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Election 2024: Why road safety should matter to political parties?

Road accidents continue to be a public health issue in the country as more people continue to die from it than from terminal diseases.

As Ghana gears up for the 2024 general election on December 7, the country is buzzing with political rhetoric and discourse, promises and electoral fervour.

While the spotlight is often on issues such as health care, education and economic policies, there is the need for all political parties to prioritise an issue that also directly impacts the lives of every Ghanaian – road safety.

I explore the disconcerting statistics surrounding road crashes, deaths and fatalities in the country, underscoring the need for urgent action to ensure the well-being of every Ghanaian on our roads.

Growing concern

Road safety is not a side issue; it is a matter of life and death. Recent statistics reveal a troubling reality, underscoring the need for urgent policy and safety action to ensure the well-being of all on the roads.

According to the latest data from the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), the number of road traffic crashes has seen an alarming rise in recent years, although there was a slight decline in 2022 compared to previous years.

In 2023 alone, there were over 14,000 reported crashes, resulting in more than 2,000 fatalities and countless injuries. These numbers represent the untold stories of families shattered, dreams extinguished and potential contributors to Ghana’s socio-economic fabric removed.

Between March 2020, when the first COVID-19 case was reported in Ghana, and March 2021, road crashes overtook the total COVID-19 deaths. This essentially means more people have died due to road carnage within the same period than the number of lives cumulatively claimed by the disease.

In the build-up to the 2016 and 2020 elections, Free SHS took centre stage in the political discourse and because of this, the education sector has received considerable attention from policymakers. It is now the turn of road safety. These are our streets. And we need the willingness and commitment of all to transform and make them safe.

Making the case: Economic impact

Undoubtedly, beyond the devastating human toll, road crashes also take a heavy toll on our economy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also estimates that road traffic crashes cost developing countries up to five per cent of their GDP annually.

Statistics from the NRSA also show that four people die daily on our roads and the country loses over $230 million yearly, due to road crashes with more than 1600 deaths.
Road crashes also contribute to property damages, medical expenses, and insurance claims, placing an economic strain on individuals and families. Moreover, crashes often lead to traffic congestion, causing delays and disrupting the smooth flow of commerce.

As former US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, aptly said, “While roads may connect us physically, road safety binds us together in the pursuit of economic prosperity. The foundation of every state is the education of its people.

In the context of road safety, this education is not only about instilling responsible behaviour but also ensuring a secure and efficient infrastructure that underpins their economic growth.”

As we head to the polls, it is crucial for political parties to consider how investing in road safety measures can contribute to the overall economic prosperity of our nation. Ghanaians want to see how the major parties would capture road safety issues in Ghana in their political manifestos and come out with a robust work plan coupled with sufficient budgetary allocations to be able to confront the Goliath of road crashes in the country.

Human Interest

One of the key factors contributing to road crashes is the state of our road infrastructure. Poorly maintained roads, inadequate signage and road markings, dysfunctional traffic and street lights are among the major contributors to the high crash rates.

Many areas within Accra, Tema, Kasoa and its environs have non-operational streets and traffic lights. A worrying trend that jeopardises the safety of road users. Every road crash statistic corresponds to a human life – a family member, a friend, or a community member.

Prioritising road safety is of great importance that political parties cannot overlook. Precious lives are always at stake. They need to demonstrate their commitment to the course. It is non-negotiable.

A focus on road safety aligns with the broader public health and well-being goals of any political agenda. Putting safety measures in place and strict enforcement of road laws, means reducing crashes, which further means fewer injuries, fewer fatalities, less strain on healthcare resources, and an overall healthier citizenry. A healthy and safe populace is fundamental to every thriving nation.

SDGs

Ghana, like many nations, has committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Road safety is directly linked to several of these goals, including Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being) and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities). Prioritising road safety aligns with international development agendas and positions.

Political parties can learn from successful road safety models implemented globally. They could incorporate advanced safety technologies, implement an effective public transportation system and prioritise sustainable urban planning.

The ripple effect of crashes extends beyond individual lives to affect families and communities. By prioritising road safety, political parties contribute to the creation of a stable and secure social environment, which is conducive to sustained development.

Conclusion

As political parties gear up for election 2024, it is crucial for them to recognise the urgency of integrating road safety into their manifestos. The statistics speak volumes about the magnitude of the issue, emphasising the need for immediate action.

To quote a former United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, “Road safety is no accident; it is a result of collective efforts. It is an investment for our future and a key component of sustainable development.”

Our choices at the ballot box can pave the way for a future where road safety is a non-negotiable priority, ensuring that every Ghanaian can travel our roads without fear. Knowing their lives are protected by comprehensive, well-enforced and effective safety measures.

The writer is a development professional with CUTS International, Accra. E-mail sny@cuts.org

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