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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson

Bad Attitudes by the Police and Drivers Contribute to Road Accidents

– Eyewitness account.



Ghanaians have ascertained that numerous lorry accidents occur on Ghana roads on daily basis. The causes of these accidents may be many. However, I am going to discuss only two of such causes among others. Empirically, the lackadaisical but corrupt attitudes of the Ghana Police cum the deplorable attitudes of the drivers on the roads are the number one cause of the various accidents taking place on Ghana highways.

I have recently witnessed the alarming incidents am about to reveal. One of these incidents could have led into a fatal accident had it not been my timely intervention. I was barely three weeks ago travelling in a taxi from Asante Effiduase to Kumawu. On reaching Wonoo, a heavy-duty truck and another taxi were ahead of mine.

The truck was in the lead followed by the other taxi and then the one in which I was a passenger. These three vehicles were driving uphill. They were not far from a long bend in the road. The driver of my taxi though in the rear, attempted to make an unsafe overtaking of not only the taxi in front of him but also, the truck in one go. It was unsafe because he was not only travelling uphill but also, was not many metres away from a long bend without clear visibility of what could be unfolding ahead of him in any split second.

As my taxi engaged in a crazy attempt to unsafely overtake the one in front of us, the driver of that taxi shortly augmented his speed. Come and see an insane drama unfolding. Both taxis were up to par and speeding dangerously at the same rate. I tapped the backrest of the driver's seat and shouted, "Please slow down and let him go if he is unwilling to let you overtake him" The driver heeded my advice. He slowed down; retired into his directional lane to queue behind the other taxi. This happened just in time. Within seconds, there comes an oncoming passenger van from the curve. The van would likely have collided with the taxi in which I was travelling. It would have been fatal.

It was an excellent opportunity for me to lecture him on how dangerous it is for Ghana drivers not to respect the Highway Code. He kept his silence. He was remorseful for behaving unethically. The other driver was as well wrong for resisting that unsafe attempt made to overtake him. It is prudent to allow a car to overtake if by stupidly resisting will result in a road accident.

You do not have to keep speeding up especially where none of the drivers can see far ahead of them to avoid head-on collision with oncoming car(s). This is one of the many irresponsible attitudes by Ghana drivers to causing what could have been preventable but fatal road accidents. Ghana drivers need training on road signs by way of giving them workshops on driving lessons (theory).

The other incident is about an interrogative conversation I held with an Effiduase "Urvan" passenger car's driver involving a police officer taking a GHC1 (One Ghana Cedi) bribe from him. On my way from Effiduase to Kumasi aboard the passenger car in question which had one passenger too many (overloaded by one passenger), the following happened. On reaching the outskirts of "Asotwe" (a town), there was a mounted police barrier to control the vehicles plying the road.

Before reaching the barrier, another fellow driver heading towards the opposite direction notified my driver about the presence of the police at the outskirts of "Asotwe". He stopped to drop off his driver's mate way off the barrier. He pulled out his license and slid inside the cover a one Cedi note. At the barrier, a police officer signalled him to pull up on the roadside. He got off the vehicle with the driver's license in hand heading towards the police officer. He came back a minute or two later, jumped into his seat and drove off to Asotwe where he stopped to wait to pick up his mate who crossed the barrier on foot.

Luckily, the police officers who have mounted the barrier were on intelligence search but not there to take bribes. They were waiting for a specific vehicle. They did not remove his GHC 1 (New Ghana one Cedi) from inside the License cover or wallet.

On reaching Kumasi-Kantinkrono, there were police officers stopping vehicles moving down both directions of the road. When mine was stopped, the driver who had until now not removed but kept the money in the license's cover, got off with the wallet in hand and walked up to a policewoman. I was in the front seat with the driver so could see vividly all that was unfolding. The police officer, a tall woman of not much beauty, both physically and in character, quickly opened the wallet, removed the money and handed the wallet back to the driver.

I questioned the driver why he parted with the money to the police officer.

Question (Q): What did you hand over to the police officer if I may ask? Answer (A): My driver's license Q: Why do you hand it out? A: To permit they check its validity.

Q: Why then did she not open the wallet to check the validity of the license and check to see if you are actually the one in the picture? A: That is how they normally go about checking us when flagged down at police barriers.

Q: Why do you have to bribe the police because I could see the woman stealthily remove the one Cedi note from the wallet at a speed reminiscent of the stroke of lightning? A: If I do not, they will delay me (the vehicle).

Q: Why will they hold you up? A: They will check to see so many things and faults.

Q: Do you not have valid documentations covering your vehicle? A: Yes, I do have all my covering papers in date – pointing to the road tax pasted on the windscreen.

Q: But why should you bribe them if all your papers are genuine and are in date? A: They are here for money so if I do not bribe them, they will keep me waiting to check for all unnecessary things?

Q: What type of things are you alluding? A: Like this small crack in my windscreen – (he points to a crack in the windscreen probably caused by a flying stone or object smashing into it).

Q: Why do you not get the windscreen repaired or replaced if it was going to keep you bribing the Police each time they stop you at any of their barriers mounted at whim to seek to top up their earnings? A: Granted the windscreen does not become an issue, they will still look for other faults.

Q: Faults like…. A: They can check to see whether you have a Fire Extinguisher in the vehicle. Q: Do you have one anyway? A: Yes

Q: Then why should you give them bribe? Have you been trained by anyone how to use it? A: Once they are hell-bent to extort money from you, regardless what you do they will find a minor fault to nick you. Nobody has given me formal training on its usage but I can manage one. I have one in my vehicle.

Q: But I do not understand why you still have to bribe them once you have everything in order. Do you not really have anything to hide? A: As I have repeatedly said, they can ask you for your First aid box.

Q: Anyway, do you have a First Aid kit? Has anyone trained you on how to administer first aid to a casualty? A: Nobody has trained me but I can administer first aid to a passenger when it is required. It is that simple. I have got one.

Q: I giggled and asked, what else compels you to give bribe to these indirectly highwaymen? A: They can even ask to see if you have a machete (cutlass) in the vehicle. If you do not possess one, you can be done for it.

Q: Why do you need a machete in your vehicle? A: You need one because they expect you to cut up any small tree that happens to fall into the road when you come across one.

Q: Then get yourself a machete. Do you have one? A: No, I do not have any. Q: Why is that? A: It is all because another police officer can also question why you are keeping a machete in your vehicle. He/She will accuse you of putting it to fraudulent usage like intending to use it to kill or rob people.

All along another passenger in the front seat was laughing and asking the driver to get all that is required of him as being interrogated about to avoid any further payment of bribes to the police. The driver then said, the police claim to have ninety-nine (99) things to check any time they stop a car. Your vehicle can be new; they can still get you on one of the 99 faults or things. I realised that Ghana drivers are in no win situation when stopped by the police intended to extort money from them. I alighted when I got to my drop-off point at "Anwonaga Junction"

From the above, the police do not check for faults as is required of them. They do no not check to ensure those in the driver's seat are qualified to drive and are the very people in the picture on the license. They do not check if the vehicle is roadworthy. They are just there to exact money from the unfortunate drivers.

From the above, we can blame and hold the police responsible for causing accidents on our roads if what could have been a preventable fault leads to an accident where the police failed to perform their duty professionally.

Rockson Adofo