General News of Monday, 24 July 2017
As the nation debates how much the vehicle towing levy should be, abandoned vehicles on three major highways in the country continue to pose a threat to road safety.
A Daily Graphic road survey on three highways over the weekend — Accra-Cape Coast, Accra-Suhum and Accra-Sogakope — found some vehicles left at bus stops, others on the shoulders of the roads and some in the middle of the roads, which could lead to fatal consequences.
In total, there were 77 break-down or abandoned vehicles on the three highways, with some having been left on the shoulders of the road for almost two years.
Out of the 77, the 67.2-kilometre Accra-Suhum road recorded the highest number of 30 abandoned or break-down vehicles.
On the 150.7-kilometre Accra-Cape Coast road, there were 27 vehicles, while on the Accra-Sogakope road, the Daily Graphic found 20 vehicles on the 108.7-kilometre stretch.
The most dangerous stretch on the Accra-Suhum road was Dobro-Suhum, where there were 19 abandoned/break-down vehicles.
Cargo trucks, tipper trucks and mini cargo vans dominated the list of break-down vehicles.
But a private car, six commercial buses and a taxi were counted among the list.
The absence of warning triangles to caution approaching motorists about a break-down/abandoned vehicle on the road made the situation potentially life-threatening. In some instances, the owners used either leaves or car tyres to warn motorists of the danger ahead of them.
In all, there were 58 break-down vehicles without warning triangles, with the Accra-Cape Coast and the Accra-Suhum highways each recording 22 break-down/abandoned vehicles without warning triangles. The Accra-Sogakope road had 14.
Kilometres of danger
An analysis of the data for the three highways showed that on the average for all three highways, there was an abandoned or break-down vehicle after every 4.2 kilometres.
However, for the Accra-Suhum road, after every 2.2 kilometres there was a break-down vehicle. On the Accra-Cape Coast road, it was one abandoned or break-down vehicle after approximately every six kilometres, while, in the case of the Accra-Sogakope road, it was one vehicle after every 5.4 kilometres.
A driver of the Graphic Communications Group Limited, the Mr Kwabena Annan Sackey, who has been plying the Accra-Cape Coast route for almost three years, said a cargo truck now lying on its side was pushed off the shoulders of the road by residents of Awutu after a car had driven into it.
In the same town, a bus without a registration number had been left close to a mechanic shop for a long period, while the wheels had been overgrown with weeds.
Yet again, a fuel tanker, with registration number GT 255 J, with a bucket under it, had been left on the shoulders of the road, near Petrol Land, a fuel station at Gomoa Mpota.
Rather dangerously, a cargo truck, with registration number GT 6424-10, had been left on a curve right after the Apam Junction in the Central Region.
At Egyaa Number 1, there was a grader on the shoulder of the road which was said to have been left there for more than a month.
At Anomabo, a cargo truck, with an Ivorian plate numbered 5613 EG01, was said to have been abandoned there for almost two years.
Some vehicles were under repairs, especially on the Accra-Suhum road, but there were no warning triangles, while mechanics were busily working on them on the shoulders of the road.
One break-down vehicle which had been abandoned for a long period was by the Tsopoli Toll Booth, close to the Tsopoli Police Station, while another was in front of the Ada Senior High School, both in the Greater Accra Region.
Thirteen of the break-down vehicles were trucks, three were passenger vehicles, while the rest were a private car and a tractor.
On the Tema Motorway alone, eight trucks and a private car were found along both sides of the road, while some vehicles had been abandoned at Addokope, Sege, Ada, Iglisi and Tsopoli.
At the Kpone Junction, a break-down tractor had been left dangerously on the road. Unfortunately, the driver had no warning triangle and had, therefore, used leaves to warn oncoming vehicles of the danger ahead.
The rest of the vehicles, however, had been abandoned on the shoulders of the roads.
Two of the trucks and the tractors were being worked on when the Daily Graphic spotted them along the road.
It is estimated that road crashes resulting from abandoned vehicles on the road accounted for 21 per cent of deaths through road accidents in 2016.
According to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC), road accidents alone cost Ghana 1.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually, which translates into about 2,000 deaths on the average per year.
In 2015 and 2016 alone, 3,832 people died on the country’s roads, while 20,479 others were injured.
Also, almost 60 per cent of crash victims were within the productive bracket of 18 and 55 years, a development which impacts negatively on the Ghanaian economy.
It was for that reason that the towing programme was scheduled to be implemented on July 1, 2017 but was suspended because of public outcry about the fees and the monopoly to be enjoyed the Rod Safety Management Services Limited (RSMSL).
Although previous laws — Road Traffic Regulations, 1974 (LI 952) and (LI 953) — empower the police to tow away abandoned or break-down vehicles, the police often complain about logistical constraints.
However, the Road Traffic Regulations 2012 (LI 2180) gives the opportunity to private investors to partner the police to remove abandoned/break-down vehicles from the road.
In that law, the Road Safety Fee policy was born and it mandates all transport operators and vehicle and motorcycle owners to pay a yearly mandatory road safety fee each time they go to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to renew their road worthy certificates.
It was to be implemented by the NRSC, in collaboration with the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service and private entities such as the RSMSL.
The proposed fees for both commercial and non-commercial vehicles, depending on weight, range between GH¢10 and GH¢200.
But the public anger compelled it to be suspended.
Responding to the findings made by the Daily Graphic, the Public Relations Officer of the NRSC, Mr Kwame Koduah Atuahene, said the commission was helpless over the situation with the freezing of the towing levy implementation which was to start in July this year.
He said the NRSC was relying on the implementation of the towing system to reduce the carnage on the roads as a result of break-down or abandoned vehicles.
Asked whether, in the interim, private towing vehicles could not be engaged, he said the commission had tried to divide the country into six zones and allow private companies to run the zones, but that did not work.
According to him, on some stretches it could take five hours for a towing vehicle to reach accident scenes and cited the June 25, 2017 accident at Bole in which 10 people died when a mini bus collided with a cargo truck.
The Director of Education and Research at the MTTD, DSP Alexander K. Obeng, said the Daily Graphic’s findings confirmed the problems that confronted the nation.
“It is beyond police capacity. All the stations don’t have these vehicles. When the issues are reported, the police may be aware but, unfortunately, we can’t use our heads or legs to remove them. You can only use towing or recovery vehicles,” he said.
He said the towing levy was made mandatory because most commercial towing operators did not see the job as lucrative, hence a private investor who was willing had to be found and guaranteed revenue for service, maintenance and other operational costs.
He said currently in the three regions of the north, there was not a single 144-tonner vehicle that could tow away cargo trucks of heavy capacity, but the contract with RSMSL would ensure that it was provided.
DSP Obeng said the arrangement was not a monopoly, since the RSMSL would have to work with all existing companies, as well as provide 47 depots nationwide, with motorbikes that would patrol the major corridors.