By William N-lanjerborr Jalulah
THE NUMBER of traffic lights in the Bolgatanga Municipality has increased from the two defunct ones to six, congratulations to the region on her Golden Jubilee celebration, which has brought about these lights. But the question is, will the traffic lights survive the test of lawlessness on the roads?
To some people in the Municipality, it was good news to see all the two defunct traffic lights repaired and functioning well, while four new additional ones were also installed and put to use.
But, unfortunately, others rather saw the traffic lights as waste of time, claiming the intervals between some of the traffic lights are too short, and that they impede free movement.
They also claim the Bolgatanga township was not so busy, and would not have required six traffic lights.
The installation of the four additional traffic lights, and the repairing of the old ones, as well as installations of streetlights along the principal streets of the Bolgatanga Municipality, were all birthday presents for the Golden Jubilee celebration of the Upper East Region.
Reckless driving and motorbike riding in the Municipality has led to some traffic lights being damaged, some replaced, and others left unattended to.
Recklessness by motor riders and drivers, coupled with poor maintenance culture, has also contributed to the malfunctioning of traffic lights.
I have witnessed several accidents at one of the traffic lights, which is popularly referred to as the “New Traffic Lights.” The most terrible one was when a police officer and a teacher were involved in a crash, after the teacher crossed the police officer, who was riding from the direction of Navrongo.
The police officer died on the spot, while the teacher was rushed to the Bolgatanga Regional Hospital in a coma.
He later died, even though he was transferred to another hospital in the south. Several crashes, involving bicycles, motorbikes, and cars, have been witnessed at this same spot.
For several years, until two weeks ago, motorists in the Municipality had no traffic lights that were working effectively and continuously.
They had to ride or drive without traffic lights directing or controlling them, thus compelling them to use the intersections with the help of police traffic wardens, and in their absence, motorists display gross lawlessness leading to accidents, with its resultant injuries, and loss of lives in some cases.
Eyewitnesses could not hold back their sentiments last Friday, the day before the climax of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the region, but to pour them out, when the driver of a white Nissan pickup with registration number GV 227-09, belonging to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), ignored the red light at the traffic light near the Social Security National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) House, and in the process crossed an articulated long vehicle carrying two containers.
The driver of the long vehicle, who was traveling approaching from the direction of Navrongo, hit the rear of the pickup in the middle of the inter-section.
The driver of the long vehicle, with registration GT 7931 N, lost control after hitting the pickup, and hit one the traffic light poles, before plunging into a big gutter near a popular drinking spot, near Makfolk Phones.
According to a police Constable on duty, when the accident occurred, and some eyewitnesses, if it had occurred late in the evening, people would have been smashed to death by the containers.
To compound his offence, the driver of the pickup sped off after causing the accident, but was given a hot chase by another pickup driver, together with the police Constable on duty, until he was arrested and brought back to the scene, and later sent to the police station.
The habit of drivers and riders jumping the red light at traffic lights ever since they were installed is raising serious concerns among law-abiding residents, and the police are also worried about the trend.
So, the saying that “Coming events cast their shadow before them,” comes to play here, and all customers of drinking spots sited close to the road must take a clue. Operators of such spots must be prepared for any calamity, if they are not ready to relocate.
Under normal circumstances, the installation of the traffic lights should have been an antidote to reducing road accidents or crashes. But, unfortunately, in Bolgatanga, the story is completely different.
The Upper East Police Commander of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU), Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Kwaku Owusu Bempah, in an interview, corroborated our observation, and said people hardly obey the traffic lights, ever since their recent installment.
According to the MTTU Commander, his officers had been arresting some drivers and riders who jump traffic lights, but have had to caution or educate them, considering the explanations most of them gave when arrested.
Mr. Bempah said his unit would embark on public education to sensitise the populace, not only on how to become conversant with the new traffic lights, but also for the people to appreciate the importance and need to comply with the traffic lights laws, to ensure sanity on the roads.
He warned that after the education, whoever violates the traffic laws would be arrested and prosecuted, in accordance with the law.
Meanwhile, it has been observed that some of the traffic lights were not properly synchronised, and therefore, do not regulate well. Sometimes, they block the free flow of traffic and bring about confusion.
Apart from the irregularities at the traffic lights, there are also no white road markings to control motorists, when they stop to observe the lights.
In a related development, residents in the Municipality have started complaining about the street lights recently installed. One of the residents remarked: “Our street lights are now running shift.”
They go dim and high, especially, in the Soe and Ojam areas.
Something must be done now, or else, the doubting ‘Thomases’ would have a point to prove, since some residents had earlier called the streetlights and the traffic lights ‘one day life’.