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Among the various means of transportation, road transport is the most common one. The growth of all forms of economic and social activities is integrated with road transport. It facilitates mobility which is a requirement to the social and economic well being of a society (Hoyle et al., 1973). Traffic and Transport Engineers have been solving problems in achieving a better road transport system, particularly on its accessibility and mobility. However, the progress may not necessarily generate any benefits to non-motorized traffic. On the contrary, it is more likely to enhance the risk for and the severity of conflicts between road users and vehicles. Road transport results in the maximum number of fatalities among various transportation modes. In Europe, the average numbers of transport fatalities within the European Union are approximately 42,000 each year and road crashes account for over 90% among all transportation modes (ETSC, 2003). According to the World Health Organization more than a million people are killed on the world’s roads each year (World Health Organization – World report on road traffic injury prevention, 2004). Along with human suffering, road accidents have economic costs equivalent to approximately 2 percent of GNP for developing countries (Dhliwayo, 1997).

The issue of road accidents has become a serious problem in the world. The transportation profession is facing the challenges of effective management of traffic safety. To serve the rising demand for mobility on one hand and preserve road safety on the other, the transport profession is required to build up road safety work strategically and scientifically in order to address this problem.

Road safety work is a difficult process involving different economical and societal elements. Several road safety policy initiatives are needed to achieve lower death rates and reduce the number of crashes on roads. The concept of a road safety strategy is the carrying out of road safety measures in a systematic and comprehensive way such that resources invested can be successfully for a sustained reduction of road accident.

A number of research of road crashes worldwide (Jacobs et al, 2000) carried out by TRL in recent years have shown that the road safety condition throughout the African continent is one of the worst in the world. With around only 4% of the world’s motor vehicles, its road fatality share is 2 ½ times greater (10%). In numerous African countries, a vehicle is over a hundred times more likely to be involved in a fatal road crash than in the UK or USA. Out of this 10 percent, two countries alone account for almost fifty per cent of all reported deaths, namely Nigeria and South Africa. Other countries also showing noteworthy numbers of deaths include Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana (Jacobs et al, 2000)

1.1 Background

Every country around the world implements a certain amount of road safety work. Terje Assum (1998) appointed by the World Bank, completed a study on appraisal of road safety initiatives in five African countries namely Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. A framework of a road safety strategy was also drawn out in the review. In this dissertation, the focus will be placed on Nigeria and Ghana using the initiative used on the other five countries since all African countries have similar road safety problem. Road safety work and strategy in Nigeria and Ghana will be reviewed by comparing with the cases in advanced countries including the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. These Administrations are selected due to the fact that both Nigeria and Ghana are the regional powers of West Africa, both countries have the highest gross domestic product based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) in West Africa and both have good economic stability. The United Kingdom was chosen because it has developed safety on its road to a very good level and has one of the best road safety records in the world. In economic terms, the annual gross domestic products values of Nigeria and Ghana range are 327.439 US Billion dollars and 36.135 US Billion dollars respectively whilst other West African countries are only below 31.216 US Billion dollars (International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, April 2009). Similar economic background enables a comparable platform for the analysis of their road safety work.

1.2 Study Approach

The study will identify the traffic accident characteristics of Nigeria and Ghana and evaluate the extent of road safety work implemented there. It aims to give an overview on road safety work progress in both countries. Information of the road safety work in the both countries will be collected by surfing the World Wide Web from relevant official internet websites and enquiring the officers of road safety officers from the two countries via email and telephone. A logical approach will then be adopted to carry out a comparative review. It will be based on eight components of a road safety strategy suggested in by Terja Assum (1998).

1.3 Scope of Study

The study entails three parts: Literature Review, Case Studies, and Analysis & Discussion. In the Literature Review section, the nature and the causes of road accidents will first be illustrated. Then the countermeasures of road accidents will be discussed, followed by the explanation of the components of a road safety strategy and the growth stages of road safety strategy. In the Case Studies section, the features of road accidents in the two countries will be highlighted and the road safety work in these countries will be compared in terms of the eight components. In the last section, an assessment based on the findings will be conducted followed by a discussion.


2.1 Nature of Road the road safety problem

Injuries and fatalities in road accident are not just problems for a society but also for an individual. Road accidents have become a serious social, health and economic problem throughout the world. Road accidents claim the lives of more than 1.2 million people and injure around 50 million annually (Commission for Global road safety make road safe report, 2007)

2.1.1 A Social and Economic Issue

Road accidents not only damages public facilities and personal properties but also result in a loss of production to a society. Victims of road accidents consume medical resources; they also bring to themselves and their families suffering and grief. Researchers have shown that road accident costs in most countries are equivalent to about 1 to 3 % of annual gross domestic products (GDP) (Ghee et al., 1997; UN ESCAP, 1999). It is certainly a financial burden to a society and deters its economic development.

