Opinions Mon, 19 Aug 2013

The hidden cause of road accidents and deaths

Road accidents have become one of the leading causes of deaths in Ghana; Efforts by government to reduce road accidents have been coupled with road safety awareness and education etc. although it has helped in a way but has not help totally curb the menace because of the increasingly occurrences but the primary cause of these accidents is hidden.

The National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) announced that there were 19 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles in 2010. In 2011, there were 2,330 road accidents bringing it to an average of 7 accidents per day across the country. In 2012, by November ending, 13,535 crashes have been recorded resulting over 2,069 deaths in Ghana. In December 2012 alone, 246people died and 1,260 were injured in car accidents. According to the Commission, the major cause of road accidents in Ghana is due to over speeding. This accounts for 60% of car crashes in the country,

Whilst the religious Ghanaians attribute road accidents to some superstitious and religious believes, To the Road Safety Management Services Limited, The first major cause of road accidents in Ghana is poor driving skills, Drivers talking on mobile phones while driving, Gross indiscipline, broken down vehicles on our roads, driving on worn/second hand tyres, Over-loading of vehicles, Fatigue driving by long-distance drivers, drunk driving, Non-existent road markings and signs , these reasons without any shred of doubt are all credible facts accepted by all including myself.

That notwithstanding, my knowledge in Materials engineering, gained from the Kwame Nkrumah university of science and technology gives me an additional different picture of the causes of road accidents and deaths in Ghana. It is about time we flip the coin to make a careful observation of the geometry of its other side. A car is first and foremost a mechanical vessel which operates in line with scientific principles. We live in a world of advance technology and therefore causes of accidents can best be induced by engineering analysis. It is an undisputed fact that the vast majority of cars imported into this country are second hand with most of them being faulty due to the high cost maintenance and repairs overseas. Interesting enough, when they reach the shores of Ghana, they are handed over to mechanics known in the local parlance as “fitters” to undertake their repairs. These mechanics to the best of their knowledge and by improvising, try to fix these faults without the necessary precautions. It is very common to see these mechanics remove say ten bolts and sometimes refit less than the initial ten only for you to be told “ensie hwee” meaning it will cause no harm, this is the genesis of the canker. It is common to see the production of leaf springs (a suspension devise, Besides supporting the weight of a vehicle, the leaf springs control the ride height and keep the tires in contact with the road) and castings for replacement of worn out parts at Suame Magazine from steel scraps without any material selection process, materials compositional analysis nor structural analysis, microstructure and composition determines the properties of engineering materials. Furthermore no destructive or nondestructive test is done to ascertain the susceptibility of micro cracks that can lead to structural failure.

Locally manufactured break bands cannot be swept under the carpet as it contributes to most of the break failures of cars in Ghana. Vulcanization, an extremely chemical process has been left in the hands of people with no or little knowledge in the field and known locally as “BURGANIZERS” which I can say with authority, contributes majority of tyre bursting and failures than the only focus on worn out and second tyres.

Remember in advance countries like the United States, Germany and UK, without the requisite knowledge in a related field of engineering or mechanics and certification, you are not allowed to operate a garage. Welding in Ghana is done by these same mechanics with no scientific knowledge in that field including electrode selection, type of weld joint and the like. This is the cause of failing billboards on our roads and some mechanical failures of cars leading to road accidents in Ghana. It will also be of good help if driving is incorporated into the academic syllabus of tertiary institutions in Ghana and moreover the Ghana standard Authority and the authorized agencies must set standards for some of these locally manufactured car parts.

Inasmuch as I respect and admire the contributions made by these local technicians in providing services both domestic and industry, I think a comprehensive training and certification of both road side fitters and university trained engineers will not only reduce road accidents but also create employment for the unemployed graduates in those fields and also reduce the rate of avoidable deaths which occur through road accidents.

Boamah Seth Panyin actseth@gmail.com

Columnist: Boamah, Seth Panyin