ï¿½Have you seen those standing there, they will cross right now, look! They are crossing, they donï¿½t fear the cars,ï¿½ says 25 year-old Mari, a petty trader who sells along the newly-constructed 14-km N1 Highway at Old Achimota.
ï¿½They cross here every morning, the old, young, women, men and children, cross the street, just look at them,ï¿½ Mari says. ï¿½I will not risk my life like that.ï¿½
This road, which is a gift from the American government through the Millennium Challenge Account, has suddenly become a killing field, swallowing human beings like a demented hen.
But unlike Mari, who would rather use the footbridge located one kilometer away from the bus stop to cross the road, many people who live along the three-lane dual carriage N1 Highway, called the George Walker Bush Highway, do otherwise.
They wait for the road to be less busy and run across six lanes to the other side. Others also overlook the bridge and cross right under it to the other side of the road.
Pedestrians claim it is faster to cross the road when cars are far off than having to walk about a kilometer to the footbridge.
Some unfortunate pedestrians who have crossed the road had to pay dearly for their misconduct. Speeding cars and trucks have often knocked down pedestrians who tried crossing the road.
Georgina Agyeiwaa aka Wuzeee, a cocoyam and plantain roaster at the Abofu near Achimota, close to the new road, recounts the incident that led to the death of one of her neighbours Sister Regina, a sachet water seller, three weeks ago.
She says a speeding car knocked down Regina and another passed over her, killing her in the process.
Regina, who had two children, was killed when she was crossing the road to serve a buyer who wanted to buy a sachet of water.
ï¿½We will be having her final funeral rites very soon,ï¿½ Agyeiwaa says.
Regina, together with others, had had to pay with her life crossing the N1 road which runs from Tetteh Quarshie Interchange to Mallam Junction in Accra.
But the situation has not deterred other pedestrians from crossing the road even at places where accidents have occurred.
ï¿½They are not disturbed by the people killed on the road, they just donï¿½t care, they still cross the road even at places where cars have knocked and killed people,ï¿½ Mari says.
Public Relations Officer of the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU), Inspector Simon Tenkuu, expresses surprise at the high death rate at the new George Walker Bush Highway.
ï¿½We are quite surprised looking at the educational activities we did before the re-opening of the new highway,ï¿½ he says.
Tenkuu says the unit has recorded 34 reported cases of accidents involving 62 vehicles on the road between 15th February and 6th March 2012.
He says out of the reported cases, the MTTU recorded 13 deaths; 12 resulting from knockdowns.
ï¿½Twenty-five injuries resulting from knockdowns have also been recorded on the road,ï¿½ he notes.
He says the number could be more as some accidents are not reported.
Recently, 36 commercial drivers were arrested by MTTU early one morning for unlawful parking on the newly-constructed road.
The drivers were seen parking at unauthorized places, offloading and on-loading.
Agyeiwaa attributes the high death rates to sheer laziness on the part of pedestrians. Although she acknowledges the inability of persons with limb issues to climb the stairs, Agyeiwaa says able-bodied men and women, out of laziness, refuse to use the footbridge.
ï¿½It is laziness that is making them behave like that. When I see them crossing and I tell them to do the right thing and use the bridge they come and warn me to stay out of their business,ï¿½ Agyeiwaa says.
However, some analysts have attributed the problem to engineering defects on the road. These need to be addressed urgently to reduce the carnage.
Martin Eson-Benjamin, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Millennium Development Authority (MiDA), which supervised the N1 project, says it is very sad that some people have lost their lives on the road.
ï¿½I personally do not want this road to be associated with that sort of death,ï¿½ he says.
He blames the occurrence on indiscipline on the roadways and says the road was built to improve the efficiency of the greater network in and around Accra.
ï¿½It was to reduce the bottlenecks that delay access to the international Airport and the ports of Tema and support the expansion of the base of our horticultural exports,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½We want people to transverse Accra in 30 to 45 minutes.ï¿½
He adds that people should adopt the new development and desist from insisting on dashing across the road.
