‘If we become an authority, we’ll bite’ – Road Safety Commission boss

The National Road Safety Commission wants a change on its law to deal with indiscipline following a devastating carnage on an important highway which left at least 62 dead.

Chief Executive of the Commission Mrs May Obiri-Yeboah explained all its current powers remain persuasive as it was set up to carry out road safety education and advocacy.

That teeth is a legal transition from a Commission to an Authority, a status that comes with greater autonomy and its attendant bigger budgets.

For three years straight since 2016, road fatalities have increased from 2,084 to 2,341, according to the Motor Transpor and Traffic Directorate. The MTTD has reported an average of 2,059 death by road accidents since 2011.

But the latest on the Kintampo-Techiman highway in the North East region last week Friday has triggered another national hue and cry over lackadaisical attitudes of road users and state regulators.

What the Commission does is to enlist the support and cooperation of relevant stakeholders such as the media, the police and the DVLA.

The Commission, she said, got 6.5m cedis, its entire requested budget for advocacy, to work with these stakeholders.

Mrs May Obiri-Yeboah said the Commission has held meetings with about a 100 journalists and editors to arm them with information on road safety and also appreciate the work, strengths and weaknesses of the Commission.

It has engaged the DVLA to discuss training for drivers in public transport. To support the MTTD with 4,000 reflective jackets, describing the gesture as the commission’s “widow’s mite.”

Despite interventions by institutions like NRSC, DVLA, MTTD, she explained improved road safety culture takes time. “Don’t expect magic,” she said.

A law believed by some experts to have done the magic on the road is the Road Traffic Act, 2004 (Act 683).

It exacted stiffer sentences and imposed heavier fines on road traffic offenders.

The problem with this law is that it no longer exists in its original form. A watered down version of it, the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act, 2008 (Act 761), reduced fines by 90%.

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In effect, a driver found to have prohibitive level of alcohol in the breath paid 6,000 cedis if he was caught before the law was amended.

In 2019, this driver would pay 600 cedis.

The Chief Executive said the NRSC was not part of consultations for the amendment but it was part of consultations in drafting the original law.

“We would never have supported the reduction of penalties,” Mrs Obiri-Yeboah said after indicating that the change in law could have contributed to the high levels of impunity on the road.

What the NRSC has been part of is the move to grant it an Authority status. That has been approved by Cabinet, she revealed.

The new designation is contained in a legislation drafted by the Attorney-General’s Department.

The Transport minister, she said, is expected to go to Parliament and lay the bill before Parliament in what is believed will help curb the tragedy of having to lay 62 in mass graves.

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