2.1.2 A Public Health Issue

The world health organization (WHO) recognizes that that road traffic injuries constitute a major but neglected public health problem that has significant consequences in terms of mortality and morbidity and considerable social and economic costs, and that in the absence of urgent action this problem is expected to worsen; A lot of people treat road accidents as one kind of news always found in media print or television but seldom happen to themselves. They may regard that injuries and fatalities are the cost the public has to pay for the high level of mobility.

Rumar (2002) accounted that this misleading concept might be due to the fact that the traditional presentation approach of accident statistics did not make clear to the public. In a report published by the world health organization (WHO) in 2004, road traffic accident is ranked the ninth leading cause of mortality in the world see (Table 2.1) below. Moving up one place from number ten position that it was in 2002.

2.2 Causes of Road Crashes

A road transport system consist of: (i) the road users including drivers, children and disabled people and passengers (ii) the vehicles including bicycles and motorcycles, and (iii) the road design including road furniture, road alignments and road surfaces. If these three components alone and or their interactions with each other perform inappropriately, road traffic accidents may occur. A study carried out in 1985 by Rumar, using British and American crash reports as data, found that 57% of road traffic accidents were due solely to driver factors, 27% to combined roadway and driver factors, 6% to combined vehicle and driver factors, 3% solely to roadway factors, 3% to combined roadway, driver, and vehicle factors, 2% solely to vehicle factors and 1% to combined roadway and vehicle factors.

The attributes of road crashes can therefore be separated into three groups; road users’ behaviour which may also be referred to human factors, vehicle factors, and road factors (Charlton et al., 2002).

2.2.1 Road users’ behaviour

The same study by Rumar (1985) revealed that 93% of road accident crash involves driver error, and other human factors. The human factor is not a single phenomenon and part of the difficulty with understanding its role and dealing with its impact arises from the complexity of such a large class (Anne-Marie Feyer et al., 1997)

Human behaviour is unpredictable and hence human errors may occur which will often cause road crashes. Human errors are active errors for road traffic accidents and these errors come in diverse form. Road user error can be affected by the physical and mental ability to assess road conditions and respond quickly. Studies carried out by the Department for Transport in the United Kingdom have established some common conditions that impair this judgment, these include fatigue, poor eyesight, old age, with some jurisdictions requiring driver retesting for reaction speed and eyesight after a certain age, excessive alcohol and drug use - including some prescription and illegal drugs.

Capacity limitation can also be a cause of traffic accident; this may be reduced visibility at night and bad weather.

Motivational limitations can also account for the occurrence of human errors. Drivers regard satisfying their personal interests such as arriving on time, joy derived from over speeding, ignorance of traffic rules and regulations, and reluctance to use safety devices such as safety belts and crash helmets.

On the contrary to old age as impairment, young and inexperienced drivers are more likely to be in an accident as a result of inexperience combined with over-confidence, a desire to show off, peer pressure, and incomplete neurological development (Williamson, 2005).

2.2.2 Vehicle Errors

Vehicles themselves also trigger road traffic accidents. Defective brakes, defective tyres or wheels, defective steering, unattended vehicle running away, insecure roads, inadequate rear and front lights, overloading of public service vehicles and trucks, and poor crash worthiness design are the common causes. A well-designed and well-maintained vehicle, with good tires, braking system and well-adjusted suspension will be more controllable in an emergency and thus be better capable of avoiding collisions. Some compulsoryvehicle inspectionschemes include tests for some aspects of road worthiness of vehicles, such as the UK'sMOT test. The design of vehicles has also evolved to improve safety after collision, both for vehicle occupants and for those outside of the vehicle. In the early 1970sBritish Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd started an rigorous programme of vehicle safety research, producing a number of prototypeexperimental safety vehiclesdemonstrating a variety of innovations for occupant and pedestrian safety such as:anti-lock brakes, air bags, impact-absorbing side-panels, front and rear head restraints, run-flat tyres, smooth and deformable front-ends, impact-absorbing bumpers, and retractable front lights (Adams, 2008).Design has also been subjective by government legislation, such as theEuro NCAPimpact test.

2.2.3 Road and Environment factors

Road and environmental deficiencies account on their own for only 2% of all accidents but in combination with road user errors accounts for slightly less than 20% (Slinn et al., 2003). The road and environmental factor was either noted as making a considerable contribution to the conditions of the crash, or did not allow room to recover. Road and environmental factors responsible for road crashes include poor design of signal-controlled intersections, sharp alignments, narrow roads and poor maintenance of pavement and shoulders, visual obstruction by road furniture, hard objects close to road and poor lighting system, higher speed limits or no speed limits, mix of vehicles and pedestrians, and lack of enforcement. All of these are essential matters as they can influence the cause of human errors and worsen the consequences.

