blamed road accidents on drunk-driving, over-speeding, fatigue-driving and broken down vehicles.

These reasons are valid and many will agree that they are but just a few of the causes for the fatal crashes.

You wouldn’t need to drive around Ghana so much to notice the level of recklessness and indiscipline exhibited by drivers on the country’s roads.

Road traffic accidents could be caused either by human error, mechanical faults or poor road infrastructure.

While road users cannot be absorbed from blame when such incidents occur, there is the need to urgently re-look at the country’s road infrastructure.

I daresay that the country’s existing intercity road infrastructures are nothing but beautiful stretches of death-trap littered bitumen surfaces, taking the lives of several hundred every year and by extension depriving many other dependents of much needed socio-economic support.

In a previous post I published on citinewsroom.com highlighting what I call the major highways killing Ghanaians, I expressed fear that road accidents in the country could reach alarming heights if nothing is done to address the underlining causes of the problem.

Between 2004 and 2011, there has been over 20,000 road crashes with about 35,200 casualties on just the country’s major intercity highways.

In fact, in 2018 alone, there were 13,000 reported cases of road accidents across the country, with 15,000 casualties; some of which included deaths, permanent disabilities and other costly injuries.

The Road Safety Commission (NRSC) and the Motor Traffic and Transport Division (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service may be actively carrying out their duties which are limited to addressing the human and mechanical causes of road accidents but can similar be said of Highways Authority, which is the legally mandated body responsible for ensuring a proper road infrastructure and other allied agencies?

The Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum in a report published in 2017 ranked Ghana 78 out of 137 countries in terms of quality road infrastructure (based on an extension of coverage and condition of roads).

The country scored a point of 3.9 out of 7 to take that position behind African countries such as Rwanda and The Gambia.

Anyone who has travelled extensively across the country will testify to the poor nature of highways that link major towns and regions and this is not merely about the appearance of a smooth road network but the details that make it safer or otherwise such as; nature of road curves, slope gradients, availability of shoulders, street lights, visible road markings, crash barriers among others.

I have always wondered why we should be comfortable as a people having single-carriageways for most of our inter-region roads.

Dualizing all of such roads will be one of the most important steps in curbing the rising incidents of road carnage especially as head-on collisions result in the most fatal road crashes in the country.

A study by the Road Safety Foundation in the UK found single carriageways were seven times more dangerous than dualized highways and motorways.

This would be a huge investment that would go a long way to save many lives.

Making Ghana’s case more severe is the lack of crash barriers on the sides of the roads to prevent vehicles from crashing into static objects such as trees in cases of brake failure or lack of awareness. Again, this also comes with capital cost far less than the loss of human lives.

While these are done, can we re-look at the high permissible speeding level on highways that do not have adequate safety systems?

Considering such the likely hazards the current road infrastructure in most parts of the country pose to commuters, it will be a perfect time to draw attention to the country’s Road Design Guide of nearly 20 years, that is begging to be reviewed to set the standards for our new highway constructions and guide us in bringing old ones into some level of conformity.

Highways across the country are of varying designs, due to topography among other reasons and perhaps to suit the taste and preference of donors.

In this, we see many engineering challenges road users have to overcome each time they use such highways to arrive safely at their destination.

A typical example is seen in the photo below from the N1 section of Accra-Cape Coast highway which shows one of a few unnecessary curves.

By the way, the N1 is notorious for road crashes. Between 2012 and 2018, road crashes had claimed 3,000 lives and left over 1,800 people injured on that stretch.

Its ‘parent highway, the Accra-Cape Coast Highway has remained the leading and most dangerous highway in the country. The 145 kilometre-long road had seen 6,104 road crashes with 7,465 casualties within a period of 9 years from 2004 to 2011. This means that consistently for 9 years, 2 people died or got injured in road crashes on that stretch every single day.

The situation has not significantly improved in recent statistics.

Another example is the John-Teye to Ofankor barrier road which forms part of the major Accra – Kumasi highway.

Driving alongside heavy-duty trucks on that few meters long stretch can be scary considering the that it is often used by heavy-duty trucks some of which load goods to the brim and show signs of tilt as a result of the poor slope gradient.

Former president of the Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE), Ing. Magnus Lincoln Quarshie in his “Ghana Country Report On Geometric Design” also found that on the Mallam-Yamoransa section of the N1 highway (Accra-Cape Coast road), which was designed in the 1960s, there were as many as 13 reverse curves in series at a certain place and when there was a chance for its reconstruction to be funded by the Japanese Government, it said it will only fund the pavement upgrades but not the geometric design of the road… The Ghanaian government was helpless and had to accept it.

There are many such examples countrywide and must urgently be checked.

There are claims that these infrastructures are audited but these engineering challenges have not been corrected.

I forgot to mention the gaping potholes and shoddily patched potholes some of the highways which are by themselves major dangers to road users.

It is about time Ghana’s engineers and other expert connected with road design, construction and management step up to the challenge to deal with these existing challenges that add to the potential of human errors and mechanical faults to take the lives of many innocent Ghanaians.

Many have perished when they ordinarily shouldn’t have, but we can save the next person’s life if we act on these now.

 

Columnist: Jonas Nyabor(Citinewsroom)

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