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Speeding Convoys, Recalcitrant Motorists, Et-al

My experience with the ugly side of the motorcade siren happened in the early 1990s when the 31st December Movement was at the pinnacle of its existence.

The President of the movement, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, Former First Lady; General Secretary, Mrs Cecilia Johnson; and other members of the echelons of the “Liberation By All Means Possible” women group, were on their way to Tweapease, near New Edubiase, to inspect a farm cultivated by the local branch of the movement.

With their T-shirts conspicuously embossed with a lady wielding an AK 47 riffle and red caps to match, the presence and sight of members of the movement instilled fear and, in some cases, even generated goosebumps on awe-stricken onlookers. Led by a continuous blaring police siren, the convoy, which included the then Ashanti Regional Secretary, Col E. M. Osei-Wusu (Rtd), journeyed unhindered on its way until it reached Obuasi, precisely the AngloGold Ashanti Roundabout.

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Suddenly, out of nowhere, another siren blaring at a significantly higher decibel appeared and began overtaking Nana Konadu’s convoy! It was only divine intervention and the experience of the police driver leading the Former First Lady’s convoy that prevented what would have been a bloody collision.

Later on, we were informed that the second siren belonged to an escort leading a gold bullion van.

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According to Regulation 74 (3) of LI 2180, sirens are reserved for certain categories of motorists – a siren or bell may be fitted as a warning appliance and used on certain categories of motor vehicles. The first category is “a government vehicle used for official purposes by the Head of State,” the second category is “a police vehicle,” the third category is “a motor vehicle used as an ambulance by a hospital or clinic,” the fourth category is “a motor vehicle used by other recognised government security agencies” and the fifth category is “a bullion vehicle registered by the licensing authority”.

Only drivers of vehicles under special categories or “authorised emergency vehicles” are mandated to use sirens on the roads in Ghana. These are motor vehicles used by the Police Service, the Fire Service, a vehicle used as an ambulance by a clinic/hospital, or other Government Security agencies.

As a reminder, the Presidency in a directive on May 19, 2021, cautioned that Ministers and their deputies, Regional Ministers, Metropolitan, Municipal and District

Chief Executives (MMDCEs), CEOs of government agencies and officials of the Presidency, unless otherwise designated, must not use sirens in order to enjoy an unmerited advantage over other motorists.

Additionally, the Police MTTD, warned hearse drivers that they face arrest and prosecution if they do not refrain from the use of sirens since hearses are not emergency vehicles.

Experts say an emergency vehicle that uses lights and a siren can be unpredictable because the driver can legally pass red lights and emergency vehicles must go faster than the posted speed limit when it is safe to do so, allowing them to navigate traffic quickly and efficiently to respond to emergencies.

“An emergency vehicle that uses lights and a siren can be unpredictable because emergency vehicles must go faster than the posted speed limit when it is safe to do so. This means that they can pass through intersections and red lights, creating an unpredictable situation for other drivers on the road,” the experts say.

Road traffic experts say police siren alerts road users that a police officer is on his way to a call. By sounding the siren, the officer is asking for the right of way using the wailing siren sound. The blaring sound alerts other drivers on the road to make way for the approaching police vehicle, ensuring a clear path for them to maneuver.

“The distinct wailing sound serves as an auditory warning signal that something urgent is happening nearby. This helps pedestrians and motorists become alert and take necessary precautions to avoid any potential dangers,” they say.

Studies though have recognized that sirens are a limited warning device and effective only at very short ranges and low speeds. At speeds above 50 mph, an emergency vehicle may “outrun” the effective range of its audible warning device.

The sound of a police siren can travel up to a mile away in ideal conditions. However, environmental factors such as buildings, trees, and other obstacles can affect how far the sound travels. Traffic noise and other competing sounds can also impact the distance at which a police siren can be heard.

The way to respond to a siren is, one of the most important protocols to follow is to slow down and pull over safely. This ensures one’s safety and allows the police officer to pass by without any hindrance. As a motorist, once one hears the siren, one ought to begin slowing down gradually while maintaining control of one’s vehicle. In short, other road users should not panic, block roads, obstruct traffic, and never run a red light rather they should pull over to the edge of the roadway, clear of intersections and stop. They are to remain there until the emergency vehicle has passed and watch for others.

It is an incontrovertible fact that convoys move at top speeds to protect the presidents they are transporting from harm. History demonstrates that two African Heads of State, the late Silvanus Olympio of Togo and General Murtala Mohammed of Nigeria, were gunned down by coup plotters in 1963 and 1976 respectively when they failed to use the swift presidential manoeuvers.

