Everyone knows the importance of traffic lights even if many do not respect the decisions it makes by regulating how we should move along the roads.
What is beautiful and user-friendly about the lights in some other countries is that they make driving and riding very comfortable. For example, when moving straight ahead, all the lights along the road will show the same colour. So if you had stopped at the lights and you look ahead, all the lights beyond the ones you stopped at will also show red. When yours go green, all the lights ahead will also show green. This makes you drive or ride comfortably ahead, but this is not the case in Ghana.
Stop at the lights and when they turn green, the next lights some metres away will be red. How uncomfortable it is, when after halting at the lights which could take forever, you finally are given the “go” signal only to drive up a few metres away to have to stop at the lights again. This is unfortunately the mentality of those who programmed the lights and those who authorised them to do so. A kind of backward system just to take pride in making people feel uncomfortable; for in more modern and advanced countries, this is not how the system is programmed. Need we be surprised, if in our educational sector the examiner is more interested in the failure of students, while over in more advanced countries, the examiner is more interested in the student passing the exams?
In Ghana, in what could be best described as a mad-car disease, motorists can implement decisions that override that of the traffic lights, putting all road users, including themselves, in grave danger.
These days, the worst offenders are motorcyclists, who can criss-cross the lights with such pride and impudence packaged in the lack of respect and acknowledgement of other road users,as if they own the roads.
And it seems that this new traffic violation has been accepted as a convention by even those who are authorised and paid to see to it that everyone obeys the law. For today, we see officers of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) watching on as cyclists ride through the red lights. When confronted with the question as to why the authority is not descending on such traffic miscreants, a police officer was heard on radio saying there will be more danger to life and limb if attempts are made to apprehend these traffic offenders.
There are periods when the lights fail to function, and in the case of South Africa, the beauty of respect to other road users is made manifest when this situation arises. They all think as one, for when one vehicle moves across, the one behind will stop and wait for its turn, as others in front of their queue move one after the other, till it gets to the turn of the one ahead of the queue in the first lane. Then, he or she moves and the one behind will also wait for their turn.
That kind of behaviour seems not to be acceptable in our culture here in Ghana, since everyone will like to move, claiming that they have the right of way. In all things, we know how important it is to have the lights on at all times, even if we violate them.
It is no mystery at all, when we come across non-functional lights, but this cannot be said about the traffic lights at the Palace Hypermarket, near Flower-Pot, off the Spintex Road.
For some time now, road users who ply the Mahama roundabout to the Spintex Road get into a cycle of confusion, as they have to force their way through the cross roads just around the Palace Hypermarket with the Galaxy Oil filling station opposite it; because, for goodness knows when the traffic lights have been made non-functional. This has disrupted vehicular movement and robbed that area of the beauty if deserves. And one thing, this is one of the heavy traffic zones in Accra during rush hours. The traffic jam could begin as far back as the interchange on the 37-La road, running through the Mahama roundabout and over the flyover, then descending to the lights.
One can imagine what it will be like when you get into that dual carriageway and slowly crawl for hours, simply locked up on a road where you cannot turn left or right, or make any U-turn, back. As we say, you just get locked in the system, and so was it when the lights were functioning. At least, the traffic moved in an orderly manner, even if at a snail’s-pace.
This time they have been shut down, and the reasons, I gathered, were more shocking than the lights remaining down for this long while.
What I have been told is what I say: A powerful real estate developer felt that it was an eyesore to perceive the hawkers plying their trade on the flyover during rush hour, and so went to the authority and paid a little something to have the traffic lights being put off, permanently. And so the “word” said “Let there be lights off,” and there were lights off.
I hope this is not true, but coming from a few number of motorists who are more or less based around that area, one is forced to believe this fairy tale. If it is true, the authority has lots of questions to answer for deliberately putting lives into danger for a few cedis in their pockets. And as for that real estate developer, who does not own the road in the first place, the least said, the better.
If it is not true, then the authority must make haste to resolve the mystery of the Palace Hypermarket traffic lights, by either repairing or replacing the lights to make them fully functional again.
Hon. Daniel Dugan