When the vehicle of President John Agyekum Kufuor was ran into by another vehicle at a busy intersection right in the centre of Accra, all right thinking people must have thought that the wakeup call was at hand and that the Animal Kingdom behavior of the people of this country shall be curtailed through the observation of the laws of the land. It rather turned up to be the creation of a mighty animal zoo behavior in the country particularity on our roads. Since the accident involving President Kufuor's car, many innocent lives of prominent and not so prominent citizens have been senselessly and needlessly lost on our roads through the beastly willful behavior of the beasts who have been licensed to kill on our roads. Not a single day passes without one newspaper or another announcing by way of a triple decker headlines the occurrence of a “ghastly vehicle accident involving the loss of numerous human beings”. Why are we doing this damage to ourselves?
The people who drive vehicles on our roads with careless abandon causing accidents cover the entire spectrum of the society. They include highly educated individuals, half-baked educated individuals, semi-literates and complete illiterates. There are those whose ages span the entire age spectrum of the country. We have males and females who either have families and those without families. You can count on high level professionals occupying top decision making positions and the nitwits who behave like the zombie in society waiting to be instructed and led. You can spot those who drive expensive four-wheel vehicles, gilt-edged limousines, communist inspired saloon cars, articulator trucks, dump and tipper trucks, pick-ups, goods trucks, water tankers, construction mobile vehicles like crawlers, bulldozers and low loaders, utility vehicles like ambulances and passenger vehicles which are licensed to carry passengers ranging between four to anything up to sixty human beings. All these drivers contribute to the unacceptable high level accident statistics of this country.
Some of the commercial vehicles have inscription boldly written on them: “goods only, maximum passengers: three” and yet they carry more than the three allowed passengers in the drivers cabin, including the driver and additional “passengers” who sit in the bucket on top of the goods like charcoal, foodstuffs or firewood loaded in the bucket exposing themselves to the danger posed by low lying foot bridges. The story is told of some gullible individuals sitting on top of a charcoal vehicle whose heads were chopped off when the vehicle went under a footbridge with a height too low for the height of the loaded charcoal vehicle. Some commercial and company vehicles also have inscriptions: “maximum speed -75 KPH” and yet they zoom far beyond that speed limit. Some of the vehicles also have signs indicating the right way to overtake and yet the drivers behave in a way which shows they are oblivious of the signs. Then we have the vehicles with religious inscriptions which have no meaning for the drivers sitting behind the steering wheels.
But the categories outlined above constitute just a part of the iceberg of road users who add to the horrifying road accident statistics. There are those beasts clothed in human features who ride on the two or three wheel motorised cycles popularly called motorcycles. Then there are those who ride on the manual driven cycles called bicycles. And of course, we cannot forget the AD One One people, the pedestrians. Eventually, every driver or a rider at a point in time becomes a pedestrian on the road. Because of the recklessness of the motorcycle riders, an evil tongue whispered in my ears that woe betides you if you find yourself riding on a motorcycle and gets yourself involved in an accident and you are taken to the hospital, you will be left to die. Motorcycle riders behave like fighter plane test pilots. They do not obey any laws governing the use of roads and streets and traffic regulations in this country. They overtake from both the left and the right without notice. My greatest anxiety is the way the police traffic wardens allow them to cross red traffic lights posing danger to all road users.
Pedestrians also constitute a major danger on the roads. The behavior of pedestrians draw a major distinction between the security and safety consciousness between the real animals in the Animal Kingdom and the animal in the Ghanaian. If there is a place to judge the lack of security and safety consciousness of the Ghanaian, then there can be no better place than on our roads. Go to our university campuses, go to our market places, go to places in our towns and villages where there are gatherings for, say funerals or festivals, name them and the behaviour of the pedestrian is the same everywhere: reckless abandon. The pedestrian, just like the motorcycle rider, does not have the patience at traffic lights to wait for the green light to show before attempting to cross the road.
The pedestrian is very often oblivious of the danger to him or her when he or she drifts off the pavement onto the road and into the path of an incoming vehicle, perhaps through no fault of his or her because the pavement has been taken over illegally by street traders, another Animal Kingdom behaviour of the Ghanaian. As a driver when you try to correct an erring pedestrian, the chances are that you will receive insults for your civil duty. Horn to attract a pedestrian walking right in front of you and he or she will not even turn round to see whether your vehicle has lost its breaks and the vehicle is bearing on him or her. We are certainly in the midst of a big Animal Kingdom. Yet this is a country with laws and regulations and rules covering every human behaviour. May Allah save us all, Amen!
By Kwame Gyasi