At the end of every year, most organisations hold meetings to take stock of their activities and make projections for the coming year. Stakeholders in road safety management are no exception. The country according to statistics from the National Road Safety Commission, as of the end of November 2016, recorded a total of 11,378 road crashes involving 17,746 vehicles. The crashes resulted in 1,990 deaths with 10,154 injuries. The Commission attributes the increase to the 2016 electioneering activities. This year, the Commission intends to focus its road safety programmes on motor riders, driving without seat belts among others.
It is laudable that the National Road Safety Commission has identified areas that it wants to focus on to reduce accidents. While stakeholders in road safety take steps to reduce accidents, the country was hit with separate accidents last weekend which left 19 people dead. Commenting on the incidents, the Commission attributes 50 percent of road accidents in Ghana to over speeding. The Commission describes the trend as worrying especially as research has shown that the country loses about one point eight percent of GDP through accidents annually. It is in this regard that drivers and other road users need to be extra careful in order to curtail the situation. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, DVLA, has started some projects to reduce the bureaucracy in the acquisition of driving licence. This is to encourage prospective applicants to resort to the right channel to acquire licence. One group being targeted is graduates looking for jobs. The graduates will become competitive considering the fact that most companies require applicants who can drive.
The DVLA has therefore initiated what is termed Tertiary Drive also known as ‘Tertdrive’ to afford tertiary students the opportunity to learn how to drive while in school. The idea is to ensure that students acquire genuine driving license in a hassle -free environment. Under the project, the acquisition of the driving licence which includes training, testing, personalisation and insurance of licence will be done on Campus. As part of the project, tertiary institutions will be allowed to establish their own driving schools with the approval of DVLA. This project will go a long way to eliminate the activities of middlemen popularly called ‘goro’ boys.
It is no secret that the cumbersome nature of acquiring driving licence most often push prospective applicants to seek alternative ways of getting the license. While commending the DVLA for this initiative, the Authority must consider extending this offer to Organisations whose staff hardly get time to go through the cumbersome nature of acquiring licence. The DVLA should also collaborate with transport unions to ensure that their members use the right channel to acquire license. Most of these drivers start as drivers' mate and learn driving on the job. After a year or two, they use any means to acquire licence and most of the time through the ‘goro’ boys. This is because most of them with no formal education try to avoid the right channel of acquiring a driving licence. If this laudable initiative is introduced to them and the training done in a language that they will understand, it will help eliminate the activities of ‘goro’ boys, and go a long way to reduce the carnage on the road.
The National Road Safety Commission, NRSC, and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, DVLA, need the support of the public for their road safety programmes to be successful. The call goes to other stakeholders such as those responsible for road markings and patching potholes to live up to their responsibilities. Potholes in most parts of the country are fast developing into gullies and the road markings have faded off, while the authorities responsible for this look on unconcerned. Once a while, people are seen patching portions of the road, but just a downpour and the holes deepen. When this happens, one is tempted to think those who do the work are not professionals. It is the hope of all Ghanaians that officials responsible for patching the potholes and making road markings visible will emulate the example of DVLA to save precious lives.
Recording deaths through needless road accidents is a blot on the national conscience, and the time to reverse this sad situation is NOW.
By Ernest Obeng- Anim, a journalist.