CITI TV deserves immense commendation for taking its War Against Indiscipline from its Adabraka studios on to the mad streets of Accra. Its collaborative effort with the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) during weekday morning rush hour over the past month is timely and worthy of support. It appears to have considerably reduced (not quelled) the senseless practices of miscreants violently and brazenly overtaking all traffic with their horns and sirens blaring, strobe lights and hazard indicators flashing and headlamps on, driving on the shoulders of roads, driving against on-coming traffic, running red lights and other numerous road traffic infractions. These utterly stupid behaviors formerly the preserve of our state owned Toyota Landcruisers and our political class, now somewhat derisively referred to as “ V8 fu)” i.e “V8 people” has sadly permeated our society, become the norm and now any other errant motorists fuelled by a little foolishness and impunity can behave as afore described. It’s insane…
Whilst CITI TV fights valiantly to bring us these images, strive for change in our driving practices, and hopefully help reduce the senseless misbehavior and carnage on our roads, I’ll attempt to analyse their footage. In doing so I will use the examples of the MP for Kade, the MP for Tarkwa-Nsuaem, the Deputy Chief Executive of BOST, the big shot from Comptroller & Accountant General’s Department, the TOBINCO Pharmaceuticals boss, and the two women who “fought” the police. The drivers of the rather belligerent Kade MP, the Comptroller & Accountant General’s Department and the TOBINCO boss’ were successfully prosecuted and fined, as were the Deputy BOST Chief Executive and the two women in a Hyundai Elantra. However the Tarkwa-Nsuaem MP is claiming parliamentary immunity from prosecution and the police have written to the Speaker of Parliament to release him for prosecution. The police must follow this up. It was sad listening to Dr. Kwabena Donkor defending the Kade MP’s flagrant disregard for our rules on CITI FM.
The above mentioned occupants of these cars are educated people, respected in our society. People defer to them. They know our road traffic rules. They knew they/or their drivers were flouting them. Their acts were deliberate and practiced. In spite of their protestations about being late for important assignments that day, the fact is that they are habitual and persistent offenders known to other commuters. They commit these offences regularly, day and night. These are the “cream” of our governance structure, business, and our public service. One of them wears the cloak of religious piety. But they persist in doing wrong, openly, brazenly and defiantly. Something is wrong with us as a people.
As for the Kade MP whose disdain for the police and reporters, bloated sense of self importance and defiance for lawful authority were evident as per the video, the description of “indiscipline” as per the Cambridge Dictionary which all of us Ghanaians living in Ghana are variously guilty of best describes him that morning. Indiscipline is described there as: “A situation in which people do not control their behavior or obey rules”. Having boasted that he instructed his driver to flout our road traffic rules by driving in the middle of the road, the Police MTTD should charge him for abetment. We need deterrents!
CITI TV’s War on Indiscipline was not borne out of a policy document. It was not started after weeks, months and years of planning, statistics, research, workshops, surveys, stakeholder meetings, recommendations, committee meetings, seminars, town hall meetings and the razzmatazz of a grand launch following radio and TV adverts and programme banners with photos of Guest of Honors etc. It was borne out of anger at the situation, a determination to help remedy the madness and a passion and a will to do it. It is proof that we can confront the indiscipline and madness on our roads and help reduce the bullying, needless accidents, damage to property, injuries and deaths arising from silly and reckless motor accidents.
CITI TV have given our police a tremendous lifeline. Their ‘good work’ can be seen and appreciated by everyone. But it’s just a beginning. The police must sail on the current provided. They will have the backing of Ghanaians if they take strong, drastic, determined measures to enforce sanity on our roads without fear or favour. Action, not policy, Action, not a working document is required. The Police Public Directorate’s proud self congratulatory press release of 17/07/2019 in which it announced its collaboration with CITI News and its success in arresting 499 drivers and realizing fines totaling GH¢258,000.00 must spur it on to continue to fight this madness. There must be no turning back!
I humbly suggest a few measures:
1. For at least one day every week for one month on different weekdays and at different times, the IGP and his whole top brass at the Police Headquarters and other divisional and police station heads across the country must leave their offices, hit the streets for a few hours at different locations to help conduct random police checks to arrest traffic offenders, distribute leaflets of say our 10 most common driving violations etc., and ensure the speedy prosecution of offenders. This shouldn’t require much planning to implement and will prove to motorists and pedestrians that our police mean business.
2. The practice of assigning police escorts/outriders to some businessmen and religious leaders 24/7 should be immediately discontinued and the processes for obtaining a police escort/outrider rigorously reviewed, tightened up and the agreed process stringently enforced. I’m certain there is a ton more money to be made from fining errant drivers than the fees obtained from committing police outriders to these people with bloated egos. Currently all one needs is the phone number of a police outrider and a few hundred Cedis and one can drive unrestricted from Adenta to Accra in 15 minutes! MTTD please look at this urgently. The police must immediately call their outriders to order and curtail this practice.
3. The DVLA is currently patting its own back for renewing licenses speedily and charging exhorbitant fees for providing services that it is mandated to do efficiently for both rich and poor. It should review our weak 1974 Highway Code with its trove of road signs and craft a new one with an emphasis on safe driving, courtesy, rules etc. It must also go further in the driver education and road safety stakes. It must compile and distribute simple leaflets and booklets which list and illustrate our most common traffic offences and pedestrian errors and offences etc. This can be done and should be done in collaboration with “stakeholders” like MTTD, NRSC, GPRTU, PROTOA, etc. It must, in conjunction with the MTTD, also sponsor interesting TV and radio programmes which highlight our common driving errors, points out the correct ways of doing things and carry out a rigorous public safety campaign. After all, it, and not the hapless NRSC is responsible for certifying the mad drivers on our roads as fit to drive.
