The Volta Regional Chairman of the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), Mr. Moses Davor, has expressed concern over the use of motorbikes for commercial activities, particularly, in the Volta Region, which, he noted, ought to be addressed by the government before it gets out of hand.
Mr. Davor pointed out that apart from the fact that most of the operators use these motorbikes for commercial activities, they have no licenses, and also operate without registration numbers, which he said, needed to be checked by the law enforcement authorities, as well as the institutions of government tasked to promote road safety in the country.
Speaking to the Volta File in an exclusive interview at the regional capital, Ho, the Volta Region GPRTU Chairman pointed out that his outfit had identified the activities of commercial motorbikes operating in the region, as those who cause most of the road accidents in recent times.
Mr. Davor stressed that road safety issues should be seen beyond vehicles plying the road, to the the activities of other road users, particularly, those who use motorbikes for commercial activities, since the attention was most of the times on drivers and the conditions of their vehicles, as well as overloading.
He continued that the time had come for more attention to be paid to motorbikes being used for commercial activities. He further said that it was alien to the transport system of the country, and that the earlier the necessary measures were put in place to bring sanity to the transport system, the better it would be for the nation.
The GPRTU Regional Chairman explained that it was becoming very clear that in some districts, motorbikes had taken over the role of taxis, noting that the concerns being raised should be seen far beyond commercial gains to that of the safety of those who patronise the services of the motorbike operators.
Mr. Davor disclosed that in recent times, motorbikes were the major cause of road accidents in the region, as the operators of these motorbikes carry between two to four persons at the back without them using helmets.
He described the situation as very dangerous, because in case of an accident, the effects would be fatal.
According to him, most of the operators of the motorbikes failed to observe road signs, as they normally cross major roads without observing the basic road signs, which leads to fatal accidents involving motorbikes and vehicles, mostly commercial.
He stressed that it would be necessary for the Road Safety Commission to pay more attention to the training of those who use motorbikes for commercial purposes, for them to understand and observe the basic road traffic regulations.
He added that they be educated to carry only one person in addition to the rider, if the use of motorbikes for commercial services cannot be banned in the country
Mr. Davor mentioned Dzodze, Aflao, Akatsi and Sogakope as some of the areas where the motorbike, popularly called okada, is used for commercial purposes.
The GPRTU Chairman observed with much concern that most of the patients on admission at the Dzodze Hospital and other health facilities were as a result of motorbike accidents.
According to the Chairman, the various district assemblies should start collecting taxes from these motorbike operators, as was being done to taxi drives and other commercial vehicles.
He noted also that it was very unfortunate that the okada operators were allowed to work freely without paying tax to the assemblies, and that the assemblies rather concentrate their activities on only taxi and bus drivers.
He said the assemblies could even help bring sanity in the activities of these okada operators if they start collecting revenue from them, because the Assembly, with the support of the Road Safety Commission, would set guidelines for them that would go a long way to regulate their activities at the district level.
"The situation where the assemblies concentrate attention only on the activities of taxi and other commercial drivers is not the best, because I can tell you that the okada operators are now making more money than taxi drivers, so it now looks as if the okada operators are allowed to work for us to pay for them, upon the numerous problems they cause in their activities," he said.
One issue Mr. Davor raised was that it was very crucial for the government to put in place a short term measure to control the use of motorbikes, especially as the 2012 general elections was getting close, because what normally happened was that during political campaign periods, there seemed to be no order in the use of okada, as they carry people to rally grounds.
Mr. Davor, however, assured the public that the GPRTU, as a serious transport organisation, regularly educates its members to observe the basic rules in their activities, in order to reduce accidents, and cautioned drivers in the region, particularly those who ply areas where motorbikes operate, to be very alert so as to reduce accidents involving vehicles and motorbikes.
"I advise you to be very alert in the wake of frequent accidents involving vehicles and motorbikes, so you need to adopt defensive driving methods in your professional duties, so that you can help save more lives and restore confidence in the road transportation system."
When contacted, the Deputy Minister of Transport, Mrs. Dzifa Ativor, said she appreciated the call to regulate the activities of motorbike operators by the GPRTU, and said there was a new road traffic regulation bill currently before Parliament, and when passed, would include how okadas should operate in the country, as well as other measures to reduce accidents on the roads.
Mrs. Ativor pointed out that her Ministry was aware of the activities of motorbike operators, hence the new bill before Parliament to help bring sanity into road the transport system.
She further noted that because there was no law on the commercial use of motorbike users at the moment, the police would normally arrest these okada operators, but could not charge them for any offence, as they could not be prosecuted, because there was no law controlling their activities.