Friday, January 21, 2022.
It is nearly three decades ago. It was the first time my late father allowed me to drive him on a long journey, from his hometown in Assin Asamankese to Sekondi where he worked (and we stayed). I had started driving not too long earlier and he remained my coach.
We were following a truck, and law abiding as I was (or tried to impress him that I was), I followed quietly. My father warned me to try and overtake the truck as soon as possible. He was not amused I was following it for so long. I finally did. I asked him why he was so keen on me overtaking the vehicle. His answer has changed how I drive: “It is more dangerous following this vehicle than overtaking it in some prohibited parts of the road. The vehicle does not look road worthy. You do not know what it is carrying. The brakes can fail, something may fall out of it and get us in trouble…”
I have been stopped three times by policemen for breaking the law while driving. I have never paid a bribe to a policeman. On all three occasions, I conceded I was wrong. I would have paid a spot fine if we had it (I have written about the need for spot fines in Ghana in another piece). There were two options – to warn me and let me go, or to ‘process me for court.’ I told them I was ready to go to court. I just had to call and cancel my surgeries for the next day or two and go to court where I was likely to be asked to pay a fine. The country loses more of my productive hours…
So on one of these three occasions, I was following a long truck that was travelling at less than 20km/hour. It was a winding road. The first clear chance I got to overtake it was in a village. I overtook it driving at less than 50km/hour but it was still illegal where I did it. Just after overtaking the vehicle, some policemen beckoned me to stop. I knew what to expect. They asked me if I knew I had broken the law. I told them yes, and added what my father told me years earlier “It is more dangerous following this vehicle than overtaking it where I did…”
Yesterday, it was reported that a truck transporting mining explosives collided with a motorcycle in Apiate near Bogoso in the Western Region. The explosion leveled the town, kiliing and injuring many. Some questions came to mind: Were there vehicles following this truck carrying explosives? What happened to them? Could these vehicles have overtaken the truck before the explosion (even at prohibited places)?
As long as we allow vehicles that are not road worthy as well as dangerous vehicles (carrying all kinds of items some of which can fall off) to ply our roads, we are all at risk. I think this is also a wake up call for the country to invest in dual carriageways so that vehicles will not have to follow others for long periods, no matter how safe they may look. This will also go a long way to reduce head on collisions which should not be happening 64 years after independence!