The use of the siren in Ghana is regulated by law, and according to Road Traffic Regulation 2012, [L. I. 2180], only the Fire Service, Ambulance Service, Police, Armed Forces, Prison Service, bullion vans registered with relevant authorities and other recognised security agencies are supposed to use it. But, despite the existence of this law, motorists continue to abuse it with impunity.
Somewhere in 2015, the Police Service, in a statement signed by its then Director General in charge of Public Affairs, Mr Ampah Bennin, issued a warning to the public about the misuse of sirens in traffic by individuals who are not supposed to so do.
“In view of the above, the police are going to mount a nation-wide operation to arrest and prosecute all motorists, who violate the above-stated road traffic regulations. The general public is entreated to co-operate with the police in this exercise, and motorists warned to desist from committing motor traffic offences for the sake of sanity, and law and order,” the police statement said at the time.
But, four years down the line, nothing has changed in terms of compliance with the law and the fear of the warning issued by the police. Nowadays, it is common to see 4×4 vehicles and cars, especially Land Cruisers, driving through heavy traffic with their sirens on.
Because of the respect Land Cruisers command in our society, the police look on helplessly whilst users of these vehicles abuse the traffic regulation with contempt. To the police, the person driving the ‘big car’ may be top government official, and cannot, therefore, be arrested.
Though these government officials are not above the law and should be arrested, the plain truth is that most of the drivers of these Land Cruiser vehicles are not government officials, but individuals abusing the law.
Drive on the Kasoa-Winneba and Tema-Prampram-Junction roads on Saturdays, and see how these individual Land Cruiser owners use sirens to dodge being caught up in heavy traffic.
In most of the cases, motorists who are fed up with being held up in traffic also join the fray, thus worsening the already difficult traffic situation. If you are a driver and you want to follow the law, all your fuel will be burnt in traffic.
This is an unfortunate development, but the police have failed to live up to expectation, despite their threat in 2015 to deal with the situation. It is sometimes disheartening to see these cars driving through red traffic lights with their sirens on. Others too have flashing lights in front of their car, as if it is a security vehicle asking motorists to give him or her way in traffic.
As we alluded to earlier, because Ghanaians, including the police, think those driving Land Cruisers are ‘big people,’ individuals have simply taken advantage of it and are abusing the traffic rules.
Notwithstanding the posture personnel of the Police Service have adopted towards these cars, The Chronicle is nevertheless happy that, at long last, they (police) have mustered the courage to arrest one of these Land Cruiser drivers who was abusing the use of the siren on the Tema-Aflao road.
According to Citi FM, an Accra-based private road station, the Deputy Managing Director of the Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation (BOST) was arrested for using the siren in traffic, when he was not supposed to do so.
According to the story carried by the radio station, the Deputy MD claimed he was abusing traffic because he had funeral donation on him, but was getting late in arriving at the funeral grounds. If this Deputy MD, indeed, made this claim to justify his action of using the siren, then it is unfortunate, and The Chronicle expects the police to deal with him according to the laws of the land.
Our development as a country is not going at a pace everybody would have expected, because we tend to respect personalities, and not the law. If the police were to enforce the mandate given them by the Constitution of Ghana, these abuses on our roads would have ceased.
As the former US president, Barrack Obama, advised when he visited Ghana a few years back, it is time we started as a country to build strong institutions and not strong men.
If we are afraid to arrest strong men abusing the law, we will be building a weak institution, and this will not augur well for us as a country.