Studies have found that staying in vehicular traffic can cause mental problems later in life as a result of high stress levels, the President of the Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE), Mr Magnus Lincoln Quarshie, has said.
“Every day irritations such as waiting in traffic can build up over time and cause mental problems later in life, psychologists have found, he said.
According to Mr Quarshie, recent research into the effect of traffic on the human brain had raised some grave concerns. Regular commuters and people living in urban or crowded areas are close to the sound and air pollution that was deposited by traffic congestion.
“This prolonged proximity and exposure greatly impacts physical and mental order, sometimes even leading to DNA complications,” he stated, listing some of the mental disorders as intermittent explosive disorder, traffic stress syndrome and neuro-traffic stress-related disorders.
He said unborn children were most affected by traffic congestion-related diseases such as slow development capacities and listed the effects of pollution on people’s DNA as DNA alteration, autism, the deterioration of neurons and progressive impacts.
“Congestion negatively impacts the quality of life in a city by decreasing personal and business productivity, lowering air quality and creating air pollution.
“The growing population and consequent traffic explosion have a strong relationship with the quality of life,” he added.
Mr Quarshie, who was delivering the 45th Presidential Address of the GhIE in Accra on the topic, “Transportation and Quality of Life”, outlined the real cost and the factors that were responsible for traffic congestion that impacted negatively on human life.
In his hour-long presentation to a parked audience of engineers and guests, he said “it is estimated that the cost of congestion on the Newtown Road in Accra is about US$60 million annually.”
He added that in 2012, it was estimated that congestion at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle cost US$125 million and would cost about US$184 million in time value, if the situation remained the same by 2017.
“Now if improvements are made, the time spent there would be US$12 million, bringing time savings of about US$121 million,” he said.
Solutions to congestion
While attributing the congestion to an inefficient transport system, increase in vehicle ownership and increase in vehicular traffic among other reasons, he said the creation of multi-lane roads was not the solution.
“Multi-lane improvements do not necessarily solve congestion. In fact it has been somewhat established that the more roads you build, the more congestion you create,” he stated.
“The challenge of the absence of an efficient public transport system, walk and cycle network facilities will continue to trigger an upsurge in car ownership and use; imbalance in transport and land use, which is [the] inequitable siting of activities that generate travel and exposure risk to crashes,” he warned.
Mr Quarshie suggested the building of sustainable cities, efficient public transport and integrated traffic management systems as ways of dealing with the issue of congestion.
He defined an integrated traffic management system as ensuring the safe movement of people in a healthy environment, proposing cycle networks as a national strategy that would contribute to the quality of life of pupils and students.
The GhIE president also cited the lack of political will, technical skills, enforcement, a standards regime and necessary legislative amendment, as the bane of traffic congestion in the cities.
He asked political leaders and policy makers to be prepared to take tough decisions that would benefit the citizenry and asked educational institutions for more admissions to engineering courses to make up for the shortfall in engineers in the country.
Mr Quarshie also asked for the enforcement of traffic regulations, as weak application only worsened the congestion problem.
He said while £20 million was yielded in traffic fines in England in just a year, road traffic fines in Ghana were not prohibitive enough and had been reduced from 250 penalty units to 25 units.
In his remarks, the Chairman for the event, Togbi Kporku III, a fellow of the GhIE, asked the engineers to be confident in their work and not be influenced by politicians.
“Drop all the lack of confidence and say this must be done this way and defend it stoically.
“Politicians force us to say things that must not be said. Let us be bold and move forward as engineers so that nobody tramples on our profession or trade and we must do the right thing,” he advised.
He cited that although the ongoing construction of the Kwame Nkrumah Circle interchange had been on the drawing board since 1972, it was now being actualised after 40 years.
Expressing his fear of more congestion if the engineers did not take action, Togbi Kporku said :“The registration of 250 vehicles a day in Tema and Accra is quite frightening and it is important that we do something about it.”
Over 40 copies of the GhIE president’s address were auctioned to various individuals and organisations represented.
Source: Graphic Online