We were all crawling in heavy traffic in both directions from the Tema end of the motorway towards Afienya. Suddenly there emerged police motor riders at their usual terrific speed and predictably followed by a fleet of powerful cross-country vehicles dominated by Toyota Land Cruisers.
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Conventional wisdom dictates that in such situations where the rest of us had to give way to a special person or persons, an advance motor rider takes the lead to warn us of the approach so that we could edge our vehicles off their path. That was not the case as panic set in and motorists struggled to get space on an already crowded road. We were spared any accident but shall we always be lucky?
That was not an isolated case and it was a clear demonstration of how the culture on our roads has become chaotic and disorderly.
Motorcades have become a regular feature on our city roads especially, to the extent that one cannot tell who or what is approaching. The police have always told us that apart from the chief executive officer of the republic, that is the President, all other human beings are not entitled to the use of motorcades. Even in the case of presidential motorcades, we expect some form of law and order.
That was why in the past when we heard the siren blaring in the distance, even though still a nuisance, we knew the dear one was approaching and we always stopped, hoping to have a glimpse of the leader.
Things have changed and the siren these days could herald the approach of the convoy of the President or any other person who has the right connections to have a police escort. It could also signify the approach of a corpse or money or a wedding party.
The police keeps reminding the public that apart from the presidential motorcade, only selected emergency services, including the fire service and ambulances are allowed to use sirens. We have also been warned several times that those who breach this rule will be prosecuted.
So far we are yet to hear of anybody being arrested and prosecuted for the abuse of the use of sirens, horns or headlights simply because the practice has become standard and the police, on many occasions, are active participants in the unlawful exercise.
The traffic situation in many parts of Accra is getting worse and worse, therefore, it is not unusual to see a police motor rider or police driver using an operational vehicle, escorting individual motorists or any of the parties mentioned earlier in heavy traffic.
People who see such flagrant abuse of the laws of our land take their chances and create their own motorcades by switching on their headlamps and hazard lights and off they go with horns blaring. They always succeed so that has also become a standard practice. Those who respect the traffic regulations and keep their places in the traffic have become more or less the fools who do not appreciate the value of time.
The preferential treatment on the roads has been extended to the dead, so while you may think an ambulance with siren at full blast is conveying a poor soul to the hospital for medical attention, what looked like an ambulance is actually conveying a body to the morgue or from the morgue to wherever and all traffic must give way. In other words, what seems like an ambulance may actually be a hearse which enjoys the same privilege as an ambulance.
That does not end the story. Our respect for the dead has become so proverbial that most funeral convoys to the cemetery these days move in motorcade style and those going to work or the sick going to hospital must give way as a last respect and reverence for the dead.
The indiscipline in the country, which is more manifested on the roads, is very frightening. Unless there is an accident where the police are called or the regular ‘checking’ of papers, police presence has brought very little sanity on the roads, especially in Accra and other major cities which have become jungles where the fittest and rudest survive.
Single-lane roads have been turned into dual carriageways and the shoulders of the roads have become special lanes for speeding commercial vehicle drivers who do not care a hoot for traffic regulations.
A pedestrian who attempts to use the comfort of the zebra crossing to access the other side of the road will count himself lucky if he is not knocked down by a speeding vehicle.
It appears the police are overwhelmed and totally impotent to enforce law and order on the roads.
We may point at lack of adequate logistics to support their operations, but can that justify the impunity with which motorcyclists ride unregistered motorcycles without helmets under the very noses of police officers in Accra?
I have stated it before and I will repeat it here that there are more unregistered motorbikes in Accra than the registered ones and those who wear helmets could be counted as against those who do not; so which is the norm and which is the exception?
If we could start a national crusade beyond words to enforce discipline on the roads, we may in effect be on the path to bringing some reasonable amount of discipline into our national life.
For now, it appears the road rage is like a jungle which is expanding and those who are expected to show the way are not in a hurry to do so.