Mr Speaker, there was a time many people attributed the level of accidents in the country to the bad nature of roads that we have. Others used to attribute accidents to defective vehicles that were common on our roads and yet others blamed it on lack of road furniture to give adequate warning to road users and drivers.
Mr Speaker, looking at the modern design of roads we have in the country now, one can say that some of these arguments do no longer hold. We have a lot of beautiful roads; we have furniture and road markings although not all of them, we have very good vehicles on our roads now, yet we have not been able to bring down the spate of accidents in this country. This is why I rightly agree with my Hon Colleague who just made his contribution to the issue of the human factor.
I think that in this country, the level of recklessness is just so much. If you see some of our drivers on our roads, they think that they are taxing on a runway to take off as an aeroplane. There are others who want to use the roads as a kind of laboratory for testing their driving skills, testing how fast their vehicles are and so on and so forth, and this has been leading to this level of accidents in the country.
Mr Speaker, I think that the Hon Member who made the Statement also mentioned some of the measures that he thinks should be employed to stem the tide of road accidents in this country, and I would want to add the health status of our drivers. Some of them have conditions like diabetes, others have high blood pressure, and these are conditions that normally affect the driver, particularly those who drive long distances.
I think that we can only succeed in minimising or eliminating road accidents if, indeed, we invite the Ministry of Health as a partner to the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) and the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service to make sure that commercial drivers in particular, go through constant and regular routine medical check-up, to see that these two conditions do not affect them.
This is because if you look at most of the accidents that have been recorded so far, particularly on good roads, you would realise that accidents still happen on roads that have recently been built. In fact, when the Hon Member who made the Statement mentioned Buipe-Tamale, it is one of the best roads that we can get in this country. In fact, if you should drive on the road now, you would think that you are on some kind of a tarmac, ready to fly an aeroplane. Yet, we keep recording high level of accidents and one attribute to some of them of these things.
Mr Speaker, I also want to make a suggestion. I think that the Ministry of Roads and Highways, through the Road Safety Commission, need to re-examine the type of licence that we have. In some jurisdictions, when you are given a licence as a driver, you are given maximum points; maybe, 20. Each time you are involved in an accident, some amount of points are deducted from your licence. So, when you get to zero, that is your end because you can no longer drive and you will not be given a licence.
If we do not start doing some of these things, Mr Speaker, we shall continue to experience these high accidents in this country. So, let us explore that possibility. Whoever goes for a licence, can be given a maximum of 100 points or 20 points. Depending upon the type of accident, it would attract some kind of penalty. They
would keep deducting your points until you get to zero; that is your end. This way, people would be more careful, more conscious when they are sitting behind their driving wheels and driving on the roads.
The other suggestion I would want to make, Mr Speaker, which must be worth examining, is the possibility of instituting heavy penalties and heavy sanctions on our drivers. Can you imagine; if you club somebody to death, we know the penalty that it attracts in our law courts; if you take a dagger to stab somebody to death, we know the penalty that it attracts; if you take a gun to shoot somebody, we know the penalty that it attracts, but that might involve only one individual, when you kill one individual.
Here is a driver, through his care- lessness and recklessness, 50 people die, 20 people die, 30 people die, five people die, three people die, some are maimed for life and therefore, maybe, incapacitated -- to be useful to themselves, to the society and to their families -- and yet we have said that we blame it on accidents, and because it is an accident, the driver should go scot free.
Please, I think it is high time we started really punishing the drivers through whose negligence and recklessness -- As my Hon Colleagues have said, if you are doing wrong overtaking, if you are overtaking on the bow of a hill, this is recklessness. If the speed limit on the road is 50 kilometres per hour or 80 and you do 100 and you get involved in an accident, you should be severely punished.
But in this country, if you are involved in an accident, that is no crime. But go and steal toffee, just one piece of toffee, it
would attract some severe punishment. You just give somebody a small knock, it would attract some punishment, and yet drivers kill and go scot free.
Mr Speaker, I think that we need to do something about the spate of accidents in this country, because we are losing too many lives and causing a lot of destruction to the economy. When the vehicle is damaged, although you would have bought it with your money, it is a cost to the economy because the parts that we import have been paid for with foreign exchange.
So, if you run into an obstruction and cause an accident, it is a cost to the economy. Look at the people, they give a lot of trouble to our doctors and our nurses in the hospitals. The drugs that are imported are imported with foreign exchange. So, please, we really need to do something.
I think that the Hon Member has made a very important Statement. This is not the first time. I have been in this House for many years and Hon Members have continued to make Statements on road accidents and yet we seem not to be getting to an end in stopping road accidents. Well, I think it is high time that we did something and that something can be done by this very House.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make this contribution.