There is the need for a big push in road infrastructure investment to help reduce road traffic accidents in the country.
A senior research scientist at the Building and Road Research Institute (BRRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr William Ackaah, who expressed the need, said road safety would not just happen until there was a deliberate investment in infrastructure to dualise major roads and provide pedestrian walkways, functioning street lights and road markings.
He indicated that per the United Nations stance on the Second Decade of Action on Road Safety from 2021-2030, Ghana was supposed to reduce road traffic fatalities by 50 per cent, and one key pillar which had been identified was infrastructure investment.
“We should invest in our road infrastructure because if you look at it critically, it does not make sense to allow two vehicles travelling at, say, 50 kilometres per hour to bypass each other with a simple centre line marking separating them,” he said in an interview with the Daily Graphic last Wednesday.
Statistics at the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service indicate that 771 people lost their lives in road-related accidents between January and March this year.
In 2015, some 1,802 people lost their lives through road accidents.
The number shot up to 2,084 in 2016, reduced to 1,823 in 2017 and jumped to 2,020 in 2018.
Dr Ackaah said although some human factors were responsible for road traffic accidents, such factors could be eliminated when the roads were “built to be forgiving”.
A forgiving highway is a concept that designs roads to "forgive" mistakes made on the road. It seeks to smoothly redirect vehicles that leave roads and allows wide enough space to bring vehicles to controlled stops if and when they leave the roads.
“For instance, in a place where there is a ditch, in case of a crash, a vehicle would not run into the ditch because there is a guard rail. So the roads should be designed in such a way that they are forgiving because the human being is bound to make mistakes and if he makes mistakes, he should not be punished unduly,” Dr Ackaah said.
In addition to forgiving roads, he said, the country’s high volume roads, including Accra-Kumasi and Accra-Cape Coast should be dualised to eliminate head-on collisions, the second most risky type of collision, apart from vehicular-pedestrian collision.
“So we should dualise our high volume roads; that is very important,” he said.
He said very often roads were constructed without putting measures in place to make them real roads, saying, for instance, that road markings which would help in visual guidance, especially during the night,, were not provided.
Again, he said roads were constructed without street lights to help drivers identify pedestrians, who were killed simply because they did not put on reflective clothing and so were not seen.
“If we have functioning street lights, they will go a long way to make sure that roads are clear and drivers could see very well to avoid crashes,” he said.
Dr Ackaah said a high percentage of crashes were vehicular-pedestrian collisions due to the construction of roads without providing for the pedestrian, saying that just adding a little amount of money to the road infrastructure and then providing pedestrian walkways would go a long way to help.
He said when road infrastructure was built, road traffic regulations should be enforced, saying without that, all the safety measures put in place would be abused.
The lack of maintenance of roads; for example, allowing potholes to develop on them without responding promptly to them, too could cause road traffic accidents, he stressed.
“We need to invest more in infrastructure; yes, the human factor is causing it, but most of the human factors could be eliminated with engineering. So if you build dual carriageways, there is no way somebody will engage in inappropriate overtaking which will result in head-on collision,” he said.
Dr Ackaah said apart from all the other measures, the police could also play a major role on the highways by monitoring the movement of vehicles by occasionally stopping them and asking passengers how long they could be driving to deal with fatigue, another cause of accidents.
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