Imagine you are driving on a highway in Ghana. You are enjoying the scenery and the breeze. You are listening to your favourite music and chatting with your friends. You are looking forward to reaching your destination and having a good time.
Suddenly, you hear a loud bang. You feel a jolt. You see smoke and fire. You smell blood and gasoline. You hear screams and sirens. You realize you have been involved in a road accident.
This is not a horror movie. This is a reality for many Ghanaians who use the roads every day. Road traffic accidents are a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Ghanaians. They are also a drain on the economy and a hindrance to development. However, they are not inevitable; they can be prevented and reduced if there is a concerted effort from all stakeholders involved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a global health crisis that has claimed millions of lives and disrupted the normal functioning of societies. But there is another pandemic that has been silently ravaging Ghana for decades: road traffic accidents. According to the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), road traffic crashes, injuries and deaths (CIDs) have been consistently high in Ghana, despite some reductions in 2022 and 2023.
In 2021, Ghana recorded 14,960 crashes, 15,690 injuries and 2,373 deaths, representing 7.55 per cent, 1.54 per cent and 20.1 per cent reductions, respectively, compared to the year 2020. However, these numbers are still alarming, considering that on average, six lives are lost per day in Ghana to road traffic crashes. In the first half of 2022, Ghana recorded 7,687 crashes, 7,997 injuries and 1,300 deaths, showing a slight improvement from the same period in 2021.
In the first two months of 2023, Ghana recorded 2,222 crashes, 2,452 injuries and 321 deaths, representing 15.35 per cent, 8.27 per cent and 31.56 per cent reductions respectively, compared to the same period last year. While this may seem like a positive trend, it does not erase the fact that road traffic accidents are still a major public health and development challenge in Ghana.
These statistics do not capture the full extent of the human suffering and economic losses caused by road traffic accidents. Behind every number is a story of pain, grief and trauma for the victims and their families. Road traffic accidents also impose a huge burden on the health system and national development. According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic injuries cost Ghana about 1.6 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually.
On May 30th, 2023, a ghastly accident at Gomoa Okyereko on the Accra-Cape Coast highway claimed the lives of 16 people and injured over 40 others. The accident involved a Youtong bus with registration number GT 5866-L and a fuel tanker with registration number WR 2063-10. The cause of the accident is not yet known, but eyewitnesses said it occurred after a head-on collision between the two vehicles at about 5 am.
This tragic incident is just one of the many examples of how road traffic accidents have become a menace in Ghana. According to the NRSA, on average, six lives are lost per day in Ghana to road traffic crashes. This means that every four hours, someone dies on our roads. This is unacceptable and preventable.
Who is to blame for road accidents in Ghana?
One might think that road accidents are caused by bad luck, fate or destiny. One might also think that they are unavoidable and unpredictable. Others might think that they are just part of life and nothing can be done about them.
These thoughts could be wrong.
Road accidents are not random events. They are not acts of God. They are not inevitable. They are the result of human actions and decisions. They are the outcome of a complex interaction of factors that can be identified, analyzed and addressed.
Some of the most common factors that cause road accidents in Ghana are:
Road traffic accidents have devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole. Some of the consequences are:
A Shared Responsibility and a Collective Action
Road safety is a shared responsibility and a collective action that demands the involvement and collaboration of all parties concerned. Road accidents are not inevitable; they can be prevented and reduced if there is a concerted effort from all stakeholders involved. Some of the possible solutions are:
Road traffic accidents are a real pandemic in Ghana that need urgent attention and action. They are not inevitable; they can be prevented and reduced by adopting a holistic and comprehensive approach that addresses the human, vehicle and road factors that contribute to them. By doing so, we can save lives, prevent injuries, reduce costs and enhance development in Ghana.
Joshua Gyaminu is a community health nurse and a dental surgery technician based in Ghana. He has a certificate in community health nursing and a diploma in dental surgery. He has been working in various health facilities and communities in Ghana, providing primary health care and oral health services. He is passionate about road traffic accidents and their prevention, as he has witnessed the devastating effects of road crashes on his patients and their families. He is interested in learning more about road safety interventions and sharing his knowledge and experience with others.
World Health Organization. (2018). Global status report on road safety 2018. https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565684
World Bank. (2020). The high toll of traffic injuries: Unacceptable and preventable. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/transport/publication/the-high-toll-of-traffic-injuries-unacceptable-and-preventable
National Road Safety Authority. (2020). Annual report 2020. http://www.nrsc.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/NRSA-Annual-Report-2020.pdf
Ghana Police Service. (2020). Motor Traffic and transport department annual report 2020. http://www.police.gov.gh/en/index.php/motor-traffic-and-transport-department-mttd/