Roadway hazards in Ghana

Concluding our two-part series on transportation in Ghana

In our last issue, we looked at a brief synopsis of the transportation system in Ghana. We now look at some hazards on Ghana’s roadways


Roadway hazards are inevitable, but some could be resolved by education and enforcement of existing and new traffic and roadway regulations. Others may require the fusion of technology and planning. There are several clear and present dangers on Ghana’s roadways.

Some highways and feeder/local roads in Ghana are currently undergoing reconstruction, resurfacing, and/or rehabilitation (the 3Rs). Among them is the Accra-Kumasi corridor, the most traveled highway in the country that also links the harbor city of Tema to Kumasi and points north. Landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso utilize this main through road to transport goods to and from Tema Harbor and other areas. Given the volume of traffic and the important links the Accra-Kumasi highway provides to other parts of the country and the West Africa subregion, roadway usage must be optimized to facilitate the free flow of people and goods.

To reduce travel time and traffic congestion (thereby saving fuel and reducing environmental pollution), arterial and major roads that used to run through centers of towns along this route are now being diverted and detoured to reflect characteristics of a typical highway.

Potential dangers

However, some portions of the arterial roadways still run through major towns. In an apparent attempt to stem speeding vehicles, speed bumps and humps have been employed on sections of the Accra-Kumasi highway. Over twenty such speed bumps are located along the Konongo-Kumasi stretch. And some of these bumps may qualify as mini mounds that could pose challenges for big trucks and trailers to cross over.

 Evidently, smooth travel is compromised by these heavy and numerous bumps. Heavier and articulated trucks as well as sedans with very low centers of gravity suffer telling effects on their axles and bodies at these road impediments. Unsurprisingly, traffic jams and rough rides are at their peak and experienced at these locations.

Roadway bumps are primarily employed as tools to moderate speeding vehicles romping through heavily populated areas where there are schools, shopping centers, and accident-prone spots. Nonetheless, over concentration of these bumps and humps tends to cancel out the benefits they are supposed to bring. In other words, the benefits of free flow of traffic and its attendant reduced travel time and quality of life outweigh the reasons for placing obstacles like bumps on highways. 

Probably the most dangerous time to encounter these road hazards is nighttime, when drivers unfamiliar with the roadway geometrics of their immediate location fail to reduce their speed and unknowingly run into bumps. There is also the real possibility that vehicle hijackers and armed robbers could use these points as staging areas for their deadly acts.

Roadway signals, signage, and vehicles

Either for lack of roadway education or plain disrespect and disregard for rules and regulations, most vehicle operators in Ghana pay little or no attention to roadway signage. Culprits include but are not limited to the top echelon and hierarchy of government officials, politicians, the rich, movers and shakers of society who think they are above and beyond the laws of the country. On the flip side, a road sign may be invisible at night or nonexistent where and when it is needed most.

Very few vehicle operators are acutely aware of the functions of divided lanes on a highway. For them, the left, middle, and right lanes serve the same purpose. It is therefore common to observe a heavily laden slow-moving 18-wheeler truck in the left lane on Ghana’s single expressway – the Accra-Tema motorway.

It is also a fact that quite a number of vehicles are mechanically not roadworthy. This is very true especially for intracity public transit. Devices such as speedometers, catalytic converters, side and rear mirrors could be nonfunctional or nonexistent in some transit systems that operate daily and in full view of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) officials of the Ghana Police Service. Alternatively, authorities must construct pedestrian overheads (and underpasses) at strategic locations and within reasonable distance of pedestrians.

Roadway dangers

In Accra and other major cities, motorized vehicles, hawkers, pushcart operators, and cyclists practically share roadways or any surface that passes for vehicular terrain. It is a common sight to observe a hawker – goods balanced on head – to dangerously run in front of, beside, or behind a vehicle that is pulling into or out of a stop station to peddle his/her goods. This troubling phenomenon is replicated throughout the country. On the flip side, roadway panhandling is a nuisance that creates potential accident conditions.

Pedestrians jaywalk intracity roadways with impunity while motorists simply refuse to yield the right of way at designated crossing points. Random and uncoordinated road crossings by herds of cows in suburbs and towns are becoming increasingly dangerous to vehicles and humans.

Things get even more tense at nighttime when visibility is poor and reaction time is reduced. Some vehicle operators, for whatsoever reasons refuse to turn on their headlights at dusk and/or dawn, while some bicyclists and motorcyclists choose to ride on the wrong side of roads.  And then there are cases of rampant broken-down vehicles on roadways. Some of these broken down vehicles on sharp curves and inclines stay put for hours or even days, creating potential accidents.

Highway and urban road builders and engineers must factor “quality of life” considerations into their designs to accommodate humans and vehicles, both of which entities have claims to the lawful use of roadways. This calls for a Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). Facilities such as dedicated bikeways, pedestrian walkways, shopping areas with enough entry and exit points, parking banks, and roadside shoulders must be incorporated into existing and/or new roadways.

Building mega  structure(s) – such as the one in progress at the Owusu Ansah junction (shopping mall?) on the Adenta Dodowa Road – without alternate access and egress creates more congestion. Traffic congestion not only impedes mobility but is a health hazard that creates problems in the upper respiratory system for many people.

Both the Clean Air Act (CAA) and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in the U.S. address roadway optimization and the health hazards that characterize traffic congestion.  

Rest stops

Rest stops in most nations are places to stretch the body after a long ride/drive, utilize restrooms, or grab a quick snack or meal. Alcoholic beverages have no place at highway rest stops, for obvious reasons, and must therefore be banned.  

Scientific evidence unequivocally supports the fact that drunk driving is a major contributing factor to vehicular accidents and fatalities. A drunken motorist as well as a drunken passenger poses a danger not only to him/herself but to others.  Motorists (and passengers) must not be given an option to be intoxicated by making drinks readily available.

Education and enforcement

There can be no safety on roadways without a strong and uncompromising enforcement of traffic laws. On the other side of the coin, an educated and supporting public is the law-enforcer’s best friend in minimizing road accidents.

Stakeholders such as law enforcement agencies, civic and civil organizations, as well as traditional and local governments should join hands and embark on mass education on the rights and responsibilities of road users, including vehicle operators, pedestrians, and vendors. People should be educated in the act of road-crossing.

Public education on roadway usage much be undertaken by stakeholders including but not limited to the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), churches and mosques (at dedicated hours during service), traditional leaders (at gatherings such as Akwasidae and other festivals), and community forums by government and nonprofit organizations, societies, and associations.

The Motor Traffic and Transport Unit of the Ghana Police Service must ensure, among other things, that all motorized vehicles are roadworthy, lawfully registered, and insured. Roadway and traffic signs and rules must be strictly enforced and followed by both vehicle operators and pedestrians. Vehicle operators who cannot read or understand roadway signs must be taken off the road.

In sum, an ambivalent, apathetic, and uneducated public is a collateral impediment to the free flow of goods and optimum productivity. This unhealthy societal attitude can be prevented or reduced with the confluence of law enforcement and public education.  

The writer is the editor of Amandla. He is a retired transportation professional and an accomplished author.

 [BFA1]Don’t you mean that it’s not uncommon?

Posted by on Jul 12 2023. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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