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02.06.2006 General News

No Brakes! • Police Impound Twelve 207 Benz Buses

By Enoch Darfah Frimpong.
No Brakes! • Police Impound Twelve 207 Benz Buses

The search for clues as to the cause(s) of the rampant spate of road carnage in the country has led to a significant discovery that a number of 207 Mercedes Benz buses plying the roads have condemned hand and rear brakes.

A special operation carried out in Kumasi led to the discovery that when the 207 vehicles arrive in the country, they are taken to the Suame Magazine in Kumasi where their springs are adjusted to raise their bodies.

According to the Kumasi Police which carried out the operation, the rationale is to enable the vehicles to carry heavy loads with minimal impact on the tyres.

It said in the attempt to adjust the body of the vehicles, the hand and rear brakes normally interfere with the 'do-it-yourself' measure and, therefore, they are condemned by the mechanics.

When the police extended the operation to the Kejetia terminal to check on the veracity of the make-shift measures, about two-thirds of the 207 buses sampled were found to have condemned hand and rear brakes.

The result of such cannibalisation, according to the police, was that in an emergency situation, or when the vehicle developed a problem, it became almost impossible for the driver to make a quick stop, with the problem becoming even more dangerous when it rained.

Twelve of the worst case vehicles were later arrested and their drivers processed for court. The Ashanti Regional Commander of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service, DSP J. Sarfo Peprah, explained to the Daily Graphic that police vigilance over the 207 buses had increased in the wake of numerous accidents involving those buses in recent times.

A recent accident involving a 207 Mercedes Benz bus claimed 37 lives at the Akropong Junction on the Kumasi-Sunyani Road.

According to DSP Peprah, the police received information that the chassis of the 207 buses were normally extended by local mechanics to enable them to carry more passengers.

He said when the vehicles arrived in the country, they were normally taken to the Suame Magazine where the chassis was cut into two at the middle and joined with a piece of metal to make it longer so as to carry more passengers.

During the exercise, the police raised the rear tyres of some of the 207 buses at random, spun the tyres while the vehicles were still hanging and asked the drivers to step on the brakes.

Those vehicles which had condemned their brakes had their tyres still spinning when the brakes were applied, while those with their brakes intact stopped the tyres from spinning.

Most drivers who had similar 'do-it-yourself' measures on their vehicles locked the vehicles up and took to their heels when they got wind of the police operation at the Kejetia Lorry Terminal, while others sped off with their vehicles from the terminal.

Statistics, according to Mr Peprah, indicated that 1,988 accidents occurred in the Ashanti Region alone in 2003, with majority of the accidents involving 207 buses.

Within the same period, 395 people were killed in those accidents, while 2,386 were injured.
In 2004, there were 2,675 accidents recorded in the region, in which 601 people were killed, while 2,832 were injured.

In 2005, 2,357 accidents were recorded, with 353 people dying in those accidents, while 2,593 got injured.

Between January and February this year, excluding the recent one which happened at the Akropong Junction, 753 accidents have been recorded and in those accidents 156 people have been killed.