One of my maternal uncles who is a physician parked his VW Beetle, offered them by the Ghana Government, with another family member I was staying with. I believe he was on study leave for his postgraduate medicine in Oxford. I knew where the key to the car was. On Sundays, when everybody went to church, I moved the car onto the roads. That was how I learned how to “move” a car. I failed the first driving test at 20, but I paid the test conductor the second time and I was issued with the driver’s license. By the time I was in University, most of my friends owned cars, and I had the opportunity to solidify my deficient driving skills and was comfortable with that.
In Hull in the UK, I used a bicycle most of the time, so there was not really a problem. In London and New York, the trains and the buses were very convenient. In Athens, I don’t remember seeing even a single speed camera. I was fine.
Then in 2010 when I lived in the Washington D.C. area, I learned I was only “moving” cars all along and never a driver. In my first two weeks, I accumulated traffic fines up to $150.00. By the time I was leaving D.C. in six months, I had accumulated fines to the tune of $880.00 and went to court twice for traffic offenses.
The lessons I learned from these experiences were vital in making me a better driver. I unlearned my deficient driving skills and learned how to drive efficiently—observing road signs, respecting pedestrians and other road users (even thinking for them), and knowing that I do not have to drink and drive. It has helped to avoid any contacts with the police. For the past five or more years, I have had no contact with the police even though I drive very, very long distances across the country. Vital lessons, right?
I returned to Ghana in April 2010. I depended on a few friends for a ride. When they made the wrong turns and disobeyed traffic regulations blatantly, I raised issues with them. Sadly, they thought I had become “too Westernized” and unrealistic about our roads. As I always do, I took a trotro, public transport for the poor, from Salaga Market near the General Post Office in Accra to Dansoman. I was sitting between the driver and the other passenger in the front seat. The driver reeked of Akpeteshie, a local gin with about 80% alcoholic content. I kept my cool. When we got to Korle-Bu, where there was a police checkpoint, I alighted and reported the driver to the police. All the passengers on the trotro turned their fire on me for wasting their time—they needed to get home. The police didn’t care anyway. Any lessons?
I have kept the tickets and receipts of all my fines for my upcoming public engagements but was compelled to share a snippet of what is to come with you here. If any pastor tells you that the death of this young woman, who is yet another victim of our deficient “behaviors,” is caused by the devil or God, tell that pastor to respect your mental faculty because you are not a dunce. God loves his children and would protect them only if they respect the rules of the technologies they have created to make life easy for them. Anyone who has visited a car manufacturing plant before is aware that cars are designed to run at certain speeds on particular roads, taking into account the possibilities of accidents. Please go online and check the test drive of cars before they are released on the roads. Cars/buses are also mandated to carry a certain number of people, not more.
As you can see from the photo, my friend, Elizabeth, barely 5.5 feet tall, had to slant her legs in order to fit into the space on the trotro. What about my friend, Nana Yaw Akomea, who is 6.6 feet tall? What would happen on an impact?
I am deeply sorry for our national loss. But there is a pattern that is observable.In fatalistic societies, life is crude, people resign to fate, attributions are made to forces beyond the control of man. It does not matter whether a driver was under the influence of alcohol when an accident occurred. The accident must have been caused by some dark forces somewhere. The cause of the accident is left untreated and the same event occurs again. Attributes and notes from the Dark Ages.
Get up and say something to that pastor who is profiting from your ignorance. The time is now!!!