4. Intense education is required for our police, drivers and pedestrians. Our Road Traffic Act, 2004, Act 683 and our Road Traffic Regulations, 2012, L.I 2180 encompass all the rules, prescribed behavior, sanctions etc required to enforce sanity on our roads. These laws can be reproduced in simplified versions, especially the sections covering the most common infringements and the non technical portions with illustrations of wrong and correct driving and pedestrian behavior, in an easy to read format, understandable by everyone. Every driver must have these laws. Driver organizations, state agencies, especially the Police, the Army, GRA and CEPS, serial offenders, must clamp down on miscreants within their ranks, educate their drivers and staff on the rules contained in those legislations. By now, and following the activities of CITI TV and the Police MTTD, all government ministries, departments and agencies should have received a circular from the seat of government warning state officials about these illegal driving practices and spelling out sanctions if state officials are caught violating our driving regulations. The fact that there are prison terms available as punishment for driving infringements such as drunk driving, causing bodily injury and death for guilty drivers seems to be lost on our police prosecutors. Massive re-education and a foolproof case reporting system that ensures that the police do not “rig” motor accident cases and let drivers who maim and kill poor pedestrians off the hook must be implemented.
I plead with classmates and friends of the late Moira Nancy Ewa, a lovely, affable lady who was struck and tragically killed by an allegedly drunk young driver whilst walking on a pavement in Adenta in June, not to rest, not to “give everything to God”, but to closely monitor and follow up this case to ensure that the police charge him under Section 1 C or 4 C of Act 683 and do not lazily prefer a “careless driving” charge on him, lamely prosecute him, and let him off the hook with a mere fine. This is a simple open and shut case. The prosecution must insist on a jail sentence for him.
5. Finally, as I have suggested previously in an earlier article on the gnawing and disgraceful matter of sanitation and filth, I humbly plead that the President makes the war against dangerous and reckless driving, and the death and destruction emanating therefrom, a priority. Every speech he makes directed at a Ghanaian audience and every public engagement must have a War against bad driving component. This will also ensure that the police and other agencies charged to keep our streets safe stay on their toes.
These are but a few ideas. There is so much that can be done. We must end the indiscipline and carnage on our roads. At least twice every week for the past three (3) years without fail, my friend F. Kwamina Biney sends me death filled headlines such as the following: 14/5/2017-Nine killed in gory accident at Berekum; 27/5/2017-Five killed in crash at Kenyase; 1/6/2017-Thirteen die on Apedwa-Anyinasi road; 21/6/2017-Six killed in car accident at Wansama; 26/6/2017-Two kids, Nine others killed in Bole-Bamboi highway crash; 16/7/2017-Road accidents, 152 killed in Ashanti Region; and Twenty-two feared dead in ghastly Suhum accident. These are May and June 2017 headlines. It’s much worse now. At dawn of Friday 22nd March 2019 more than 70 people died in a bus crash on the Kintampo-Tamale road. That same day 8 people died near Mankessim in another bus crash. These are horrifying statistics which make world headlines. In ‘civilised’ countries, they lead to painstaking investigations and measures are taken to prevent recurrences. But hey, after being horrified by images of charred and bloodied bodies strewn around the accident scene on Whatsapp, we have forgotten about the dead, the injured, their families, children etc. We are just waiting for the next big one. This cannot continue. The countrywide statistics of our road traffic accidents are damning. 2340 people were killed in road accidents in 2018, while between January and June this year 1252 people have died in accidents. The figures for pedestrian knock downs for the same January- June 2019 period is equally staggering; 1503. It’s a bloodbath.
Injuries from road accidents are especially debilitating. Road accidents suddenly alter survivors’ lives painfully and often quite permanently. There are more injuries than deaths from road accidents. Survivors, often breadwinners, never fully recover and suddenly become a burden to their families and paupers. It’s painful for them and their families. When five people die in a bus accident, about ten others are injured, often seriously. When a market woman or trader is injured in an accident involving a truck ferrying her tomatoes, her chances of getting her life back to look after herself and her family are severely diminished. Having no one to lean on, no savings, no social care, nor support from the state, she’s practically finished. After making a semblance of a recovery, she, a previously resourceful, independent woman, must now depend on family and the charity of friends and suddenly become a beggar to survive. This is the grim reality suffered by the majority of our ordinary folk involved in bus accidents most of which are caused by reckless speeding, impatience, drunk driving and plain stupidity.
Many of our highway accidents are caused by stupid driver errors. Drivers must be taught that driving is serious business, that cars are not toys and that drivers owe a duty of care to passengers, other road users and pedestrians and that being at the wheel invokes responsibility.
I did not set out to list the causes of accidents, death, injury and loss of property on our roads. I set out to state the fact that positive concerted sustained action can and does lead to results.
CITI TV’s action oriented collaboration with the police has the ingredients we need for our feeble “fight against insanitation”: determination, innovation, confrontation and a cold blooded will to succeed! Enough of the research findings, stakeholder meetings and policies!! CONFRONT SANITATION! It will be difficult, frustrating and chaotic to start. It will even attract sneers. It requires a full scale WAR! We may need the Military… But it can and must be done!
MT, Accra, Ghana.