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Road use without responsibility is a recipe for road crash, injuries and fatalities

The society of roadway users includes motorists, pedestrians’, cyclists and animals.

Road use is fraught with danger on account of the fact that it makes and exact demands on the user and more particularly the driver and rider. Each and every time a road user steps on the road he or she assumes a level of risk. This is so because your level of knowledge of the rules of the road may not be the same as the other user. So also is the fact that the levels of competence amongst road users differs and vary. Thirdly with increase in vehicular population, sharing the road requires skills, knowledge and sense of responsibility. Research in both the developed and developing world has established beyond the pale of doubt that when annual vehicle population of a country is between 7 and 10%, that country experiences increase in  road crash and attendant consequences namely, fatalities, injuries and property damage. It is also established that the human factor contributes close to 90% to road crash and for that matter the attendant consequences.

The thrust of this article is that a show and continuous exercise of responsibility can make a difference with regard to the occurrence of road crash and its attendant consequences.

Against the above background and the undeniable fact that human factor is largely responsible for road crash it is safe to reason that road users represent and constitute the cognate around which interventions and counter measures must revolve. In this connection the primary factor and issue is how responsible are we when it comes to the use of the road in respect of the individual and the equipment we use on the road, namely the motor vehicle.

Regulation 101 of the Road Traffic Regulations 2012 LI 2180 states as follows’ “A person driving a motor vehicle on a road shall “maintain complete control over the vehicle and full visibility of the traffic.”

Regulation 107 (1) of Road Traffic Regulation 2012 LI 2180 states as follows’ ‘’A person shall not drive a motor vehicle on a road or in a public place while holding, using or operating a cellular or mobile telephone or any other communication device in one or both hands.’’

It is common sight and has become acceptable for drivers to be receiving call on their mobile phones whilst driving. What is worrying is that one finds this behavior on the motorway, highways, roundabouts and junctions just to mention a few. How do you observe the road and concentrate when you are receiving or making a call? How do you maintain complete control over the vehicle when you are texting or receiving call? How do you obtain full visibility of the traffic when you are using texting or receiving calls? Traffic situation changes quickly and suddenly and that is why the regulation enjoins you to have full visibility. When it comes to the use of the road, responsibility is key and central in that you are responsible for your safety, the safety of your passengers and the last but not the least, the safety of other road users.

The other day I saw and observed a pregnant woman driving whilst making a call on her cell phone. Ahead of her was a truck and she was not wearing seat belt. Should the unexpected happen your guess is as good as mine.

It is said that women are generally concerned about safety when they are pregnant. This concern should cause them to wear seat belt. Studies have shown that pregnant women involved in car crashes are far safer if protected by lap and shoulder belts. The American Medical Association’s Committee on Medical aspects for automotive safety has stated that both the pregnant mother and the fetus are safer provided that the belt is worn as low on the pelvis as possible.

Motor cyclists have also now developed the habit of texting or calling when riding the motorcycle. Two wheels provide less stability than four making these vehicles harder to steer and handle than many people realize. It is worrying for motorcyclists to be riding equipment which is less stable and be texting.

It is common sight to see pedestrian walking and crossing the road with ear piece. How can you hear the noise of the engine of an approaching vehicle? A young man was killed by a passing train in Accra as he had earpiece and did not even hear the calls and claps people made towards him as his ears were virtually closed or locked and he was crashed on the rail line. The time to act is now as vehicle population is increasing annually and access to the use of the mobile phone is equally on the ascendancy. If we road users do not want to be responsible, the state should exact responsibility from us.

