Road courtesies, lost arts in driving?

BY: Caroline Boateng

“Oyé Obaa” (she's a woman), I heard a 'trotro' driver shout disparagingly, as he manoeuvred to overtake me when my car stalled momentarily.

Amused, I thought, "Are women the only ones who face challenges with vehicles?"

But this and other such disparaging comments are the daily ritual of female drivers as they use Ghana's roads, and such comments are uncouth and discourteous.

Using roads, a common infrastructure, demand that we respect each other in their use.

Road courtesy, in my estimation, is the consideration we give to one another as users.

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It is the respect drivers accord pedestrians, motorists (those riding motors and other such vehicles) give to pedestrians and vehicle users.

It is also how all interact and 'converse' with each other in the use of the common good.

Road courtesy includes being alert to act or react appropriately in emergencies.

Being courteous while using the road is important in ensuring safety, by default, preventing accidents.

It seems courtesy has become a lost trait in most drivers in Ghana.

Everyone is in a hurry.

No one wants to give way to anyone.

Indiscipline abounds, with both drivers in commercial and private vehicles, flouting all conceivable road courtesies and rules, even the most basic such as stopping at Zebra crossings for pedestrians.

As for the riders of motor cycles, popularly referred to as "okada," they do not even respect traffic signs.

Pedestrians 'jaywalk' (walk or cross the road or streets with absolutely no regard for approaching vehicles).

I call such pedestrians 'masters' of the road'.

In some jurisdictions, where the law means something, jaywalkers are fined when caught and road signs to that effect are visible to all.

The lack of consideration, when using the road, accounts for all the accidents and resulting loss of lives Ghana has experienced lately.

It claimed about a dozen lives on the N4 (the Tetteh Quashie/Madina) highway in 2018, with some of the drivers fleeing the scene.

Recently, in the early hours of Friday, March 22, 2019, more than 70 passengers on board two buses that collided head-on lost their lives, on the Tamale-Kintampo Highway.

Police investigation found that one of the drivers was sleeping at the wheel.

If the speeding vehicles on the N4 had been considerate, residents of Adentan would not have lost all those lives.

If the driver who was sleeping behind the wheel of one of the buses involved in the collision at Kintampo/Tamale highway had been considerate, he would not have continued speeding on, killing himself and others.

Yes, the urgency to reach the destination was paramount. However, the danger of an accident was real in his state.

So what must be done?

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) should look at the instruction modules used by driving schools.

A third of it must be devoted to teaching on respecting other road users.

Perhaps, that would sanitise the road environment of the insults meted out by 'trotro' drivers to other road users, particularly women.

There must be a policy on a basic qualification, at least a senior high school level qualification or a vocational or technical certificate to qualify anyone to use a vehicle.

It is high time the Motor Traffic and Transport Directorate (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) became mobile and policed the roads regularly and not only during rush hours.

It also begins with us, as road users.

It begins with us to give way to others and have the patience to apply our breaks to allow access to them.

It begins with us, having the thought to break at Zebra crossings for pedestrians.

It begins with pedestrians having an awareness of approaching vehicles and hurrying to cross.

It begins and becomes better, when we all change in our use of the roads.

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