What is happening on Ghana’s roads to be described as accidents, would be an underestimation. It will be like referring to a ‘wolf’ as a ‘sheep’. The question is who is responsible for this madness happening on Ghana’s so-called roads?
Three main factors can be identified that may individually or collectively be responsible for the chaos and anarchy on the ‘roads’ of Ghana. These factors to some extend comprises the Government; this includes the Ministry of Transport and all the departments and agencies under it; the Ministry of Interior under which the Ghana Police Service falls, transport owners or operators and passengers.
To start with, on the part of the government, several short-comings emanating from the sector Ministry, Departments and Agencies, contributes largely to the chaotic scenes on Ghana roads.
These so-called roads are constructed with very poor quality material. This is evident in the uncountable potholes referred to in some sections as ‘manholes’ that spring up on every road with the slightest rainfall. Either the government has no laid down rules and regulations to ensure that contractors construct roads according to specifications and design, or if any rules or regulations exist, nobody cares to enforce them, and the government lacks the will to hold the enforcement officials accountable!
Also, most of the roads in Ghana especially in city and town centres have no pavements for pedestrians to walk on or cycle lanes. Even on the few roads that there are pavements, hawkers have taken over these pavements, thus compelling pedestrians to compete with vehicular traffic, and the authorities look on with disdain whilst this mayhem goes on. They wait for someone to get ‘murdered’, then they term it as an accident, then a day’s publicity and back to the old ways! One just has to attempt to walk from the main campus of the Ghana School of Law, near the Makola Market towards the Tema Station and what the writer is referring to in this paragraph would become apparent. The solution to this problem lies at the door-step of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA).
Coming home, the University of Education, Winneba, is currently widening one of its roads into a dual carriageway from the main entrance at its north campus in Winneba towards the Anamuah-Mensah conference centre. This road was so narrow that, any reasonable person driving on it, would drive at a snail’s space, due to the fact that motorists were competing with cyclists and pedestrians on this narrow road. However, the taxi drivers who ply the University’s roads cared less about safety and drove at astronomical speed and this created worrying situations!
It is hoped that, the new road being constructed would have cyclists and pedestrians walkways to create a much safer environment. Apart from this, it may be advisable to put measures in place to limit the speed of motorists on campus to for example, 30 mile per hour (mph). If this road widening is not going to be extended to the University Hall area, then it would be reasonable to construct pavements and cycle lanes for pedestrians and cyclists respectively. The population of the University has grown tremendously and there are always students walking on this stretch of the road either to or from lectures and due to the absence of pavements, they are forced to walk on the main road thereby putting lives at risk.
Turning attention to the situation in Accra, on the Accra-Madina road outside the University of Ghana, Legon, popularly called Okponglo, pavements are provided on both sides of the road. However, during peak hours when there is heavy vehicular traffic on that road, it is not uncommon to see motorcyclist some of them Policemen riding on the pavements without helmets and no registration numbers for possible identification in case of an incident and tooting their horns to alert pedestrians to give way to them. What is happening in Ghana is that, we wait for a pedestrian to get knocked down and possibly dies, then no one is prosecuted for causing that death on charges of manslaughter and life goes on! The introduction of static speed cameras is long overdue in this country! Speed cameras should be introduced and manned by a private company to ensure that, personnel of the security agencies who commit traffic offences are held accountable.
Another factor that can contribute to rapid deterioration of roads is the permitted axle weight on the particular road concerned. It is clear that, most vehicles in Ghana do not adhere to the axle weight limit. The further question to ask is, is there a single road in Ghana that has got a weight restriction like obtains in other countries? The answer is a big NO! In other countries where the government places importance on the lives of the citizens, it is not uncommon to see signs like 7.5 tons, 18 tons and 38 tons weight limit on some particular roads. Even vehicles over 7.5 tons are barred in residential areas after 11pm in civilized countries. Most of these articulator trucks are 44 tonners, that is, those commonly called ‘six wheelers’; where the tractor unit (articulator head) has two rear axles in addition to the front axle. Are these trucks limited to 44 tons in Ghana? NO!
Neighbouring Burkina Faso has an axle weight limit of about 68 tons and Ghana 60 tons! As Burkina Faso is a landlocked country, most their imported goods are cleared from the Ghana harbours and the damage caused to Ghana ‘roads’ is beyond comprehension. The manufacturers of these trucks fits them with air suspension system, but because we Ghanaians and Burkinabes are determined to exceed the weight limit, the air suspension is replaced with springs to aid overloading. It is no gain-saying that, overloading is a major cause of accidents in Ghana and no reasonable insurance underwriter will make good a claim arising out of an accident caused by carrying excess weight. Such an insurance policy is voidable at the instance of the underwriter! Most cargo trucks in European Union (EU), where most of these trucks are manufactured are limited to 44 tons. These are the technocrats who manufactured these vehicles, have good quality roads, and yet places a limit of 44 tons maximum cargo on these trucks. We squat in Ghana with something else we call roads, and allow trucks with defective steering, defective breaks, defective lights and worn out tyres to carry 60 tons of cargo! Why won’t there be murder on our so-called roads?
The solution to this problem would be to limit all cargo trucks to 44 tons as recommended by the manufacturer. Only in exceptional situations like transporting construction equipment should the weight limit exceed 44 tons and such a truck must be hooked up to the appropriate trailer. This is what obtains in the EU. To be continued.
By Alhassan Bawah (Lecturer)
Email: [email protected]
Department of Business Education
University of Education, Winneba.