Quite a number of us are aware of how wearing of seat belts saves the lives of car occupants. We are also equally aware that some of our friends, relatives and fellow workers perished on the road but do we wear a seatbelt? Do we request those travelling with us to wear seat belts? It takes only three seconds to wear your seat belt to save your life. It is known that per kilometer traveled a motorcyclist is approximately 15 times more likely to die in a crash than a car occupant. Motorcyclists hardly wear helmets as some of them continue to give excuses. Some of the excuses are that helmets would cause baldness, it will block my ability to hear, helmets would cause high temperatures, and helmets would not allow me to see. These are not true; the truth is that helmets save lives. My dear readers you would be surprised to read that at Awudome cemetery and others when a motorcyclist died in road crash as a result of failure or refusal to wear crash helmet, the friends would ride accompanying the funeral cortege in a reckless manner and will not wear crash helmet. It is a common sight on Fridays and Saturdays. It is a clear indication of lack of responsibility. When you want to use the road you need to be responsible towards yourself and other road users. How have we fared in respect of the previous statement? When as a driver you wear your seat belt, do you request the other front seat and rear seat occupants to wear their respective seatbelt. Let me remind you, you owe it as an obligation and for your own safety and survival in the event of road crash to request rear seat occupants to wear seat belt. For unbelted rear gear occupants become flying missiles crashing front seat occupants in the event of the road crash particularly frontal and roll-over collisions.

A basic principle in road crash prevention is see  and be seen, for 90% of decisions that we take on the road depends on what we see. It is for that reason that eye sight is critical requirement that you must satisfy before you obtain a license or renew your drivers’ license. Why overtake in a curve when you cannot see? Why do you follow a vehicle which is overtaking another vehicle when you cannot see beyond the vehicle ahead of you? Responsibility demands of you to see clearly ahead before you begin to overtake any vehicle. Head on-collisions had claimed many lives on the road which otherwise should not have perished if we had exercised a sense of responsibility.

Pedestrians cross the road behind parked vehicles. How will a driver of an approaching vehicle see you? Further we have dark complexion but at night we wear dark clothes. How can a driver see you in your dark clothes? Many deaths have occurred as a result of the dark clothes pedestrians wear.

The road is a public road and may be likened to public facilities and common user facilities in rented houses and homes. When we live in rented homes, certain facilities namely bath houses and washrooms are shared. After bathing no one leaves the buckets at the front of the bath house whether during the day or night for fear that it would inconvenience or injure fellow residents. As the road is where the public has access to and use why is it that when our vehicles breakdown, we leave them on the road for days, weeks and months and go home to sleep. Many lives have been lost as a result of vehicles being left on the road. Regulation 83(1) of the Road Traffic Regulations 2012. LI 2080 states as follows: ‘A person shall not drive a motor vehicle on a road unless that person has in the motor vehicle a pair of advance warning triangle’

Many vehicles are being driven on the road which do not carry a pair of advance warning triangle. If the regulation is applied to the letter, vehicles without a pair of warning triangle should not be on the road. It is a sign of the responsibility to other road users if drivers have the pair of advance warning triangle in their vehicles. So that if their vehicles breakdown they would position them on the road instead of grasses, trees, tyres and yellow gallons. The warning triangle are not to be placed on top of the vehicle but on the road.

The roadworthiness of a motor vehicle is the primary responsibility of the owner or user. Brakes do not just fail, for when the system develops defects it shows or indicates by signs which owners and users tend to ignore. Some of the signs that the brakes are failing include, the vehicle sliding and loses traction during braking operations, the wheels loosing traction after braking the brakes pedal travels excessively and the brake pedal does not return quickly or not at all after it is depressed.

Hand in hand with maturity comes along a responsible attitude towards others bearing in mind that we like other road users can sometimes make mistake. A safe driver should not be irritated by other people’s mistakes instead he adapts to them.

To conclude, road crash is a major Public health problem. Research has revealed that 40% of hospital beds in teaching hospitals in developing countries are occupied by road crash victims.

What then- do we do?. When we continue to fail to exercise responsibility, the state should demand and exact it from us through enforcement.

The writer (J.M.Y Amegashie, FCILT) is a Fellow of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) & Author of Safe Driving simplified {Revised and Expanded Edition}.

jmyameg@yahoo.com.

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