Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I told "Daily Graphic" about Combatting Road Indiscipline


1Over the weekend, Daily Graphic journalist Samuel K Obour (https://www.facebook.com/skobour) contacted me to seek my opinions for the "forum" section of Saturday's "GRAPHIC". Here are what you're likely to see.


    What are your views on the spate of road accidents in the country?

I think it’s frankly criminal that Ghana is becoming known as an accident-prone country, especially when we have a National Road Safety Commission that is supposed to advocate for discipline on the roads. We complain about potholes till the cows come home, yet as soon as they get repaired, we abuse the smooth roads and kill ourselves. Is that not a reflection of our indiscipline? Couple this with the continuous use of BENZ 207s, which happen to be owned by private citizens, by tro-tro drivers and we have a situation where the private owners of these vehicles appear more interested in the bottom line at the end of the day, than the service they provide for passengers.

2.    Would you say the high spate of road accidents is bad for our country's image?
Absolutely. I do not think any one can understand a situation where people complain about the potholes, but then are killed when the roads are good. It says to people that we are terribly unserious and that our institutions are also not working the way they should. This is unfortunate because I have interacted a number of occasions with the NRSC and they do do good work. Sadly, I think they have not yet capitalized on the social media experience to reach out to people – especially the youth who are increasingly getting onto the roads at younger ages, and are “accident-averse “. 

3.    What do you think are the causes of road accidents in the country?
If I were to enumerate them, the number one cause would be road indiscipline, especially by tro-tro drivers and commercial drivers. 

I don’t want to make the mistake of casting the net writ large and accusing all commercial drivers of being illiterate, because I have even met a few graduates in these capacities, but I do want to say that most of them are semi-illiterate. This does not help because it means that they are unable to understand road signs in the way that literate people would do. They are also unlikely to understand the reasons behind certain signs, or who has right of way, that kind of thing. So, my second point would be road safety illiteracy. 

Third, poor communication by NRSC. As the frontline agency promoting road safety, its efforts are at best minimalist. It needs to do more outreach, especially to the youth who are likely to be more reckless than people of my parent’s generation. Let’s be frank: anyone can drive a car, but not everyone can understand that you don’t overtake when there are double-lines, or that a curve is the most dangerous place to overtake. The youth and young-at-heart are likely to take foolish and stupid risks, which if the NRSC preempted, could target effectively.  The NRSC needs to get serious on New Media (FB/twitter) and make toll-free numbers for ALL networks—not just for Expresso, MTN and one or two. 

As for the TEMA motorway, the government must get serious on using targeted communication to users of that motorway, and fix back the phone booths that the visionary Kwame Nkrumah established when the motorway was built. Even if mobile phones are de rigeur, there is no reason one cannot complement these booths with the promotion of excellent network coverage for subscribers to be able to call emergency numbers 24/7.

4.    What should be done to tackle the road accident menace?
Pls see above!

5.    Your conclusion
Pls see above, but also: TV3 / Metro TV/ Net2 and all our TV and radio stations should set up MMS services so that people can send pictures freely and easily to their servers, which can relayt these to the police. The police, for example, had a twitter account on @ghanapolice. Since March, it has not been working. If it did work, those on social media could send pictures to those working on the GHANA POLICE twitter account.

In short, Ghana Police should act both as a SERVICE and a FORCE to ensure that they establish links with agencies like the NRSC to give us a sustainable and healthy Ghana we so long for.
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