The Nkawkaw Junction along the Accra-Kumasi highway bypass has, in the last few years, become a hotspot for reckless parking by heavy-duty trucks.
The use of the shoulders of the road at the junction as a car park continues to raise road safety concerns among the populace.
The situation has been on the front burner for some time now, but it is yet to be completely resolved, despite the numerous interventions by the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service and the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA).
The Daily Graphic visited the Nkawkaw Junction over the weekend and observed that aside from the mini-market created by retailers on the shoulders of the road, articulated trucks and other long vehicles had joined to turn the area into a car park.
Haulage trucks had parked haphazardly on both sides of the road at the junction, posing a danger to other motorists, as well as traders who were engaged in brisk business at the area.
The issue of heavy-duty trucks parking recklessly on the shoulders of the road in many parts of the country, to the detriment of other road users, is common practice.
When drivers have to rest or encounter mechanical problems, they park haphazardly on the shoulders of highways. Others even abandon the vehicles in the middle of the road, without warning signals.
This is a common sight in the adjoining communities near the Tema Port enclave and on the Dadeban Road at the North Industrial Area in Accra, near Latex Foam.
Between the Obetsebi-Lamptey Roundabout and Kaneshie First Light, also in Accra, buses park on the shoulders of the road to create unnecessary vehicular traffic in the enclave.
In all these areas, aside from the danger posed to other road users and the damage caused to the road infrastructure, the illegal parking places sometimes also serve as hotspots for anti-social activities by the truck drivers and their assistants (mates).
The Daily Graphic further observed that trucks were parked on both shoulders of the road, leaving a narrow passageway for Accra- and Kumasi- bound vehicles.
Aside from the brisk business which was going on on the shoulders by bread, tiger nut (atadwe) and other retailers, some of the trucks which had mechanical problems were also being worked on by the roadside.
An electric welder operator was seen patching a rickety trailer of a truck at the scene.
At least five different vehicles which had various mechanical problems and had mechanics working on them at the time of the visit were counted by the Daily Graphic. Some vulcanizers were around the vehicles, changing tyres.
The situation posed a danger to motorists who joined the bypass from Nkawkaw, as they could not see their way clearly to enable them to negotiate the bend safely.
It was also observed that it was difficult for drivers who were turning onto the road leading to Nkawkaw.
Aside from littering, which had made the place dirty, some human excreta was seen in the nearby bushes, an indication that either drivers and their assistants or traders were defecating in the nearby bushes.
The shoulders of the road had started caving in, possibly as a result of the weight of the haulage trucks which park at the spot not originally earmarked for parking.
Some traders told the Daily Graphic that they always exchanged words with drivers over the haphazard way they parked their vehicles, but the drivers always ignored the concerns.
Diana Agyeiwaa, who sells bread in the area, told the Daily Graphic that business was better for her at the Nkawkaw Junction than it was in the main market, hence her decision to be by the roadside.
She, however, said long hours of parking by the big trucks was interrupting their business, as buses that stopped for brief periods for passengers to shop were unable to find spaces, which sometimes resulted in retailers running after buses for some metres to attract customers.
She was particularly not enthused by charcoal haulers, whose drivers, she said, did not purchase products from them but parked their vehicles overnight.
Yaw Bless, who sells bread, said traders always argued with drivers who decided to park on the shoulders on both sides of the road and ended up creating a narrow passageway in the middle.
He said the police occasionally intervened to bring sanity to the area, but as soon as they left the scene, the drivers returned to parking haphazardly.
Sandra Amoafowaa, another bread seller, said the haphazard parking sometimes resulted in minor accidents.
She said many drivers parked overnight to rest in the vehicles, adding that due to their sloppiness in parking, it sometimes contributed to traffic gridlock at the spot.
Why bypass was created
Hitherto, driving through Nkawkaw was the only option for commuters along the Accra-Kumasi main highway.
The bypass was constructed to ease congestion in the central business district of Nkawkaw, which took between 30 minutes and one hour to cross as a result of the traffic congestion in the centre of town.
Passing through Nkawkaw especially during festive occasions such as Easter and Christmas was chaotic, for which reason the government, between 2001 and 2005, committed resources to construct the dual carriage bypass.
But in recent times, traders, especially those who deal in bread and tiger nut have relocated to the junction of the bypass and gradually contributing to the return of slow traffic movement which the bypass was created to cure.
The Daily Graphic had previously reported on attempts by the Kwahu West Municipal Assembly and the Nkawkaw MTTD to stop drivers from virtually taking over the road, but that has not succeeded, as the drivers are still on the road.
Nkawkaw Police MTTD
The police have, on some occasions, stormed the area to clear the spot, only for the menace to return as soon as the police leave the scene.
The MTTD Commander for Nkawkaw, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Dr Kwaku Asante, in a telephone interview with the Daily Graphic, said the police had been educating the drivers on safety and why they should not park and even load in the area.
He said for now, because of police visibility in the area between 5:30 and 10 p.m., there was relative sanity and the place was more or less under control, except that the drivers, many of whom were transit drivers from other areas in Ghana and Burkina Faso, tended to be reckless when there was no police presence.
“We have been engaging in driver education on best practices and why they should not crowd the junction,” he said.
DSP Dr Asante appealed to the Ministry of Roads and Highways to try and extend the dual carriage bypass for about 100 more metres away from the Nkawkaw Junction.
That, he said, would especially help in preventing vehicles from the direction of Kumasi from parking at the junction.
He said for now, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) had dedicated a vehicle for patrolling that stretch and help in accident prevention.
Road Safety Authority
In a telephone interview with the Daily Graphic, the Eastern Regional Manager of the NRSA, Mr Abdulai Bawa Gamsah, said the haphazard parking “is a big problem and a very huge one for us”.
“The road construction did not make provision for parking there, not to talk about parking there for a long time. They take over the pedestrian walkway and pedestrians compete with vehicles. And with the mode of parking, they sometimes narrow the road for other users, posing a danger for traffic from either Accra or the Kumasi side,” he said.
He said what was even more troubling was the fact that sometimes the trucks deliberately park to wait for others and they decide to move in a single carriage convoy, which made overtaking them by other vehicles dangerous.
He related the issue of many road fatalities between Nsawam and Nkawkaw, especially at Teacher Mante and Asuboi areas, to truckers’ decision to move in long convoys in that area, after they had parked to rest.
He said the NRSA had been intervening and engaging them on road safety during the day to bring sanity to the area, but at night, when the NRSA was not available, they engaged in illegal parking.