Riding of motorcycle in Ghana was mainly for personal transportation for low-income areas in the past, but with the economic downturn experienced in the country from the late 1990s, coupled with population rise in the cities at the time, the use of motorcycle, popularly called ‘okada’, for commercial transportation began to gain popularity.
The poor state of the roads in the country and the inefficiency of the public transportation system, as well as worsening vehicular congestion and increasing unemployment, are major reasons for the thriving motorcycle transport industry.
But the news of high rate of road traffic injuries and mortality as a result of the widespread use of motorcycles for commercial activities has sent shock waves all over.
According to reports, as many as 732 people lost their lives between January and December 2019.
This is almost half of 1,561 killed by cars last year.
Out of the 13,877 total crashes recorded, 9,234 were cars and 4,643 were motorcycles.
Between Jan and June this year, motorcycles killed 440 out of the 1,141 travelers killed in road traffic crashes.
The 440 were from 2,553 motorcycles crashes while 8,604 car crashes killed 701 during the same period.
Cars have higher occupancy rates than motorcycles. Therefore, the statistics shows that even though motorcycles have lower occupancy rates, it has higher fatality rates compared to cars.
While fatalities involving bus occupants reduced by 20% between 2001and 2018, motor cycle-related fatalities increased by 1,170% over the same period.
And early this year, the Accident, Emergency and Orthopaedic Department of the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital indicated that ‘okada’ accidents topped road accident cases during the last year’s Christmas and New Year period.
We are further told that on December 22 and 23, the country’s biggest hospital recorded 30 road accident victims, out of which 20 were ‘okada’ cases.
And between December 30, 2019 and January 1, 2020, the hospital recorded 79 accident cases – 58 of them involving motorcycles.
By end of the first quarter this year, Korlebu recorded a total of 462 people involved in Okada accidents, fairly higher than 425 and 452 in 2018 and 2017 respectively, within the same period.
We are all aware that per the Road Traffic Regulations, the use of motorcycles for commercial business is illegal.
Ghana Medical Association , have reiterated their stance against it on several occasions, stating that if the business is legalised risk to riders and passengers would increase and overwhelm hospitals with accident cases.
But, given what is openly happening, what do we, as a nation?.
Perhaps, we need to borrow a leaf from what our next-door neighbour, Nigeria, did in 2012 when it was caught in a similar situation.
Fact is that in August 2012, the government of Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, passed into law a bill banning the use of motorcycles on many major roads and bridges across the state.
The law also prohibited motorcycle riders below 18 years of age, as well as prescribing the use of a standardised protective helmet for all riders and pillion passengers.
Issues of licensure and regulation of maximum number of passengers allowed on a motorcycle, restriction of pregnant women and children below the age of 12 years from riding as pillion passengers on motorcycles and the prevention of use of motorcycles for haulage were also addressed by the law.
A study conducted some two years after the enactment and enforcement of the Lagos State road traffic law showed that deaths due to motorcycle accident injuries reduced by 33%.
It is also on record that the state government used special taskforces, comprising ‘Kick Against Indiscipline Staff’, and Lagos State Traffic Management Authority Staff, as well as the police force, to ensure compliance of the law and seeing to the arrest of defaulters and seizure of their motorcycles.
The very strict enforcement of the restriction on the use of motorcycle on major roads and bridges in Lagos as provided for in the traffic law resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of motorcycles on the roads and consequently a reduction in the rate of motorcycle accident deaths.
Surely, we can do a similar thing here, can’t we?
The Finder suggests that we amend the Road Traffic law to transfer power to assemblies to enact by-laws on okada operations in their jurisdictions.
Example, Accra Metropolitan Assembly can ban the use of Okada in the Central Business District.
Assemblies that have dispersed communities and getting vehicles to communities is difficult can legalise okada.
But, it must not be seen as a substitute for an effective and efficient public transport system, which our dear nation urgently needs.
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