It is worth to note that the three contributing factors to traffic accidents listed above are not evenly distributed. Taking an example from the accident records in Ghana, over 60% of traffic accidents were contributed by human error in the year 2008 whilst human error combined with external errors and vehicle errors took the remaining 40% (National Road Safety Commission, Ghana, 2007). The direct causes of accidents are the same in Nigeria and Ghana as anywhere in the world, the strong physical forces of motorized traffic are not satisfactorily controlled. Thus the high road accident rates are based on the poorly controlled forces of motorized traffic.

Human behaviour is governed not only by the individual’s understanding and skills, but also by the environment in which the actions takes place. Indirect influences, such as the nature of the vehicle, the design and layout of the road, and traffic laws and their enforcement affect behaviour in important ways. For this reason, the use of information and publicity on their own is generally unsuccessful in reducing road traffic collisions (Assum, 1998).

This implies that human errors are not always or necessarily the cause of accidents though they may trigger it (Rumar, 1985). Putting all the blame on human errors or road user behaviour will hide the design challenges inherent in the cause of the accident and thus another similar crash may occur in the future. Poor pavement construction can lead to safety issues. If too much asphalt or bituminous binder is used in asphalt concrete, the binder can bleed to the surface, leaving a very smooth surface that provides little traction when wet. Certain kinds of stone aggregate become very smooth under the constant wearing action of vehicle tires, again leading to little traction when wet. Either of these problems can increase wet-weather road crashes by increasing the braking distances or contributing to loss of control of the vehicle. If the pavement is insufficiently sloped or poorly drained, standing water on the surface can also lead to wet-weather road crashes. However, all this accident that may result from the scenario listed above may not happen if the driver does not drive at a high speed. Therefore, engineering and designing a safer transportation system requires examining all the components namely driver factors, vehicle factors and road design factors that will lead to driver errors which results to road crash. A strategic approach or initiative to integrate all this components to cope with human errors is necessary.

2.3 Tolerance of the human body

The human body is an incredibly complex and fragile structure competent of protecting itself against many things. However, it is not made to deal with the enormous forces of impact created in a road crash and likely to suffer severe damage if not death. The energy of a crash is related to the square of the velocity, so small increases in speed produce major increases in the risk of injury (Peden et. al, 2004). From Newton’s second law of motion and the law of kinetic energy which states that:

Force = mass x acceleration

Energy = ∫ f. dx = ½ mv2

This implies that small increases in speed enhance the force produced and hence, energy is increased hereby producing major increases in the risk of injury.

The human tolerance to injury of a pedestrian hit by even the best-designed car will be exceeded if the vehicle is travelling at over 30km/h (Tingvall, C. and Haworth, N., 1999). Studies show that pedestrians have a 90% chance of surviving a car crash at 30km/h or below, but less than a 50% chance of surviving an impact at 45 km/h (Pasanen, E., 1991). Research shows that the probability of a pedestrian being killed rises by a factor of 8 as the impact speed of the car rises from 30km/h to 50km/h (Ashton, S.J., Mackay, G.M., 1983). The best-designed vehicle on the road today provides crash protection currently up to 70km/h for car occupants wearing seat belts in frontal impacts and 50 km/h in side impacts (Tingvall, C. and Haworth, N., 1999). The table below shows the estimated road crash impact speeds based on the safest vehicles, where the forces are likely to exceed the tolerance of the human body or those road crashes that are likely to result in death or serious injury.

Impact speed

Road user type

Crash type


Vehicle occupant

Side impact crash with fixed roadside objects such as poles and trees


Pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist

Impact with other vehicles


Vehicle occupant

Side impact crash with another vehicle


Vehicle occupant

Head-on crash with a similar vehicle

2.4 Knowledge of counter measures

With the exception of accidents particular to Nigeria, Ghana and most developing countries, there is a vast amount of knowledge on how to improve road safety, on the road accidents countermeasures. The National Road Safety Commission of Ghana 2007 annual report details some of such countermeasures. The UK Government’s road safety strategy titled: Tomorrow’s roads – safer for everyone (the strategy) published in March 2000 laid down a framework for delivering more improvements in road, this strategy contained more than 150 measures across ten key themes. The Norwegian Road Safety Handbook (Elvik, Mysen and Vaa, 2004) also lists more than 100 countermeasures pertaining to roads, the vehicles and the road user. Rumar (2002) suggested three basic variables that describe the road safety problem and established that the number of deaths and injuries could be represented as the product of exposure to road traffic (E), accident risk (A/E) and injury risk (I/A).

I = E x A/E x I/A

Where A denotes number of accidents.

