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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Columnist: Vicky Wireko

Accra-Tema motorway: We need a listening ear

Every time I use the Accra-Tema motorway, my heart sinks. And indeed, I missed a heartbeat last Saturday afternoon using that motorway once again.

Why does this road still carry the 100 kilometres per hour speed sign? Drivers are doing 100 kilometres and more on that dangerous road without recourse. Meanwhile, taxi and commuter bus (trotro) drivers are carelessly stopping for passengers to alight or board, most of the time without warning signals to other drivers. We even have motorbike riders crisscrossing from inner to outer lanes. The insanity and impunity on that fast road are too dangerous for comfort.

Reckless use

The irresponsible commercial drivers jump in recklessly while some other drivers ignorantly stay in the fast lane and remain there at a lower speed and thus slowing others down. The gross misuse of the motorway where pedestrians are also running across to the other side of the road makes the 100 kilometres per hour motorway even more perilous.

So is there a difficulty for the Roads and Highways Authority to convert the motorway into a normal dual carriage road and save responsible users from heartaches? We have added to the problem of human safety on the motorway by allowing unauthorised settlers so close to the roads to the extent that it defies logic to continue to keep it is as a road for fast-moving traffic.

Since 2008 when I stopped daily commuting on that stretch of the road, I have spoken consistently about the recklessness on the 18 kilometre stretch in my writings. Many more have spoken about it but of course, who cares and who would listen?

Last Saturday afternoon, attending a funeral in Tema, it had rained heavily on some portions of the motorway making the road extra slippery. Even that did not sound as caution enough to some drivers I encountered on the road at the time. The speed and impunities were at their best. On my way back to Accra later that afternoon, my worst fear was confirmed. A deadly accident had occurred.

Accident

Shortly after the Tema tollbooth, traffic started building up. It got intense at a point and so I wondered what was going on for a Saturday afternoon. Lo and behold, there was an accident involving a red Toyota saloon car. The mangled body of the vehicle suggested that it must have somersaulted many times.

The accident attracted a lot of onlookers from the neighbourhood with drivers and passengers coming out of their vehicles. One could see a body being removed and contents of the car which had spilt all over being collected by some of the onlookers at the scene. As usual, there was neither an ambulance nor the police. Callously, there were people busy taking pictures and videos with their phones.

Accidents on the short motorway stretch have been too many for far too long. By now, one would have expected that serious probing would have been done and concrete measures taken by the Roads and Highways Authority to arrest or minimise the situation. What we heard recently is a plan to widen the road at the Tema end of the roundabout to help with traffic decongestion. All well and good but how about the safety of the road users before they reach the roundabout?

The accident on the deadly motorway once again ignited fear in me and made me ask again the question, “Why?” Why can we not convert this 18-kilometre Accra-Tema motorway into a normal dual carriage road? Countless lives and properties have been lost and many more maimed on this motorway. Its misuse has got out of control and lawlessness is at its peak.

It beats understanding as to why we want to hold on to a motorway that has outlived its usefulness. A motorway that has been abused over years. A motorway whose use is not well understood by some. Indeed, a motorway that has been left for encroachers to settle so close to it that human movement is dangerously impeding safety of other users. How long should we continue to watch on?

The motorway is no longer a pleasurable road to help one get around quicker. It is a threat to the safety of users due to heightened impunities. I like it when in the heat of the “galamsey” resistance the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joe Osei-Wusu was quoted to have said, “Extreme behaviour must be met with extreme responses”. He added, “We are pampering wrongdoers in this country too much and they are not many.”

I believe the safety of users of the motorway is very important. Let us convert is to a normal highway with double lanes for the sake of the many responsible users of that road who use it every day with much trepidation.