Road accidents are catastrophic in Ghana. Apart from inflicting various degrees of injuries, they have also claimed numerous lives.
A recent report from the Motor Traffic and Transport Department of the Ghana Police Service indicated that in road crash statistics gathered for the first quarter of 2023, 544 people were killed in various road accidents in the country.
The statistics also revealed that a total of 3,340 cases were recorded between January to March 2023, a 15.0 per cent reduction compared to the same period in 2022.
According to the figures, the Greater Accra Region had the highest number of recorded crashes 1,243 among the 16 regions while the Oti Region recorded 15 cases being the least.
Another report conducted by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service for July 2023 also revealed that road crashes increased by 4.31 per cent and deaths resulting from road crashes also increased by 30.07 per cent for the period and a total of 1,233 crashes were recorded involving 2,099 vehicles with 186 deaths leaving 1328 persons injured in 2023.
The report from the Ghana Statistics Research Department indicated that road traffic crashes in Ghana 2021, by region, the country reported 48 cases of road traffic accidents in the Eastern region, which recorded the highest number of road crashes, followed by the Greater Accra and Central regions, each with 43 cases with overall, 240 road accidents were reported in the country on that year.
There are a multitude of reasons like human mechanical and environmental factors for speeding, overtaking, overloading, reckless driving, fatigue, drunk driving, drugs, not wearing of seat belt and helmet, sleeping when driving, cell phone calls during driving, bad road network.
Ghana is one of the middle-income countries in which most of the injuries from trauma occur due to carelessness in practising road traffic rules and regulations.
Road traffic accidents also involve overloading and speeding which have been one of the major causes of road accidents in Ghana, accounting for the higher per cent of cars crashes.
Statistics from the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) show that four people die daily on Ghanaian roads and the country loses over 230 million dollars yearly due to road accidents with more than 1600 deaths.
It stated that the loss correlated to 1.7 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product which is affecting National Development.
Overloaded vehicles and overspeeding on the road, especially freight vehicles, are destroying our road, impacting negatively on economic growth, the damage caused grows exponentially as the load increases.
Damage to roads as a result of overloading leads and speeding to higher maintenance and repair costs and shortens the life of a road placing an additional burden on the state and law-abiding road users who ultimately carry the costs of careless and inconsiderate overloading.
Overloading vehicles threaten road safety and are contributing to many of the fatal accidents on roads, and putting the driver and passengers at risk.
The overloading and speeding of a vehicle can cause the tyres to overheat and wear rapidly which increases the chance of premature, dangerous and expensive failure or blowouts.
The driver’s control and operating space in the overloaded vehicle are diminished, escalating the chances of an accident.
The overloaded vehicle cannot accelerate as normal which would make it difficult to overtake.
At night, the headlights of an overloaded vehicle will tilt up, blinding oncoming drivers to possible debris or obstructions on the roadway.
The brakes have to work hard due to the riding of brakes and because the vehicle is heavier due to overloading, brakes can also be overheated and lose effectiveness to stop the car.
Apart from the risks involved in overloading and speeding a vehicle, the driver and the car owner would spend on higher maintenance costs to the vehicle, especially on the tyres, brakes, shock absorbers and higher fuel consumption.
Dr Noel Tolgou Yempabe, Consultant Orthopaedic and head of the Trauma Unit at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH) said road traffic injuries constituted a major health problem in the country.
He lamented that the legal framework of car insurance for road traffic accident payment delays and affects medical treatment, which could also lead to disability, emotional trauma or loss of lives.
According to him, the consequences of road traffic injuries are crucial for everyone on the roads and stakeholders should explore the potential ramifications of such incidents.
He also attributed most of the trauma cases were the cost of delays at the traditional bonesetters’ centres, resulting in trauma related to deaths, amputations and disabilities, especially among children.
Mr Bawa Salifu, who is a Person with disability and shared his experience during an interview with GNA said he had a road accident some few years ago which disabled him.
He now depends on his family and friends who take care of him, as he can no longer walk.
The Societal implication
Apart from the personal consequences, road traffic accidents also have societal implications such as the economic cost of road traffic injuries is substantial, including medical expenses, loss of productivity, and property damage.
The costs are borne by individuals, insurance companies, and the healthcare system and moreover, road traffic accidents can lead to congestion, delays, and increased insurance premiums for all road users.
Legal Implications and Compensation
In the aftermath of a road traffic accident, legal implications arise, and seeking compensation becomes paramount.
Victims have the right to pursue a personal injury claim to recover their losses and receive compensation for their pain and suffering.
If successful, compensation can cover various aspects, such as medical expenses, loss of earnings, rehabilitation costs, and property damage, additionally, victims may be eligible for compensation for the impact of the injuries on their quality of life, including physical and psychological suffering.
It is highly recommended to seek legal guidance from friendly claims specialists, with experience in road traffic accident claims to guide the victims through the legal process and assess the strength of your case.
Dr Yempabe recommended that the government should deliver a plan for emergency care services in all the hospitals around the country by providing enough healthcare delivery equipment to improve quality health care delivery.
He also called on other International Health Organisations to support Ghana’s health sector with medical equipment and to sponsor most of the road traffic accident victims who could not afford to pay for their medical treatment due to their financial challenges.
Dr Dominic Konadu-Yeboah, the Head of Trauma and Orthopaedics at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in a discussion with GNA gave a short education on how to give first aid to the injured person as the eyewitness.
He said the first step is the limb with a fracture must be splinted and elevated to reduce swelling and occult bleeding into the site of the fracture.
The second step is if there is severe visible bleeding from a fracture site apply direct pressure using a clean cloth and elevate the affected limb to control the bleeding
The third step was to apply ice to a fracture site which also helps to reduce limb swelling and relieve pain and send the patients to the nearby hospital for early treatment to save lives.
Dr.Yempabe advised the public to send patients with trauma cases to hospital services for proper treatment to reduce deaths and disability in society.
Mr Bawa Gamsah, the Northern Regional Road Safety Director said there should be enforcement of wearing seat belts when driving and also wearing a helmet when riding the motorbike or tricycles which can also prevent more injuries and deaths.
He also appealed to the government to support the road safety agencies with adequate resources such as funds, and more staff to improve the awareness creation and education on road safety as part of the fight against road traffic accidents in the country.
He added that mostly in the Northern sector, most of the riders are under age riding without a license which also needed to be addressed by the stakeholders including parents and guardians.
Mr Abdulai Mutawakilo, the Northern Regional Manager for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) appealed to road users to follow the Road Vehicle Regulations 2022 which were amended on the offence to include any use of a hand-held mobile phone or other interactive communication device when using the road.
He also encouraged all road users to regularly check their own eyesight to prevent drivers with visual disorders when driving.
The government should build a strong partnership with road safety stakeholders such as the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Road and Highways, National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to undertake probable solutions to fix the problem caused by human-related factor on road transport system by implementing a safety systems approach.
Stakeholders in the road and transport sector should collaborate to establish an element which would apply to all road users, including drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists to ensure compliance with the law to avoid causing harm on the roads.
The highway authorities and road operators must therefore implement an efficient checking system to enforce weights and dimensions at an affordable cost.
The government should provide a large-scale project as part of the transport system to demonstrate the feasibility of using high-speed weight motion to direct enforcement of overloaded vehicles.
With all these challenges it will be expedient for the Government to support teaching hospitals nationwide to organise training workshops for medical practitioners yearly, to enhance their capacities in providing quality health care for the populace.
Non-governmental Organisations and philanthropic institutions must also assist trauma and orthopaedic departments across the country for proper rehabilitation and integration of patients into society.
By Comfort Sena Fetrie