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17.05.2007 Crime & Punishment

Articulated Truck Menace

The Commander of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit of the Ghana Police Service, ACP Victor Tandoh, has said it all — accidents can occur any time of the day in so far as drivers fail to exercise caution and do whatever pleases them on the road.

So long as Ghana remains a loyal and committed member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), we have to observe all the necessary protocols. And so long as our landlocked neighbours find it convenient to trade through our ports, we have to accommodate them.

Indeed, in the past when we imposed temporary bans on the movement of articulated trucks in the night, the practice in other countries in the sub-region was to encourage heavy duty vehicles to move freely in the night and be restricted in the day.

The philosophy was that in the day time the heat generated on the asphalt roads was so much to cause tyre bursts, whereas the road surface was cool in the night.

That does not mean that many accidents do not occur in the night. It is not for nothing that some travellers detest travelling in the night. Night driving is more challenging than day time travelling, especially for drivers with problems with their eyesight.

But the reality is that accidents do not occur because it is in the night per se. Most of the accidents are caused by avoidable human error, including refusal to rest.

Research indicates that four hours of continuous driving must be the maximum for any driver. In other jurisdictions, it is mandatory for drivers to rest after driving for that long. We cannot say that that is what is happening on our roads.

Recently, an investigation by a national daily exposed the fact that axle-load weigh bridges have become means of enriching some selfish public officials and their police collaborators, instead of serving the public good.

Once an articulated truck is overloaded, it becomes a danger on the road. When the driver is faced with any challenge, the obvious is to protect himself against all others. That accounts for some of the road fatalities.

A tired driver who refuses to rest is more likely to do sleep-driving. A number of accidents resulting in fatalities have occurred because the drivers were sleeping while they were behind the steering wheels.

Some of our drivers are careless and reckless, especially on good roads. They overload their vehicles and overtake other vehicles at will. Sometimes they overtake at the wrong points, including sharp curves and hilly areas where they cannot see ahead of them.

Unfortunately, where other drivers exercise diligence and restraint and the reckless drivers escape danger, the latter are emboldened and presume to have achieved feats or shown prowess, often with the approval and encouragement of passengers.

There is yet another group of drivers who cannot read or interpret road traffic signals and, therefore, easily get involved in accidents.

These are the things we would want the police to check to save human lives, instead of a blanket ban on the movement of articulated trucks in the night.