Some of the rich in society as well as other unscrupulous motorists who are not authorized to use sirens, often tend to do so in blatant disregard for the law, just so they could avoid traffic. This practice has led to the unfortunate situation where some drivers are now fed up with the siren and do not care whether it is an authorized person using it or not, they therefore refuse to make way when they hear the siren. This situation is worrying.

Below are some examples of the accidents involving presidential convoys:

Nov 8, 2000

Three people were killed in a road accident involving Ghana’s main opposition presidential candidate, John Agyekum Kufuor, who escaped unharmed.

The accident occurred late on Monday at Gomoa Budunburam near Accra and three of Kufuor’s bodyguards were injured, officials at his New Patriotic Party (NPP) headquarters told AFP.

A police source said those who died were in a taxi cab running without any headlights which crashed into Kufuor’s convoy near the Ghanaian capital.

November 2006

One of the vehicles in Vice President Aliu Mahama’s convoy was involved in a fatal motor accident at Chira, near Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region.

At least two people, believed to be the Vice President’s security guards, died on the spot, while a third died at the hospital.

November 14, 2007

Thomas Osei, a driver, smashed former President John Agyekum Kufuor’s vehicle on the Liberation Link, near Opeibea House.

According to the police, Osei, who was driving a Mercedes Benz SE 500 saloon vehicle with registration number GT 2989 W, was in the inner lane along the South Liberation Link from AFGO towards the 37 Military Hospital.

When he arrived at the Opeibea traffic light, he ignored the siren of the presidential convoy and drove straight into the rear offside portion of the President’s Mercedes Benz 550 saloon car.

November 22, 2016

Nana Konadu’s Agyemang Rawlings’ convoy accident on the Techiman Highway resulted in the death of one person while several others sustained various degrees of injuries.

One vehicle in the convoy was struck from behind by a speeding Burkinabe cargo truck. The convoy was returning from Techiman to Kumasi. May 19, 2018

The Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Eugene Arhin explained that an articulated truck run into the presidential convoy at Konongo in the Ashanti region on Friday dawn.

The truck driver reportedly ignored signals from the dispatch riders, veered onto the road and rammed into the side of the vehicle of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Francis Asenso Boakye. After the accident, the truck driver drove off without stopping.

May 19, 2018

The Director of Communications at the Presidency, Mr Eugene Arhin explained that an articulated truck run into the presidential convoy at Konongo in the Ashanti region on Friday dawn.

The truck driver reportedly ignored signals from the dispatch riders, veered onto the road and rammed into the side of the vehicle of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Francis Asenso Boakye. After the accident, the truck driver drove off without stopping.

February 16, 2019

Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia’s convoy was hit by an urvan bus at Asemasa near Beposo in the Western Region. The driver of the urvan bus that hit the convoy lost his life.

October 8, 2020

The convoy of President Nana Akufo-Addo was involved in an accident leading to four military men sustaining varying degrees of injuries.

The soldiers were in an armoured vehicle which turned on its side on the Bolgatanga–Navrongo highway en route to the Upper East Region.

May 19, 2024

Several vehicles belonging to the President’s convoy were involved in a fatal accident along the Bunso-Akyem Asafo stretch of the Accra-Kumasi Highway.

The unfortunate incident occurred whilst the convoy was on its way back from Kumasi, after accompanying the President to Kumasi for a series of events this weekend. Tragically, one of the drivers, Mr. Kwesi Atta, lost his life.

Additionally, several close protection and police officers from the President’s security detail sustained varying degrees of injuries.

J.J.Rawlings and Hilla Limann

J J Rawlings’ convoys suffered several accidents. The notable one was on the Tema motorway where a trotro vehicle crossed the convoy leading to the death of four presidential guards.

President Hilla Limann’s convoy carrying his body to his hometown of Gwollu crashed and many relatives sustained injuries.

The way convoy accidents happen in the country show motorists disregard for traffic regulations and disrespect for law and order. The police MTTD, and the Road Safety Authority should up their game with regards to public education and the enforcement of regulations.

Every bit of human existence is governed by laws and what brings about waywardness in society is the inability of those entrusted with enforcement to do their job.

“If people believe they can be in society and do whatever they like, then they must be brought to face the rigours of the law. Even in the animal kingdom, there is discipline,” a security officer said.

The authorities need to act first by sensitizing citizens on the importance of obeying road traffic regulations, and most importantly by enforcing the law to the letter without fear of favour to deter those who may want to break the law. It is about time we brought some sanity onto our roads and avoid the needless loss of lives.

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