It is a tragic story, albeit all too common an occurrence in Ghana – the random and rampant running over of children by motorists and teamsters/truckers. Oftentimes, the cause of such violent and accidental deaths is a combination of poor adult supervision and woefully inadequate road signage, as well as poorly engineered and constructed roads.
The tragic story of Ms. Melissa Donkoh, however, touched my heart and spirit beyond description (See “Melisa [sic] Donkoh Is Dead” Ghanaweb.com 1/28/11). This is especially so, because I have a 13-year-old daughter of my own. Anyway, it does appear that the newly-turned teenager was one of three children who needlessly perished in an accidental hit by the driver of an articulated vehicle. The others’ names are given as 8-year-old Francis Pius Donkoh, a cousin of Melissa’s, and Ewurakua Smith, whose age was not given in the Ghana News Agency-generated news article.
Predictably, many of the commentators in the Ghanaweb.com chat-room were quick to fault the driver. And quite possibly, the latter may just very likely be at fault. Still, there is no way of telling exactly why and how the said incident happened, unless adequate information is provided about the truck driver, such as the record of his driving experience as well as his/her familiarity with the contours of the particular road on which the said traffic accident occurred. Then also the mental disposition of the truck driver both before and after the accident ought to be factored into the equation, as well as, even more significantly, how far and how long s/he had been driving by the time that his/her vehicle barreled over the youthful victims.
I also don’t know what the specific rules are in Ghana regarding how far and how long a motorist ought to be on the highway in continuous (driving) motion. Here in New York State, for example, motorists are advised to take several hours’ break from driving after every 300 to 350 miles of non-stop driving, and also after a certain number of hours of being continuously seated at the wheel, which I cannot readily recall. Perhaps it is somewhere between five and eight hours of non-stop driving.
If such a rule does not already exist on the books, as it were, then the administrators of both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Ministry of Road Transport, or whatever the latter might have been re-designated under the Atta-Mills government, ought to seriously look into laying down such salutary ground rules.
Better yet, Parliament may want to examine the need to passing a law regulating the number of hours that motorists ought to be continuously seated at the wheel. Even far more significant is to have regulations already on the books strictly enforced, perhaps even with the collaboration of our traditionally woefully underemployed personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces, and the requisite penalties for criminal offenders rigidly administered.
Then also, as prevails here in the United States and many of the other technologically advanced nations, there ought to be designated certain times of the day during which articulated vehicles may not ply certain residential and/or municipal and metropolitan routes, particularly where there are likely to be located many pedestrian walkways, especially those heavily trafficked by school children, in order to drastically reduce the possibility of road accidents involving our youths and the cream of tomorrow’s leadership talent pool.
And on the foregoing score, the construction of pedestrian walkovers/overpasses in critical and convenient locations also ought to become a top national priority for the Atta-Mills government, instead of wastefully and visionlessly expending taxpayer cedis on drinking cups and posters emblazoned with the image of an apparently publicity-hungry “President-Doo-Little.”
Anyway, as I pondered over the brief news item regarding the accidental deaths of Ms. Melissa Donkoh and the two other children, I wondered why Mr. Paul Evans Aidoo, the Western Regional Minister, had not prevailed on the top officials of the Tullow Oil Company to fly the then-critically injured Melissa Donkoh to South Africa, the destination of choice for medical treatment by President John Evans Atta-Mills, for example, instead of having our precious young and promising daughter flown to Accra and then to the Korle-Bu “Teaching Hospital,” of all places, and not even the 37th Military Hospital, indisputably the best equipped health facility in the country. Or maybe Ms. Donkoh’s life just wasn’t deemed to be quite as precious as that of “Tarkwa-Atta”?
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is also a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and the author of a just-published volume of poetry titled “The Obama Serenades” (Atumpan Publications/Lulu.com, 2011).
This article was written by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein are those of the author`s and do not necessarily reflect the official views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com