Ghana lost $288m through road accidents in 2008
While 1000s of lives are lost on the roads annually, the injuries recorded are even much more.
To implement some concrete efforts to arrest the situation, local and international medical experts with major stakeholders in the road sector, on Wednesday, met to chart the way towards the reduction of road accidents and injury control.
The other stakeholders at the meeting to identify ways in which the medical leadership and institutions in Ghana and other West African countries could be involved to assist in injury control activities of other agencies are officials of the National Road Safety Commission, the Building and Road Research Institute and the Police Motor Transport and Traffic Unit are the stakeholders.
They also aim at drawing injury control professionals into the priorities and needs of medical institutions.
The meeting was organized by the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) College of Health Sciences in collaboration with the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, and the Fogarty International Centre of the National Institute for Health (NIH), USA.
Mr David Osafo Donteng, Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation of the National Road Safety Commission, said noted that the NRSC, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, Ghana Highway Authority, Department of Urban Roads and Department of Feeder Roads, MTTU, National Ambulance Services and Ghana Red Cross Society implemented a National Road Safety Strategy (2006–2010) Action Plan to help reduce injuries.
However, Mr Osafo Donteng said high travelling speeds, which far exceeded posted and acceptable limits, driving tired particularly among commercial vehicle drivers, wrongful overtaking on the highways, disrespect and inconsideration for other road users, especially pedestrians, had become the order of the day.
He said engineering, enforcement, education, information and publicity, and emergency medical services were important to influence the knowledge and attitude or behaviour of drivers to reduce the level of injuries on the roads.
The NRSC focuses on reducing road traffic crash fatalities on a year-on-year basis to achieve less than 1,000 fatalities and a single digit fatality rate by the year 2015. It also focuses on a reduction in pedestrian and child fatalities and injuries and fatalities and injuries of occupants of buses or mini buses.
Mr Osafo Donteng noted that improving capacity and resources such as ambulances, health care centres, personnel, facilities, equipment and funds would facilitate easy access to quality and immediate health care during injuries on the roads.
He called for greater advocacy, collaboration and networking at policy and implementation levels to minimize injuries associated with road traffic crash victims, especially for pre-hospital care, emergency response and care and in-hospital/trauma care.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Godfred Asiamah, head of the Police Hospital, said drivers should be provided with medical certificates on their fitness and should also have access to emergency medical services.
He urged doctors to provide detailed and timely accident medical reports so as to help provide accurate statistical information for research, compensation and further medical care and said community outreach programmes for drivers should be instituted by the medical profession.
According to him, drivers are requested to declare their illness or disability, especially epilepsy, alcoholism, mental illnesses, senility, physical handicaps, eye defects, which are likely to be a source of danger to the public to the licensing authority.
Dr Asiamah urged the medical community to provide first aid stations at vantage points on highways to help the police in reducing road traffic accidents.
Professor Peter Donkor, the Provost of the College of Health Sciences, said the meeting is part of activities organized under the Fogarty Project on Injury Control and Research between KNUST and its American collaborators.
He expressed the hope that participants would focus on the synergy to be derived from closer cooperation towards tackling the threat of injury in various communities in the sub-region.
Dr Beth Ebel, Director, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Centre, USA, said injury is an important public health problem world-wide and its solutions depend mostly on national priorities, funding, and workforce.
She said road traffic injuries are some of the leading causes of death in low and middle income countries, adding, it would continue to increase despite the efforts by the countries to prevent it.
Dr Ebel said prevention is the most cost-effective way to reduce death and disability and that a strategy like low-cost trauma intervention could have large returns on public health.
She noted there is the need for an improved pre-hospital triage and care, trauma care focusing on preventable deaths, rehabilitation and reduced disability as well as medical leadership to support policies and laws at national, regional and local levels.
Dr Ebel called for collaborative efforts by a consultative body of stakeholders to create care centres, train first line care givers to manage accidents immediately and most of all organise periodic intervention programmes for drivers.
Professor Charles Mock, an injury adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO), emphasised the need to strengthen the injury surveillance system, primary prevention activities including public education, pre-hospital care, including evacuation of the injured, hospital treatment of the injured, rehabilitation services and the support of medical leadership and other stakeholders.
This, he noted, would minimize the death and disability associated with injury.