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Opinions of Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Columnist: Daily Guide

If I were the Minister of Roads and Highways...

Opinion Opinion

There are many things that make me very annoyed on our roads. I don’t know if you have ever kept a log of it, but I can easily recall a number of things that get me mad, especially in the morning. The policeman who does not control traffic flow effectively, the broken-down vehicles packed on the highways causing traffic, drivers who cause damage to road infrastructure and the street vendors who harass you with their wares. I can give you a whole list of the most annoying things on the roads.

I almost went nuts last Monday when my husband and I were on our way to drop off our children in their school. We turned into the road leading to the school and realized the road was closed. There was no diversion, sign or warning, absolutely nothing to warn you to use another route. The men working on the road just shouted “the road is closed, you can’t pass here”. Just like that.

Well, annoyed or not, we had no option than to pack off the road, walk the children for the rest of the journey and walk back to continue our trip to work. The following day, right after the Abeka Lapaz market, on our way to the Lapaz Community Hospital we realized that the road leading to the hospital was also blocked. We had a relative who we had to see before going to work and to make matters worse, the other alternative route to the hospital had been blocked with a truck belonging to the contractors repairing the road. We were stuck for about an hour trying to get out of the chaotic situation that had been created as a result of the blockage of the road.

Why can’t the road repairs be done in the night, we asked the road workers. All they did was wave their hands to signal us that we had to go back.

Can you imagine waking up early in the morning, hoping to get to work on time and being greeted with obstacles that could totally have been avoided?

On the Suhum-Nsawam Road close to Pokuase, traffic starts building up as early as 5:20 am on some parts of the road. When you wake up early hoping to get your children to school at 6:30am, a police officer can choose to cause traffic on his indiscretion. I cannot understand why a policeman can stop vehicles on the main road for longer periods than those who are moving from a minor road into the main road. The police, even if they are not trained in traffic management, should think through what they are doing and understand that the main road carries traffic from the entire country from the northern corridors through to the middle belt.

People coming to Accra from Bawku to Tamale, Sunyani and Kumasi and Koforidua all use the same road.

As a result of that I cannot understand why a policeman or traffic warden chooses to allocate equal amount of time to the cars on the road and those who are turning into the main road.

Sometimes they end up chatting with passersby. The evening traffic is terrible. The government has to find a way of expanding that road to ease the traffic there.

One common feature on the road which causes traffic is the issue of broken down vehicles. I am surprised that there seems to be no bye law taking care of broken down vehicles. It’s a common feature to see big broken down trucks parked on the Achimota–Pokuase Highway for days causing traffic. In the absence of warning signs, drivers are negatively exposed to any incident.

So do we have road safety officers patrolling the roads and checking these incidents? If drivers are surcharged or fined for leaving their vehicles unattended to and causing so much stress and inconvenience to road users will their attitude not change?

I cannot overlook a serious observation I have made on the roads; it has to do with vehicles destroying traffic lights and rails. It is amazing to see new traffic lights that have been wrenched down within days after they were constructed.

So when drivers for whatever reasons drive into a traffic light and rails and pull them down what sanction is applied to them.

Do they just get out of their vehicles and walk scot-free or the incidents are recorded and investigated and if found to be guilty the drivers asked to pay for the cost. There has to be a proper traceability of these events to ensure accountability.

And talking about accountability, one of the things I cannot stand on the roads are policemen who chat heartily on phones whilst directing traffic. I had the impression that uniformed men at post are not expected to take personal calls or chat with friends as done in developed countries. At the Lapaz Nyamekye traffic light I have observed on several occasions policemen chatting heartily on their phones whilst at post.

The attitude of Trotro and Taxi drivers, as well as other irresponsible private drivers on our roads, is another matter to be discussed later.

So if I were the Minister of Roads and Highways I will ensure that my team put in a proper structure to manage our roads efficiently, especially when it comes to the soft areas. Road management is not limited to just sourcing for funding to construct or repair roads. The human issues are important and cannot be ignored.