OP-ED: Your Safety on the Road is Your Responsibility

Liberia has the second worst rate of road traffic deaths in sub-Saharan Africa and the number of people being killed every year is increasing. There are numerous causes of crashes; however, in Liberia, the main cause of crashes is defective vehicles, typically those with defective tires, brakes, and lights. The damage caused to the economy is estimated at 7 percent of the GDP, or roughly US$140 million in 2017 alone.

In simple terms, this means that for every 100 dollars made by the Liberian economy, US$7 is lost just by not addressing these simple issues. Worse still, most of the cost is picked up by the Ministry of Health, whose employees are at the frontline of dealing with casualties. Can you imagine what another US$140 million a year would do for the health sector alone? More hospitals, doctors, nurses, and pharmaceutical drugs.

Who is Responsible for Road Safety in Liberia?

Although it would be easy to aim all this criticism at the government, the truth is much more complicated.  In fact, most crashes are easily avoidable and we as Liberians have a moral obligation to look after our own safety, and that of others. All that is required to avoid crashes is to follow a few simple rules:

  • If your vehicle is not roadworthy, do not drive it. If you do you risk your life and the life of everyone else in the vehicle, and anyone else you crash into if your brakes fail or tires burst. If you are fortunate enough to survive the crash and recover, you have then got jail to look forward to and a lifetime of guilt at having been responsible for killing your fellow citizens.
  • Do not drink and drive. If you drink alcohol and drive, you are more likely to crash.
  • Take time. Many crashes in Liberia are caused by rushing around or overtaking when it is not safe to do so.  Ask yourself this question; is it better to arrive late, or not at all?
  • Wear a helmet, if you ride a motorcycle. Remember, your brain is inside your head and if you fall off your bike and bang your head without a helmet, you are probably going to be killed. If you are fortunate enough to survive, you may have brain damage and probably not able to work again. Ask yourself, for the sake of a US$10 helmet and a bit of sweat, is it really worth risking everything over a bit of discomfort and a few dollars?

The Future

The government is building new roads, so we can travel around more easily than ever before. But each of us also needs to take responsibility for our own vehicles and driving habits when using these new roads. The police can stop people for speeding or behaving recklessly – true. But as Liberians wanting a happy life, we need to ask ourselves, why do we expect the police to be responsible for telling us to drive safely, have our vehicles roadworthy, or wear helmets?

If we crash and injure or kill ourselves and others, we suffer the most, not the police or the government.  Remember, every time you are on the roads you are responsible for your own life, and everyone else’s. If the police are getting involved to stop you breaking the rules, you are already not doing your duty as being a good citizen of Liberia.

Featured photo by Jefferson Krua

Samuel Wonasue

Samuel Wonasue is a road safety expert working with the Ministry of Transport’s Technical Support Unit.

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