One important countermeasure variable is the exposure (E) to road traffic. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between car crash and vehicle ownership. Exposure to road traffic is probably the dimension with the greatest potential to influence safety both from a volume point of view and from a time point of view. The fact that economic downturn is generally associated with better safety on the roads has a lot to do with the reduction of traffic volumes mainly for young drivers and heavy traffic (Rumar, 2002).

Another countermeasure is to reduce accident risk (A/E). This can be achieved by improving road users’ skills, upgrading the road characteristics and improving vehicle performance. However the effect of this strategy often termed preventive safety often reduces as time goes by. The road users usually see all this strategy as a way of improving their mobility or comfort not their safety, their basic instinct is after all these strategy has been put in place is to increase speed but good education, training, legislation and enforcement.

The third countermeasure is the risk of injury (I/A). This can be reduced by providing safety features such as the design of crashworthy vehicles, warning signs, crash barrier and skid resistance surface. This helps reduce injury severity in accident of various types. Road safety audit can also be used to find and remove accidents causing factor on the road. in this strategy, drivers do not feel the passive safety features therefore counter reactive behaviours such as increasing vehicle speed is avoided to a large extent.

On the other hand, post-injury management such as incident detection equipments and emergency rescue services can help reduce in the time of rescue hence increase the chances of survival of accident victims.

The countermeasure methods listed above are predominantly developed in motorized parts of the world and their result has been studied there. Consequently, these measures may not be optimal in Nigeria and Ghana road accidents problems. To the extent that the accidents that occur in the two West African Nations are different from those of the developed nations. There is rationale to believe that countermeasures such as speed control and vehicle examination can be effective in reducing these accidents as well. Although developing and evaluating countermeasures for accidents for both countries should not be abandoned. There may be reason to believe that main problem with both countries is implementation of accident measures rather than usual road accident measures are not effective (Assum, 1998).

Pretorious and Mulder (1997) suggested an integrated approach towards traffic safety management, development and implementation. They recommended development of implementation plans and nonstop evaluation of the implementation process and operation.

2.5 Elements in Road safety strategy

As mentioned above, an integrated approach towards road safety management are required to tackle road safety problem in both Developing nation of West Africa. At the conclusion of the third African Road safety congress in South Africa, 1997, an African road safety initiative was proposed, the initiative described four main areas of action composed of the following four components:

Political priority



Monitoring, evaluation and Research

This was followed up by an appraisal of road safety initiatives in five African countries excluding Nigeria and Ghana, which was funded by the World Bank and was conducted by Terje Assum (1998). In the review, it stated that a road safety strategy which will enable a sustainable reduction of road accidents should be composed of the following seven components:


Political priority




Monitoring and evaluation




Even in the developed countries like Western Europe and North America, the implementation of road safety measures took some time. The seat belt was invented in the 1940s and 1950s (Trinca et al. 1988), but was not compulsory in front seats until the 1970s, and in rear seats not until the 1980s in Scandinavia. More knowledge of effective countermeasures of road traffic accidents exists now than 30 to 50 years ago, when Western Europe and North America faced road safety problems similar to those in Africa in the 1990s.


Knowledge about effective road safety measures is important for a reduction in road accidents. For the reduction to be sustainable, the persons who work permanently in the road safety sector must be nationals. Some of these nationals already have the essential knowledge and skills, and others will need training.

Implementation of road accident countermeasures

Countermeasures must to be implemented in a strategic method that shows results both right away and over the longer term. In doing so, concentration should be paid to the key elements that underlie and enhance risk. Furthermore, there are vital differences between the various countermeasures in terms of their impact, their costs, and the timelines within which they can be implemented, which will state the options for action. In particular, those that involve new legislation will take substantial time to implement.

Organization of road safety work

Competent organization of the road safety work, particularly in the civil service, is essential for implementing accident countermeasures.

Monitoring, evaluation, dissemination and research

After the implementation of a road safety strategy, it is necessary to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness and progress of the strategy. Pretorius and Mulder (1997) pointed out that evaluation is required at all steps of a road safety program in order to ensure proper implementation and needed adjustments. In the new road safety guidelines of the European Union, monitoring and evaluation is the first of the three high priority areas (Preston G, 1997). The monitoring and evaluation must incorporate a method for collecting and analyzing road accident data to follow the accident trends.


Adequate allocation of funds to road safety work is important for implementation of road safety measures and works. Funds are also needed for research and development.

Political Priority

The 2004 World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention outlines numerous steps governments can take to develop an effective national policy on road safety; key measures include: make road safety a political priority, assign a lead agency that is adequately resourced and publicly answerable, and develop a multidisciplinary approach to road safety. One of the key objectives of the United Nation global high-level ministerial conference to be held in the Russian Federation in November, 2009 is to engage high‐level political commitment and to encourage national leaders to take action in their respective countries.