ï¿½People are used to crossing (the street) from in front of their houses,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Youï¿½re crossing eight pieces of road. So itï¿½s no longer the luxury of the past.ï¿½
ï¿½It takes a longer time for pedestrians to go to the proper crossing, but that is the way of the world,ï¿½ he adds.
Tenkuu believes drivers also deserve some blame for the carnage on the Bush road.
ï¿½Drivers, some of them, have turned this beautiful road into racing tracks where they speed,ï¿½ he says.
He notes that the speed limit along the highway is 50km per hour.
ï¿½But some drivers are going beyond 100km which in itself is an offence,ï¿½ he says.
Mari, who uses the footbridge, agrees with Tenkuu as she says big trucks run the road at top speed. ï¿½It is not easy,ï¿½ she adds.
Joe-Fred Peseo, Director of Road Safety and Environment at the Ghana Highway Authority, says people still have the old mindset of crossing the road at any point however, ï¿½the whole area has changed nowï¿½.
ï¿½Itï¿½s not like what it used to be where you could cross at any point,ï¿½ he says. ï¿½Speeds are higher now, and more lanes have been added to the already existing ones.ï¿½
He acknowledges the need to provide additional facilities but says people will have to use what is available until then.
Mari, who uses the footbridge, suggests that authorities put traffic lights where pedestrians normally cross to help regulate the flow of cars.
ï¿½When they bring the traffic light it will help us because they are here waiting for the car to pass for them to cross so the traffic light will help us,ï¿½ Mari says.
Agyeiwaa also suggests that the police should intensify their patrols as her location is less visited by the patrol team.
ï¿½For this place, they donï¿½t come here so if some policemen come and prevent the people from crossing the road it will help.ï¿½
Peseo says there is still more education that needs to be done in order for the present challenge to be fully addressed.
ï¿½Even though some education has been done, I think we still need to do more,ï¿½ he says.
He adds that the highway authority, together with other stakeholders, is undertaking a post road construction audit to ascertain the shortcomings of the new road and to look at ways to address those issues. ï¿½We need to finish the audit to know where the accidents were concentrated on the road so that we can address them.ï¿½
Eson-Benjamin says there is an additional work that needs to be done to complement the interchanges built on two sides of the highway.
ï¿½Ghana government needs to give the funding necessary to build more pedestrian bridges and interchanges,ï¿½ he notes. ï¿½Five more interchanges are supposed to be built, and not ramps or speed bumps.ï¿½
ï¿½Because the road is meant for transporting agricultural products on the trucks, these things would end up bruising the fruits before they reach the ports,ï¿½ he explains.
He says more education on road safety needs to be undertaken by appropriate authorities for pedestrians.
ï¿½The authorities must enforce the law,ï¿½ he says.
Tenkuu says the MTTU have taken up certain measures to bring the current situation under control.
The police have deployed motorized patrol team patrolling the road- day and night.
ï¿½Looking at the measures put in place by the police to curb these things, weï¿½ve deployed motorized patrol team patrolling the road 24 hours,ï¿½ he says.
ï¿½Through that operation, weï¿½ve made not less than 51 arrests or cases.ï¿½
Tenkuu says about 34 people have been sent to the motor court, with the unit securing 32 convictions and fines.
ï¿½We have generated GHï¿½10,800 into the consolidated fund through these indiscipline drivers we arrest,ï¿½ he says.
He states that the unit will continue until sanity is brought back on the road, adding that crossing the road anyhow is an offence in the legal books of the Republic of Ghana.
ï¿½We are telling them that in the legal book, Road Traffic Act 683, jaywalking is an offence and in legal terms ignorance of the law is not an excuse.ï¿½
He says the unit is doing everything possible to make sure drivers and pedestrians respect the road regulations for their safety.
ï¿½All that we are saying is that until these engineering effects are fixed pedestrians are obligated to use the foot bridges available.ï¿½
Source: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
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