MAD CAR DISEASES ON OUR ROADS
By: Hon. Daniel Dugan
Just take a day off and in a relaxing holiday mood take a round trip drive on the Tema motor way. The first thing that will strike you is that the rules of the game are disregarded.
The driving regulations mandate all drivers on a dual carriageway to respect the fast track system, that is the inner lane, and keep it clear only for overtaking. However on the Tema motorway, Ghana’s answer to UK’s M1, you are likely to see snail pace articulator trucks taking what looks like a casual stroll in the inner lane, with heavily loaded smaller trucks and passenger buses following suite. The fast BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars, Ford etc are pushed off their legitimate route to dangerously meander between these heavier vehicles.
What makes a journey on the motorway dangerous is that, one is most likely to be caught up with a huge articulator truck in the inner lane and a heavily loaded KIA pick-up truck trying to drag its body in the outer. Trying to maneuver in between can prove suicidal since one is not too sure when that articulator could swing into the outer lane with warning.
Mind you the driving rule in Ghana is that the larger and stronger vehicles have the right of way. So even with your inner lane clear always keep a watch on that slow vehicle in the outer. It could find a much slower one ahead in its lane so frustrating that it will suddenly swerve into yours without warning.
Many accidents recorded on the motorway are the results of drivers suffering from a cocktail of diseases called the mad car disease as they recklessly swerve into lanes they have no business getting into.
One female driver had a nightmarish moment at the break of night one evening when an articulator truck in much desire to overtake a vehicle ahead, just swerved into her lane and wrecked her beautiful Mercedes saloon car, leaving the lady in state of pain, fear and panic. She had to be rushed to the military hospital by some soldiers who came to the scene. Another black saloon car on top speed in the inner lane had to apply full brakes and spin, luckily on all four before coming to a halt off the road. This road gymnastics was made possible when a vehicle in the outer lane without regarding what was approaching in the inner, decided to make a move into the fast track to overtake the one in front.
In both cases the culprits went along as if nothing had happened. And on many occasions this had always been the status quo on the motorway and elsewhere.
If you make a safe round trip on this madness called driving on the motorway do not presume all is well with you. Do well and go and visit your doctor for a thorough check-up. For all you know something inside might start getting bad. This is mad car disease for you.
As if we have not had enough of this madness on our roads, an aeroplane decided to have a taste of driving on Ghanaian roads and broke all flying rules including breaking through the outer perimeter wall and drove straight into the Hajj village. If the plane wanted to be the first to take pilgrims to Mecca this year, it had it wrong. Planes are not boarded in the village.
The resulting casualtie in what actually happened that evening on the El Wak road was another case of madness. We were told that a lady driving a saloon car noticed the strange vehicle breaking through the airport perimeter wall and she stopped before getting into its way. The driver of a passenger commercial vehicle behind her refused to stop and quickly overtook her only to crash into the speeding ‘land’ plane. The rest is history. Why would our drivers refuse to respect simple rules and use their instincts to do what is right for a change?
In a country where we seem to have the culture of finding solutions to glaring problems after the harm had been done, it is not surprising that we are suddenly awake to the need of relocating our only international airport. I believe it was many decades ago when the idea was proposed by the Acheampong regime, if I am not mistaken to move the airport from its present location to a supposedly acquired plot in Ningo? What might have necessitated this action plan was the noise pollution of aircrafts taking-off and landing. Whatever it was which formed the minds of the authorities at that time they had a foresight that one day the airport would grow into a monument of hazard in a city that is competing for honors among the world’s top. A casual look around us in the sub region and we find ourselves in the class of late planners. Liberia leads as perhaps the first in West Africa to locate its international airport far away from the capital Monrovia, about 56 km to be precise. The airport is near a town called Harbel. This over two miles long runway airport was built by the Americans in 1942. Lungi International airport in Sierra Leone is located on the coastal town of Lungi about 13 kilometers north of Freetown, which can be accessed by watercrafts. But of course not to be outdone, the Nigerians built an international airport, the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport about 40 km from the federal capital, Abuja. Never mind the fact that people are building closer to the airport.
Aircraft disasters are not isolated with these airports with Abuja topping the list. Overshooting of the runway is one of the recent disasters in this Nigerian international airport but due to distance from the city casualties are limited. What Ghana has been waiting for all these years has happened now so there is no excuse not to relocate our only international airport and make haste in upgrading Kumasi and Tamale into international ones of world class standards. We need to move up this level because we can have more disasters on our hands what with these infectious mad car diseases affecting air travel.
While the bigger and heavier vehicles bully their ways in traffic, cutting in without the courtesy of even signaling for permission, another group of road users have suddenly adopted the impudence of violating clear road regulations. These new class of sufferers of mad car diseases give enough fright to other road users to drive the hell out of them. This time one is not scared of being crushed but rather one becomes scared of killing someone. They are a group of road users called motor bike riders.
They seemed to exhibit the most chronic case of mad car disease. They move carelessly between traffic causing panic and fear to all road users but themselves. Try slamming on the pedal when the vehicle ahead moves forward and you are likely to have a motor bike speeding from one side of the road straight across you and heading to the next shoulder. You will naturally slam the breaks and curse the day you were born. These road pygmies do not have the decency to even apologize for driving the hell out of you. Anyway do they need to? After all by driving the hell out of you they may succeed in making your soul well disposed to have free passage to heaven.
