Worldwide, road traffic accidents (RTAs) account for about 1.3 million fatalities and, on average, 3% of a given country’s GDP. Over half of these deaths occur among vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motor cyclists. Approximately 93% of all of the world’s RTA-associated mortalities occur in middle- to low-income countries, even though they have only 60% of the world’s vehicles. Road traffic injuries cause considerable economic losses to individuals, their families, and to countries as a whole that take a considerable toll even years or decades after the incident occurred. These losses arise from the cost of treatment as well as lost productivity for those killed or disabled by their injuries, and for family members who need to take time off work or school to care for the injured.
The country of Ghana experiences, on average, 2,000 RTA-associated deaths and 14,000 RTA associated injuries annually. At the Korle-Bu teaching hospital in Accra, Ghana, the largest health facility and teaching hospital in Ghana and the main referral site for all of southern Ghana, between 2016 and 2017, 62% of deaths in the hospital’s accident center were related to RTAs. These RTA-associated deaths and injuries cost the country around 1.6% of its GDP, which amounts to over $1.3 million per year.
In the early 2000s, the Ghanaian government began to recognize the serious socio-economic impact of RTAs on its country. To address the issue, the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) was established to collect data on RTAs and propose solutions and policies in response. Various data was collected, such as the number of annual deaths and injuries and road user classes associated with these fatalities. Data collected demonstrated that, in Ghana, the road user class with the highest share of fatalities was consistently pedestrians (824; 39.5%) followed by motorcycle users (437; 21%) and bus occupants (364; 17.5%). Considering RTAs in the context of emergency care, studies showed that, again at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, almost 40% of emergency care visits were from RTAs, followed distantly by falls and interpersonal violence. Of the victims that died upon or after arrival to the hospital, 50% were pedestrians, 31% were passengers, and 18.7% were motorists.
From the numbers provided, it’s readily apparent that deaths caused by injuries, and, specifically, RTA-associated injuries, rank among the top ten causes of death in Ghana. It was concluded that underlying drivers of this issue were broadly two-fold: there was a high proportion of RTA-associated injuries due to poor road conditions and unregulated driving practices, and emergency care providers were lacking in proper, formal trauma-based care, both prehospital and when they arrived to an emergency care facility.
To address these shortcomings, various sizable mitigation measures were adopted by Ghana’s government in an attempt to decrease the number of RTAs and their associated costs. In 2004, Ghana established a National Ambulance Service (NAS), providing over 200 ambulances staffed with formally trained, BLS-certified EMTs for pre-hospital care. Ghana’s first EM residency program was established in 2009, followed one year later by its first 2-year Emergency Nursing degree program. More recently, in 2019, the NRSC passed the National Road Safety Authority Acts that were designed to promote and mandate best road safety practices, both in road users and road developers. However, despite these resolutions, RTAs and their associated injuries and deaths continue to remain consistently high in the country.
A literature review of available research on Ghanian RTAs revealed several limitations in the studies. While the NRSC has been instrumental in collecting RTA data and devising protocols to mitigate RTAs, there is still a lack of detailed, objective research on RTAs in Ghana. Additionally, there are significant inconsistencies in the source of the data and whether it is a registry-based report or a population-based study. The causes of accidents are not well-documented, and there is limited data available detailing where the majority of RTAs occur aside from the regions most heavily affected. According to data from 2016, over 75% of RTAs occur in 5 regions (Ashanti, Greater Accra, Eastern, Central and Brong Ahafo), of which four of the five regions correspond to the four most populous regions (with the exception of Ahafo, which is the least populated). Interestingly enough, however, about 60% of RTA fatalities were in non-urban sections of the road networks. Despite this information, we were unable to find details regarding where the specific accidents occur within each region.
Research collected by the University of Ghana’s School of Public Health identified the following risk factors that were highly associated with RTAs: stop-light violations, improper signaling, speeding. However, we believe that the study used to determine these risk factors relied too heavily on subjective analysis, leading to potentially erroneous and biased data. Therefore, we propose utilizing traffic cameras for gathering objective data in areas with a high burden of RTAs. This analysis will allow local authorities to identify risk factors that lead to RTAs, resulting in the utilization of emergency medicine services.
In short, an objective method of identifying common risks, causes, and associations of RTAs is crucial in order to decrease morbidity and mortality as well as the need for emergency care. This is especially important, as Ghana spends over $130 million USD each year on RTA-related injuries alone.
We believe one way to do this is to utilize traffic cameras that are already in place in these high traffic areas to analyze accidents. As the infrastructure is already in place for surveillance – all we need to do is collect and analyze the footage, which has limited costs associated with it. We would need to pay salary to 1-2 data analysts in order to analyze the information. If more cameras were needed, this would cost anywhere from $65-80,000 USD per camera installation. After installation and retrieval of the camera data, what information will we collect? First, we would like to identify what specific intersections and roadways are involved in RTAs. We also would collect temporal statistics such as day of the week, month and time of day as well as weather conditions. The type and number of vehicles involved in the accident as well as identifying whether the drivers are local versus nonlocal are also important characteristics. Lastly, we would look at whether drivers violated traffic laws such as running a redlight or were speeding as well as being in the incorrect driving lane.
The data collected from this proposal can be used to promote infrastructure changes to lessen the risk of future RTAs. In particular, the installation of crosswalks have been proven to mitigate incidences of motor accidents. According to a 2017 study, 68% of pedestrian fatalities from RTAs in Ghana are related to “pedestrian crossing behaviors.” However, the study was limited in its ability to deduce further information from these incidents, such as the causality of the accident. The review of the stop light camera footage from the event would allow the local government to determine if more facilities such as crosswalks may be beneficial to install in populated intersections.
The high prevalence of RTAs in Ghana is a public health concern that dramatically burdens the emergency medical community. We believe that the data collected from traffic cameras can be used to more concretely understand the risk factors that lead to motor accidents in Ghana. Ultimately, this information can be used to improve infrastructure features to mitigate risk of future accidents.
- Blankson PK, Lartey M. Road traffic accidents in Ghana: contributing factors and economic consequences. Ghana Med J. 2020 Sep;54(3):131. doi: 10.4314/gmj.v54i3.1. PMID: 33883755; PMCID: PMC8042801.
- Blankson PK, Nonvignon J, Aryeetey G, Aikins M. Injuries and their related household costs in a tertiary hospital in Ghana. Afr J Emerg Med. 2020;10(Suppl 1):S44-S49. doi: 10.1016/j.afjem.2020.04.004. Epub 2020 May 26. PMID: 33318901; PMCID: PMC7723915.
- Zakariah A, Stewart BT, Boateng E, Achena C, Tansley G, Mock C. The Birth and Growth of the National Ambulance Service in Ghana. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2017 Feb;32(1):83-93. doi: 10.1017/S1049023X16001151. Epub 2016 Dec 12. PMID: 27938469; PMCID: PMC5558015.
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