Globally, road traffic crashes (RTCs) continue to take a toll on the world’s population. It is responsible for nearly 1.35 million deaths annually and almost 3,700 deaths a day. In Ghana, about 12,000 crashes are recorded yearly, resulting in an average of 2000 deaths and 12,000 injuries annually.
Available data confirms a trend of nearly 40% of crash victims sustaining serious injuries which sometimes leads to permanent disability while 70% of crash victims are males and 60% of road traffic crash victims falling within the productive age bracket of 18-55 years.
This situation notwithstanding, road safety awareness levels have improved by nearly 45% from less than 40% in 2006 to 85% in 2018, with child-related, pedestrian and passenger related deaths recording declines by 32.0%, 11.6% and 10.7%, respectively in 2018 as compared to 2006.
In Ghana, successive governments have taken steps to assume social responsibility for road safety by establishing multiple institutions, including the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA). The Authority replaces the National Road Safety Commission to champion a new agenda for road safety management.
The New Agenda
It is trite knowledge that road traffic crashes are a product of road user indiscipline. However, there is sufficient nexus between institutional irresponsibility and road traffic crashes. For instance, road agencies overlook the basics like line-markings, pedestrian crossing points, or signalized intersections, making roads poisonous for road users.
The failure of road contractors to observe work zone safety protocols have led to very avoidable and fatal crashes. Local Authorities, by their conduct, grant approvals for the abuse of pedestrian walkways leaving pedestrians with little choice than to expose themselves to danger in the roadway.
The Commission (as it then was) had no mandate to hold stakeholders accountable to their standards. This defect has been cured by establishing the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA) Act, 2019 (Act 993), which mandates the Authority to implement and enforce road safety standards by implementing new controls.
Beyond sustaining current levels of road safety awareness, the new orientation demands that Authority leads an agenda to reduce road traffic crashes, fatalities and injuries through some new controls, countermeasures, and sanctions regime. These measures are aimed at building a culture of institutional compliance with road safety standards.
Ensuring Institutional Compliance
The new road safety agenda aims to evolve a more proactive culture to road safety by duty bearers and road safety actors. To achieve this, the Authority is empowered to issue compliance notices in directives or cautions to road safety-related institutions to correct irregularities in procedures, practices, and operations necessary to prevent or minimize road traffic crashes and casualties.
The irregularities or offending activity may relate to road condition, obstructions within the road environment, including construction works, buildings, billboards, construction material, vehicle condition or driver competence in terms of knowledge, skill or physical condition or the quality of service rendered by road transport service operators. These notices are required to indicate the nature of the threat or risk to public safety, proposed remedial actions, and the timeline for the corrective action.
Consequences of Non-Compliance
Without any consequences, compliance notices are nothing but love letters. The Act provides for the suspension or revocation of license, where applicable, for institutional non-obedience with compliance notices. Further, the Authority may ensure compliance with its orders through an enforcement order from the court.
Another consequence provided under Act 993 is the opportunity to impose administrative penalties. The Authority is empowered to impose administrative penalties of not less than two thousand penalty units (GHs12,000) and not more than twenty thousand penalty units (GHs240,000) against institutions for various violations, including disregard of a compliance notice and road safety standards, failure to comply with a request for information and provision of false information among others.
Road Safety Inspectors
The Authority has appointed about 100 road safety inspectors with a job profile comparable to that of an auditor and the catalyst for a preventive mentality by road safety actors. They are empowered to examine books, documents, records, equipment and compliance with standards, procedures, rules, or regulations. They are empowered to seize and detain any equipment or device that aides the contravention of a road safety standards.
In conclusion, the change in status to an Authority has evolved an agency ready to build a proactive institutional mindset that delivers road safety as a way of life. There will be challenges but there is light at the end of the tunnel. The public are encouraged to take their place as ultimate beneficiaries to support the expected reforms
** Head of Regulations, Inspections & Compliance at the National Road Safety Authority. Can be reached on email@example.com,gh
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