22.10.2008 Feature Article

Making Old Laws Look New

Making Old Laws Look New
22.10.2008 LISTEN

Some time ago when Mr Peter Nanfuri was the Inspector-General of Police, a directive was issued banning the use of tinted windows by motorists, with a warning of dire consequences if that directive was flouted.

Some quickly responded by removing the tinted films on their windows. Others did not.

At the end of the day, those who respected the order looked like fools because not a single driver or car owner was arrested and prosecuted for illegal use of heavily-tinted windows.

Today, it has become fashionable to drive vehicles with heavily tinted windows on our streets and highways as if nothing is at stake, even though we all know that tinted windows can blur vision and provide criminals the opportunity to do many bad things even in the day time.

This country does not lack road traffic regulations. These are captured in the Road Traffic Act of 2004 (Act 683).

These regulations have been designed to ensure road safety, protect motorists and other road users, avoid or minimise accidents and, where accidents occur, reduce their negative impact and ensure that due compensations are paid to victims.

They are also to protect the society from potential criminal activities by miscreants who are likely to use unregistered vehicles, vehicles with false compartments and tinted windows to commit crime.

In short, Act 683 has enough safeguards and deterrents to protect lives and property and ensure safety on our roads.

Last Wednesday, the Commander of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service, ACP Daniel Julius Avogah, went public again, warning motorists of the consequences of flouting road traffic and driving regulations.

In an interview with the Daily Graphic, ACP Avogah reminded the public of certain actions or inaction which constituted an offence under the Road Traffic Act and which could attract sanctions as prescribed by the act.

They include driving without fastening one's seat belt and carrying a pregnant woman and a nursing mother or a child of five years or below in the front seat.

We also know that there are regulations on driving vehicles without registration numbers, riding motorbikes without helmets, driving with defective lights, overloading and driving without a driver's licence issued by an accredited body.

The list is tall and to help the police to execute their mandate of ensuring law and order on the roads is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), another public institution which is to ensure that even before the vehicles hit the roads they are roadworthy, duly registered and licensed and their passenger and load capacities clearly established and approved.

ACP Avogah was even magnanimous enough to say that the law on the use of seat belts would come into force in January 2009.

That is good effort, granted that there remain some legal and technical hurdles to be cleared before full compliance.

For instance, which type of vehicles would be affected by the law on the use of seat belts? Will it affect all passenger vehicles? What about the mummy trucks which still carry passengers?

These are some of the questions that will require answers.

My problem is that there are old road traffic regulations that are scarcely enforced to the letter.

It is acknowledged that the police are confronted with numerous challenges, including human resource and logistics constraints.

The service conditions of personnel can also not be described as the best. Nothwithstanding these obvious constraints, and with the limited available resources, personnel of the MTTU can still do better.

As stated earlier, the directive on the use of tinted windows has been treated with contempt. Meanwhile, it does not take much effort to arrest those flouting this directive.

It is a daily occurrence to see motor riders without crash helmets and there are many vehicles on the roads without the appropriate registration numbers.

It is common to see children sitting on the front seat of vehicles every morning while being sent to and from school.

These days, tro-tro and taxi drivers have created special lanes for themselves on which they speed recklessly, to the detriment of other road users, with such impunity that they have become a law onto themselves.

Even though ignorance is no excuse before the law, reminders and warnings such as the one issued by ACP Avogah are necessary, at least to keep the general public abreast of events.

However, the most important thing is the enforcement of the law.

There is too much impunity in the system. We have enough laws which, if enforced, can bring some appreciable amount of sanity and safety on the roads.

The problem is that much too often the police are lenient, play ball with offenders or just get overwhelmed by prevailing conditions.

At least it should be possible to remove those vehicles with heavily-tinted windows from our roads.

We should be able to rid the roads of unregistered vehicles and we should be able to ensure that motor riders without crash helmets do not have access to our roads.

As a human institution, the police cannot be without their challenges, but these should not overwhelm us into inaction.

It will be in the interest of the nation if members of the public support and co-operate with the police.

But the first step must be taken by the men in uniform, otherwise we may be sounding as if we are making new road traffic regulations, when all we need is to enforce existing ones.

By Kofi Akordor

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