THE WAR ON OUR ROADS
Traditionally, network of roads and streets facilitate economic activities: that is carting of goods and commuting of people and services from one place to the other. On the contrary the major roads in Accra are serving other purposes. There is a serious war on the roads of Accra.
Increasingly, there have been all manner of acts of indiscipline on the major roads in Accra, much to the discomfort of every road user. One such act of indiscipline is the way and manner in which the streets have been converted into shopping malls; boutiques; including anything and everything you can think of.
Traders have taken over the pedestrian walks, including the main roads to the extent that the three –lane roads have only one lane left in the middle, let alone what have become of double and single lane roads, which other road users compete for. Thus, to use the available limited space, a road user must be mathematically inclined or otherwise find himself in trouble. A pedestrian, who sometimes more or less has to drag his feet, has to painstakingly calculate his steps to avoid stepping into a trader’s wares and be insulted or crash into something else or risk suspending his foot for lack of space or step on someone and receive a few punches in return, if not knock down by some road-hog driver who tries to maneuver his way in the congested traffic.
The activities of these traders have brought about heavy traffic jams and its attendant effect. Among the common effects are pick-pocketting; difficulties on the part of the fire service and the police to respond to emergency situations swiftly thereby resulting in the lost of lives and destruction of property in events of fire outbreaks on one hand, and criminals who could have otherwise been arrested, showing clean heels on the other, respectively. Ambulances conveying emergency cases hardly could get through to their various destinations in time, leading to avoidable lost of lives.
But that is not the entire tale on indiscipline on our roads. Indiscriminate and reckless driving has so far become the order of the day. As a people, we have not cultivated that culture of obeying rules and regulations governing the use of our roads, so we flout them free of charge. To some people, road signs mean little, whiles others see them as unnecessary decorations, perhaps due to ignorance resulting from lack of inadequate education. Thus, everybody does anything and get away with it!
We cannot enforce the law if we have been found to be part of the problem! Many of our road users have become so ‘confused’, so to speak, so much so that they can’t tell as to whether amber means ‘go’ (as opposed to get ready to ‘stop’) or red actually means ‘stop’! Anything goes, provided you are not caught; or just drop a few coins in the palm of a police officer around and you can be sure of your ‘safety’.
Bus stops and zebra crossings no longer have a place in the driver’s lexicon. They make sharp turns or stop anywhere, anyhow, to either pick a passenger or drop off one. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, a driver on seeing a person at a zebra crossing would compulsorily pulled to a halt to enable the person to cross over. The opposite is what we see here in Ghana on daily basis. Even a handful of people at a zebra crossing do not mean anything to many drivers as they have no business to stop. As drivers have learnt not to make way for pedestrians particularly at a zebra crossing, so have the pedestrians also learnt to cross the road anywhere and anyhow, even at the peril of their lives.
Over-speeding in a Ghanaian context, is relative term. Whereas some vehicles do not have speedometers, forcing drivers of such vehicles to drive at unknown speed, drivers make little use of those vehicles that have it. Some simply abuse it. Others can’t simply be bothered!
Many drivers also do not use their seat belts. Some of them only wear it when they are approaching police check points. And the way they wear is also another thing to talk about. They disconnect it; tie it to something to make it loose so that they can easily pull it over their shoulder. The police do not have the time to check this one! Why do you have to play with your own safety? I wonder!
Come to think of it, the first quarter of 2009 recorded close to 600 deaths, not to mention those who sustained various degrees of injuries. This is safely attributable to all manner of acts of indiscipline I spoke about. Can you, for a moment, imagine what would happen if this problem is not dealt with urgently. There is the likelihood that nation’s labour force would suffer serious setbacks in the areas of economic, political and socio-cultural developments.
Now let me come back to my main issue. In 2009, the city authority of Accra, AMA, took a drastic measure to wrestle the roads from unauthorized users namely the hawkers, traders, vendors, etc, etc, to ensure free-flow of traffic and people. This some traders did not take kindly; some people made political capital out of it, instead of lending their support for such a laudable exercise. Eventually the exercise came to abrupt end. I have heard news reports that AMA is returning to decongest the roads. I have no idea how they will be able to succeed the war this time round. Is there any new strategy to deal with the problem now? Clearing traders from the streets has been long over due. It would have been much easier discouraging them it was actually starting. That is the best way to avoid what we have on our hands now. You have allowed them to operate for years and have become so used to the place irrespective of the dangers it poses. Well, we wait to see; if they succeed, we will praise them, if they fail, we are all doomed.
What annoys most in all of these is when I hear victims of a particular incidence that came about through their own recklessness, shouting ‘the government should come to our aid’. You build in a water way and the rains come to wash away your building; all you do is to shout for the government to come to your aid. It is a complete nonsense to say the least! How can the government come to your aid in an event where you are selling in the street and get knocked down by a vehicle? Such circumstances present the best of opportunity to tell the people why you don’t want them using the street to do business. They should be told they will be left to their fate if they go ahead to do what has led to that misfortune. Incognito!
All we need is education that will bring about significant attitudinal change. Those selling in the streets must be told the dangers of such acts. The emphasis in this regard should be on the dangers of their activities. Television footages showing some these dangers will go a long way to drive them away from the street. Radio edutainment targeting activities of these traders will also add up. It is not going to be easy, though, but it must gradually be intensified. Application of force will not work.
Then the law enforcement officers must be encouraged to do their work. There should be no interference. Those who are fond of extorting money from these traders must be punished severely.
Certainly, the life of one person is as precious as those of a million people in developing this country of ours. We need everybody alive to develop this country.