Police trainer, DSP Alexander Obeng, says road traffic offences and their attendant deaths and loss of limbs would reduce significantly if a law with stricter punishments was in place.
He says even though the current law, the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act, 2008 (Act 761) is not a bad law, its predecessor, Road Traffic Act, 2004 (Act 683) was better.
DSP Obeng, who is the Director of Education, research and training at the Motor Traffic and Transport Department of the Ghana Police Service said this on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Wednesday.
He was discussing suggestions that Ghana’s current road traffic law is unreasonably liberal and lenient with offenders – a situation blamed for Ghana’s exceptionally high rates of accidents.
“Ghana is confronted with a road safety problem that has to do with preventable crashes manifesting in carnage and fatalities and perennial injuries to Ghanaians and loss of properties,” he stated.
In an effort to deal with the problem, government in 2004 passed Road Traffic Act 2004, exacting stiffer sentences and imposing heavier fines on road traffic offenders.
This law was however condemned especially by commercial drivers as too draconian.
For what some describe as political reasons, the government at the time went to Parliament in 2008 to seek an amendment of the Act, “to reduce the penalties for motor traffic offences.”
The penalties were reduced by 90 percent, rendering the 2008 Act virtually ineffective and reducing it to a mere paper tiger.
DSP Obeng said the penalties in the 2004 Act “for me were deterrent enough because in the Act 683 of 2004 for instance, if you were found drunk and you were tested with breathalyzer and it was detected that the alcohol in the breath was 35 micrograms of the 100ml volume of air that you breathed into the breathalyzer…and you were convicted, the fine will not be less than 6,000 Ghana cedis at the time. But when the transport operators were on the neck of the state, Parliament went back and amended this Act…and the penalty was slashed by almost 90% (5,400).”
This means that the same offence now carries a penalty of 600 cedis which is virtually a pat on the back.
“If these peanut sanctions are not deterrent and are not changing attitudes and drivers are continuously committing [infractions] – abusing road markings and signs, running through amber and red lights – though some are being arrested and sent to court they go and come and some are now becoming repeat offenders because the penalties are not biting enough, it is up to Parliament to review the law,” he stated.
The Head of Communications at the National Road Safety Commission, Mr. Kwame Koduah Atuahene who was also on the show, said research conducted by the Commission showed clearly that road users were aware of the country’s road safety regulations.
What the problem is, he argued, is that “when you infringe on these laws and the consequences are not [punitive] enough to deter you from indulging in the same conduct, there is the tendency for one to return to the bad ways.”
He said even under the previous Act where the punishments for road traffic offences were prohibitive, some drivers still flouted the rules “and unfortunately, in 2008 we are all privy to what happened and we had to revise the penalties.”