Next time you stop up front at the traffic lights, please do not zoom off immediately the lights go green. You are most likely going to have a motor rider speeding across clearly defying the red lights. And there could be more than one of them criss-crossing in a zigzag pattern in the no-drive zone. As if these are not worrying enough, the man-powered bicycle riders have started following suite and are also riding recklessly in zones where the least miscalculation could result in fatalities. What is more worrying is that even the traffic wardens and this includes the police from MTTU watch on or even look away as these very vulnerable road users display clear symptoms of mad car disease.
The other as I was negotiating to the right at the traffic lights into Kanda from the Kanda overpass, I sighted a motorbike through my rear view mirror riding fast from behind and also moving to the right. Mindful of the fact that most of such bikers are in the chronic stage of mad car disease I allowed space on my right, thinking the biker and passenger were also going to Kanda. Lo and behold, he zoomed around me and headed straight towards the Gold House direction. Imagine what would have happened if I had stepped on the pedal a bit harder assuming that the biker and I were going the same direction. Are we waiting for an articulator truck to grind a few bikers into mince meat before we apply the laws?
Still at the traffic lights, we know since we have been taught at the day nursery/KG/primary school level that RED means STOP, YELLOW means GET READY and GREEN means GO, GO, GO and GO. Interestingly enough many, many years later after we attained the age of wisdom and maturity, some drivers affected with this mad car disease turn the safety rule as RED means YOU MAY CROSS, YELLOW means FULL SPEED AHEAD and GREEN means THE WAY IS YOUR FRONT. While in some countries vehicles stop at yellow and take off at yellow, in Ghana it seems quite the opposite as vehicles fly across the lights with such impudence. Try demanding your rights and you will be told a few things about yourself you never knew existed.
Have you tried using some roads during the morning and evening rush hours and going towards the rush? A road meant to take on two vehicles moving abreast in opposite directions suddenly take on four to five abreast moving in one direction. When faced with this calamity of having to swim upstream against strong currents, some of those who take over your lane will even demand you move off the road for them to pass. Another classic case of mad car disease.
Who is responsible for checking all these and more? Buses and taxis, stopping in the middle of the road to alight and board passengers, big vehicles entering into major roads without first stopping to see if all is clear, commercial vehicles moving into the road from bus stops disregarding the oncoming road user, broken down vehicles left in the middle of the road without any hazard warnings among others.
Have you ever had course to stop an offensive commercial driver and reprimand him of his disregard of road regulations? You are most likely going to get a few passengers who will scream at you, telling you not to waste their time and the fact that you are too known and whether you have not committed such an offense before. Listen to how these social misfits tell you a thing or two about driving when it is clear they might not have even gotten the opportunity to clean the inside of a vehicle to let alone hold the steering wheels. Sometimes while the offending driver is apologizing, these misfits who have nothing to lose but their lives in case of accidents will be damning you to go to hell, perhaps ahead of them.
These and more contribute to unnecessary road accidents. Considering the motorway I will suggest that we add at least two more lanes on both sides and strictly enforce and observe the Highway Code. Let us also build roads to meet demands of the future by building not only good roads but modern ones as well. Let us put a stop to serpentine roads that will have to pass through every town and village and concentrate on more straight roads. We need to build roads with underground gutters and not these open ones. Clearly some major roads and interchanges need to be redesigned for free flow of traffic. The Accra Mall area is one of such example. Even though a bye-pass from the airport area would greatly help there could still be traffic jams between the Tetteh Quarshie interchange and the Spintex road. Now what about that wide space the size of a sports field, left between dual carriage ways? If it be that there is the idea of keeping a garden in that space, we know it could never happen. By the technical definition of weed, the wild grass have taking over leaving the flowers planted by Parks and Gardens growing out of place and hence becoming weeds. We have enough water shortage problems to be using the little we have to water weeds. Such wide space could be used to add more lanes to the dual carriageways to ease traffic.
We have enough speed ramps too many on our highways. It is time we set up structures to regulate or even limit the pedestrians’ chances of moving into the road without caution. These speed ramps on highways with some even constructed way out of town are also death traps for the road users. Now it is about time we had a well establish highway patrol unit in the police. With the high rise in activities of highwaymen such well equipped unit will check that menace and other traffic offenses making our highways very safe. And why not installing CCTV camera on our roads, including the highways as well? And why do we have poorly lit roads? The consumer is paying for street lighting and yet either we have no street lights or what we have either do not work at all or at best they run shifts. The least said about the traffic lights the better. Some do not operate at all and some even show both red and green at the same time making the motorist to toss a coin to decide which command to obey. These malfunctioned traffic lights give cause to unnecessary traffic chaos. Unlike South Africa whenever the lights fail, motorists with one mind will cross one after the other in an orderly manner, with a car each from the sections. Oh it looks so beautiful, but I beg your pardon, not here but why not?
To end this article, let me warn you about Sunday driving. Sunday is the day for Lord celebrated by most Christians. If you are in hurry to go to the Lord in Heaven this Sunday then drive without caution around any commercial vehicle at all you see on the cool less busy Sunday roads. You are most likely going to get bashed by a spare driver with no driving experience but highly infested with the mad car disease.
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