I read a story on a couple of news websites that the Driver Vehicle and License Authority (NVLA) in collaboration with the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) want to install dedicated traffic cameras on roads by June 2017. The aim is to prevent reckless driving and correct driver behavior. That sounds like a great idea right? Well… That would be an innovative idea. But the problem is that we’ve kind of seen this all before.
By simply Googling Ghana and installation of Traffic Cameras, you’ll come across similar news stories about the installation of traffic cameras on our roads. I saw a news story “Move To Check Road Accidents – Ministry To Install Speed Cameras, Speed Limiters” about how the Ministry of Transport was going to install road cameras. That story was reported in..2011.
I came across another news story, “NRSC to install speed cameras on highways“. This was a story about the NRSC undertaking a pilot project to install cameras on highways to catch people who flout road rules and apprehend law breakers. That story was reported in… 2012.
Folks, we’re in 2017. Some of these “cameras” you see on some of the roads you’re driving on are defunct and basically for imagery.
This new project for installation of cameras brought on AGAIN by the NRSC and DVLA might as well be dead on arrival. Not saying that there shouldn’t be initiative by these two entities to curb recklessness on our roads, but it doesn’t seems like a thorough plan. There’s a lot of underlying problems which haven’t been addressed plus other questions which need to be answered. Here’s a couple of questions I would ask of these two entities:
Cameras Activated. Now Who’s Catching The Bad Guys?
Once you install the speed cameras, how/who exactly is going to be enforcing the laws? We’ve all witnessed how drivers tend to speed up when they see the traffic light blinking yellow to go towards red. That’s a learned behavior. So who is going to be catching all those two, three, or five drivers who run the red light all at once? Are police personnel going to be stationed at ALL traffic lights? This seems to be a problem of personnel. How do the cameras address that?
Speed Cameras? We Haven’t Even Fixed Our Street Address System
In the US and Europe, when you run a red light, a speed camera flashes and a picture of your license plate gets photographed. That photograph, plus a fine is sent to the license plate holder’s address and they have to pay the fine or next time they’re caught, they’ll be arrested. So how is this system supposed to work in Ghana where our home address system is basically stuck in the stone age? How are speed cameras supposed to solve this? Is there a database system for tracking where license plate holder live? How do you catch offenders when you can’t find them?
Remove The Human Interface? You NEED The Human Interface
Mr David Adonteng, Deputy Executive Director in charge of planning from the NSRC said on a radio show that the problems with road recklessness was problems with human interface and the commission was moving with their camera strategy to bring sanity and responsibility to road traffic management. He said of the traffic cameras: “It will bring on board a completely new way of reducing speeding and recklessness on our roads; a system by which we will arrest people who jump red lights, drive recklessly and pose serious danger to themselves and other road users.”
That sounds cool. But the question is: Who is going to arrest people who jump traffic lights and drive recklessly? The cameras?
Here’s a scenario: A person runs a red light with the speed camera on it. What happens next? A police personnel is supposed to apprehend that person right? Exactly! That’s where the human interface comes in. By installing the cameras, what exactly have you really changed? Are the police in on this new project? Are you going to tracking the traffic light jumper to a spot where the police can apprehend him/her?
The example of the US and Europe using these speed cameras works because they have a better system where people can be easily found and penalized for traffic offenses. I can’t say the same for Ghana. We have to address those other problems before a camera system like this can even work.
Dead On Arrival?
I sound a like a huge skeptic. But I have good reason to sound like a downer. I’ve seen these camera projects come and go. It just seems like some of these authorities think they can solve some of these road problems by simply injecting technology into the situation. But there are other underlying problems which need to be fixed first. How some drivers even obtain their driver’s license in the first place needs to be checked. That starts at the DVLA. Some of these trotro and taxi drivers definitely don’t know what they’re doing on the roads. Also, the police stationed at some of these traffic lights don’t really seem all that bothered by some cars which run red lights. It’s like the don’t have the authority to stop them. If everybody runs a red light and nobody is fined or stopped, how do you change behavior?
In the end, you have to change driving behavior and that works by enforcing the road laws. You have to actually fine or penalize drivers for driving badly. People have to be hurt in their pockets so next time you’re about to do something bad on the road, they think twice.
But there doesn’t seem to be enough will power to do that.
I don’t think installation of road cameras alone will do that. Unless these camera project is something that’s totally different from the past, I have to be honest: It sounds dead on arrival to me.
Joseph-Albert Kuuire is the creator and editor of TechNovaGh.com, an online digital platform focusing on technology in Ghana.
I’m also a UX Designer, book reader, and tech enthusiast (duh!)
Email: [email protected]