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Opinions of Friday, 2 September 2005

Columnist: Agyepong, Benjamin Opoku

The Cause Of Accidents On Our Roads Is ....

...Reckless Driving Not Poorly Maintained Vehicles. Part 1

I have just returned from Ghana my dear country after one-month stay, predominantly in Kumasi-The Garden City of Ghana that has no trees and flowers growing in the garden. After a considerable encounter with friends, family members, and the ordinary people as well as some men of high repute, and haven also traveled extensively on the Accra-Kumasi road, the recent accident that claimed the lives of three renowned doctors, though was shocking, yet not surprising. Why do I say this?

In Ghana, we have highways patrolmen whose only job is to station themselves at a specific location, for example (at the Bunso junction) in the eastern region only to correct their chop monies from motorists. Instead of combing the highway to check reckless driving for possible summons, they prefer stationing themselves at one location leaving drivers to do whatever they like on the roads. Overtaking on hills and in curves is a common thing in Ghana. Drivers will overtake slow vehicles even when they cannot see ahead of them for oncoming cars and even where there is a solid white line.

In Ghana, drivers will avoid a pothole and veer into the opposite lane whether or not there is an oncoming vehicle. I had the occasion to witness more of these type of careless driving on the Accra-Kumasi road, so imagine I were a police undercover, detailed to patrol the road I bet I could have issued not less than fifty moving violation summons within the month I was in Ghana.

Another common phenomena I witnessed on the busiest highway in Ghana were the rampant site of broken-down vehicles most often at dangerous points on the road. One would not travel from Kumasi to Accra without seeing as many as ten (10) broken-down vehicles on strategically dangerous points on the highway. At one time, a broken down Burkinabe Truck was left dangerously at the Kubease customs checkpoint for almost one week until people started complaining on the FM stations before it was repaired and moved away. Meanwhile, I believe that countless number of police personnel drove by and saw the danger without doing anything about it.

All these notwithstanding, Ghanaians including policy makers are concentrating their efforts on bad vehicles (I mean vehicles that are in the state of disrepair) believing that such vehicles are killing people on our roads. Very interesting indeed. In a country where statistics are not collected or are poorly collected, it is easy to make poor judgment, as is the case here. Whiles in Ghana I decided to check the nature of the vehicles that were involved in accidents on the Kumasi-Accra road anytime I traveled on it, and found that busses, heavy trucks and well maintained salon cars constituted the bulk of vehicles involved in accidents. This may seem absurd, but when examined critically, it reveals a truth here. the poorly maintained cars often lack speed and move slowly, whiles the good cars have ample speed and often overtake anyhow. Secondly, this reveals that vehicles themselves seldom cause accidents due to mechanical failure, but reckless driving and poor judgment of drivers are the principal cause of accidents on our roads, so the earlier this is acknowledged and addressed, the better it would be for Ghana.

To reduce accidents, reckless driving must be checked, and offenders summonsed, drivers who have mounted fog lights on their vehicles and use them to blind other road users must be made to pay for their stupid behavior, motorists who fail to dim their head lights when meeting an oncoming vehicle as well as those who follow others with high beam must all be targeted for summons. Broken down vehicles must be towed to safer grounds within 6 hours after the breakdown. When these are controlled, our roads will be much safer than they are today.



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