Safety devices are important to our everyday life. Many accidents happen every single day and proper use of safety restraints have saved many lives.
Road safety is an important factor that must be adhered to all times to ensure the safety of operators of vehicles mostly drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
In recognition, the National Road Safety Commission- Accra, launched its first ever road safety strategy as parts of the effort to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries in the city on 1st November, 2018.
The strategies according to the Commission spanned from 2018 to 2030, a strategy developed in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropist initiative for Global Road Safety and Africa Transport programme.
Purpose of the road safety strategy
The main aim for the launch of the strategies was to help reduce road fatalities. The main four key risk factors that were provided for in the strategies included: driving without seatbelts, speeding, drunk driving and not wearing of helmets.
Importance of seatbelts
Seatbelts are known to be one of the most effective and important safety feature that help protect a driver or passenger in a collision and minimizes severity of injuries and deaths, prevent the body from being hurled forward when a vehicle stops or jerks suddenly and also prevent you from being thrown out of a vehicle when the vehicle somersaults.
Millions of lives can be saved and injuries prevented with well enforced road safety laws in speeding, drinking and driving, the use of seatbelts, child restraints and motor cycle helmets. According to facts presented by World Health Organisation (WHO) most recent Global Health estimates and the Global Status reports, vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclist and riders of motorized 2 &3-wheel account for half of all road traffic deaths around the world as a result of not adhering to safety road measures. Again according to WHO, a correctly used seatbelt reduces the chance of injuries and death by more than half in both high and low speed road traffic crashes. One may ask, what then account for rampant road accidents recently in Ghana? A lot of people share their ideas as to what causes these road accidents. In reference to Star Fm’s Morning Star show, former chief executive officer of DVLA, Francis Abban stated on the show saying “about 80% of the problem is law enforcement. If you make the attempt to punish errant drivers, it gets political and then law enforcement fizzles out”. Also, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joe Osei-Owusu also blamed the rising road carnage in the country on poor law enforcement. I also admit that sometimes, road accidents are not only as a result of poor law enforcement but rather poor driving focus, not wearing of seatbelts by drivers and passengers and as well as drinking of alcohol by drivers.
Also the use of mini buses and trucks as a means of passenger transport partly accounts for the undesirably high levels of Road Traffic Crashes in most low and middle-income countries because most of these vehicles do not have seatbelts provided for drivers and passengers.
What the 1992 constitution of Ghana says about seatbelts.
It is an offense in Ghana, stated in the road traffic act enacted in 2004 in article 683 section 13a & b which states “that a person of age 18 years or above who drives a motor vehicle on road or sit in the front or rear seat of a motor vehicle being driven on a road without wearing seatbelt commit an offence liable on a summary conviction to a fine not exceeding 100 penalty points or imprisonment for aa term not exceeding six(6) months or both”. This particular law makes it mandatory for all vehicle occupants to wear seatbelt though the compliance level by vehicle occupants is extremely low in Ghana.
In an interview with a Lance Corporal and Road Traffic officer, Ephraim Adzigbli, on what the punishment of a driver without a seatbelt would be, in response, this is what he said “whenever I come across a driver without a seatbelt, the first thing I do is to caution the driver and this is in a form of advice by explaining to the driver the importance and benefits of wearing seatbelt. But in a case where the driver reacts in a rude or arrogant manner by repeating the same act the next time as though he knows more than the police officer, then we impound or arrest the car for the owner to appear at the police station for a due process to be taken for further investigations and at the end the law of the land must be applied”
Also, speaking to some commercial drivers at Circle Neoplan Station, some of the drivers admitted that wearing seatbelts are very important and so they influence passengers who sits at the front of their vehicles to fasten their seatbelts.
Spotting a few without their seatbelts also explained that though wearing of seatbelts is important, their vehicles have become old and in one way or the other they have lost their seatbelts or the seatbelts are loose and not functioning anymore.
Speaking to a passenger with the name Precious, in one of the vehicles, she also expressed herself saying “I like to put on seatbelts but most often the commercial vehicles I board to work or places do not have seatbelts in them”
In addition, speaking to an accident victim and survivor Osei Yaw at Kasoa, he also admitted saying “I am a victim of road accident on the Winneba road and I regret not wearing seatbelt at the time I had my accident”
Why belt up for more life?
This is because, accidents occur unannounced. According to the National Road Safety Commission, thousands of people die or pick up injuries annually in car accidents either by not observing road signs or road safety measures which seatbelt is a part of.
In conclusion, I will entreat all Ghanaians to wear seatbelts to save more lives. In addition, law enforcement agencies such as the police service and MTTU should also enforce the law by punishing offenders without politicizing it and also there should be a campaign on the wearing of seatbelts to sensitize drivers and passengers as well as vehicle operators.