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Street Funerals And Road Safety In Ghana   
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The celebration of newly commissioned roads in the country has gradually become a norm, particularly in the small towns and rural communities.

Its main competitor, perhaps, is the celebration of newly appointed ministers and district chief executives.

No road is commissioned without a celebration of a sort. For some, the commissioning of a road is an opportunity for homecoming and a time to re-position the community for accelerated development.

One is sure to see quality Ghanaian 'kente' at display at such functions as chiefs join politicians for the red-tape ceremony, which could mark a holiday for both farmers and pupils in the locality.

Such celebrations are normally done amidst drumming and dancing with a lot to eat and drink, sometimes at the site of the newly commissioned road.

It is sad however to note that soon after the ‘mega’ celebration, the roads, particularly township roads are transformed into venues for funerals, outdooring ceremonies and other social events.

During these social events, especially funerals, the road is sometimes blocked to vehicles and at other times, vehicles and mourners sort themselves out jostling for space.

In one such melee, a young man got knocked down by a vehicle at a wake-keeping in Ho.

A middle-aged man was also said to have sustained some injuries when an “okada”, or commercial motorbike rider, raced through a group of mourners in a town nearby.

Reports of vehicles running over mourners in the street abound across the country.

The death of Sammy is still fresh in mind. “How did he die, when and where” were questions some of his kinsmen asked repeatedly.

His doubting grandmother said, “He just passed by and gave me money for supper. How can he just die”, she asked in denial, weeping uncontrollably.

It appeared inexplicable. Sammy was knocked-down dead by a private car while buying food at the roadside few metres away from a funeral event taking place in the street.

He had deep cuts on his head with blood and liquid gushing from the cuts; his colleague taxi drivers wailed unceasingly at the accident scene.

During Sammy’s funeral, two other pedestrian knock-downs were reported quite close to the funeral ground.

The two persons survived, with some degrees of injury - best described as ‘ko fie ko wu, (to wit, ‘go home and die”).

This brings to mind how my grandmother died from her wounds years back on being knocked down by a bicycle rider.

Though Sammy’s funeral was not done in the street, it recorded quite a number of road crashes and pedestrian knock-downs due to its closeness to a highway.

Pedestrian knock down is on the increase and becoming a big threat to road safety in most parts of the country.

Currently, pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users in the country, accounting for almost 43 per cent of all road traffic related deaths and injuries, according to National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) statistics.

The NRSC says two out of every five road traffic deaths affect a pedestrian, putting the highly diverse road user group, namely children, older people and teenagers at a high risk nationwide.

The use of roads for household activities is another major contributing factor to pedestrian knock-downs in the country.

It is common to see urban and rural dwellers turn culverts and bridges into social centres where young people rest. This is predominant in the small towns. In some rural areas, people wash and dry their dishes and clothes on the road.

In urban areas, jaywalking or walking leisurely, is the practice with many people getting knocked down in their attempt to cross the road at places not designated for that.

Few days after the NRSC launched the “Be Alert!,Look out for other road users” campaign, a taxi driver in an attempt to beat the traffic light at the Ho High Court, ran over a hen together with four out of her seven chicks.

I am also a witness to motorbikes knocking down pedestrians at the same place as if to welcome the “Be Alert! Look out for other road users” campaign.

The campaign appears to be doing well in the Volta Region with the introduction of crossing aids to schools along major roads.

Mr Sebastian Akyeampong, Volta Regional Manager of the NRSC said knock-downs have reduced drastically in the urban centres but still high in rural settings, with the Region recording 168 pedestrian knock-downs in the first half of 2013.

A random survey by the GNA in Ho shows that school children, teachers and parents are happy with the crossing aids.

A major concern, however, is to get drivers, both commercial and private, to respect the rights of other road-users.

Interestingly, most drivers assume that roads are for vehicles only and do not see pedestrians as legitimate road users.

Driving schools must therefore educate drivers on the need to treat pedestrians as legitimate road users.

That way, both drivers and pedestrians can communicate effectively on the road (use of eye contact) to ensure safe use of the road.

It is also important for the NRSC to conduct regular road audits and address issues concerning walkways, signalized intersections and footbridges to ensure pedestrian safety. Markings on some pedestrian crossings have faded and must be re-done for visibility.

This year’s mid-year review of the NRSC held recently observed that most Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies do not show interest in road safety issues. The assemblies must outlaw the practice of holding social events on roads to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

Kudos to the NRSC for reducing road crashes by 4.6 per cent in the past six months, but obviously more efforts are needed to reduce pedestrian knock-downs.

All road users must “be alert and look out for other road users.”
Pedestrians must use pedestrian crossing points, walkways and intersections and desist from jaywalking. Ghana needs all her populace alive and well, so they can continue to keep the engine of development running.
Source: GNA

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