Road language most don’t get!
The road speaks.
That is why we have road fixtures, markings, lighting and signages.
In any driving school, learning the language of the road is one of the first things a prospective driver is made to do.
The driving booklet, the Ghana Highway Code, Right Hand Traffic by the then Ministry of Roads and Transport, is what learners use to understand basic road communication before sitting behind the wheels to begin a lesson.
The booklet that guided all those who went to driving schools through the basic rules of driving is replete with courtesies and communication skills for road users.
For instance, “You can be more easily seen in the dark or poor light if you wear or carry something white, or light-coloured or reflective.
This is important on roads without footpaths” is one of the general prescriptions for road users on foot or pedestrians.
Unfortunately, non-drivers, and pedestrians, learn the basic road language and courtesies by socialisation, as no school teaches that thoroughly.
Perhaps, road language must feature prominently in the school curriculum for safer road use by all.
Road language is underpinned by basic courtesies.
Communication and courtesy on the road go hand in hand.
In line with that, the Ghana Highway Code, Right Hand Traffic states, “Give signals if they would help or warn road users.
Always give the correct signal… give it clearly; and give it in good time.
Always be sure that your direction indicator is cancelled after a manoeuvre.
However, with the pressures of the daily commute, most drivers tend to forget road language and basic courtesies.
Thus, we have pedestrians in dark clothes dashing across poorly lit roads and missing being hit by a hair’s breadth.
We have men and women in four-wheel drives who feel invincible in their vehicles, who approach intersections with speed, enter major roads with careless abandon and with absolutely no courtesy for other road users; we also have a lot more vehicles with their signages on when they have no intention of branching either left or right, causing consternation for drivers behind.
Most frustrating are individuals who cross roads carelessly, and drivers who believe they own the roads.
In developed jurisdictions, crossing roads anyhow, that is, darting across at oncoming vehicles, or running across, comes with fines.
Also awful are those who presume on roads.
Men are particularly fond of that.
They presume that once they are seen approaching an intersection, all other road users must give way!
They accuse women of wickedness on roads, as they adamantly refuse to give way to anyone.
“Mmaa tirimu ye din wo kwan so.
Omo mma kwan” (women are wicked on the road; they do not give way), they often say.
First of all, women are sticklers of rules, and expect all others to also stick to them.
So, a woman would not cede the way to a driver she perceives as indisciplned.
Secondly, because all drivers are not robots, programmed to do absolutely right on roads, we have rules to guide.
Drivers may be distracted on the road and look away, so communication and courtesies come in handy to avoid accidents, and women particularly expect that from other road users.
So, in approaching a highway or an intersection, there is the need to slow down, stop and be courteous (maintain eye contact with the approaching driver) to ensure he or she clearly sees the intention to join the road, so they act accordingly.
Some female drivers themselves are getting careless, an becoming better at bullying on roads than their male counterparts.
That may be because having born the brunt of bullying on roads, they have learnt the tricks and have become better at what was previously the preserve of men!
The presumption that other road users must automatically know one’s intentions as a road user, without proper communication, may cause accidents.
Let us learn to communicate properly on roads and be courteous.