The full enforcement of the new Legislative Instrument (LI) which bans the use of hand-held communication gadgets and motorcycles for commercial activities may have to wait for now.
This is because officials of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Ghana Police Service are now to educate themselves on the provisions of the new law to enable them to have a clearer understanding of the road regulations.
Commenting on the new law and its enforcement, the Commander of the MTTU, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACOP) Mr Angwubutoge Awuni, told graphic.com.gh in Accra Monday that since the law had just come into effect, it was important that personnel of the MTTU had a detailed understanding of the provisions before enforcing it.
“Enforcing the law without a detailed understanding of it will end up creating problems,” he said.
According to him, the MTTU had planned a three-month intensive training for its personnel in the 10 regions to educate them on the new law to forestall arbitrariness in its implementation.
Under the LI, it is an offence for drivers to use hand-held communication devices such as mobile phones to make calls, send or receive messages or access the Internet while driving or operate television monitors on the dashboard of moving vehicles.
Only members of the security agencies are permitted under the law to use mobile phones and other communication devices in the execution of their duties.
Even before the coming into force of the LI, the use of hand-held communication devices while driving was considered dangerous driving under the Road Traffic Act, Act 683.
The LI now harmonises most of the road traffic regulations into one complete document, hence the need for the personnel of the MTTU to educate themselves on it.
But even before the authorities begin to enforce the law, some commercial motorcycle operators, popularly called Okada, have adopted clandestine methods to outwit policemen.
Some have begun mobile operations soliciting for clients, while those bold enough to stay at stations speed off on seeing policemen approach.
Mr Awuni said personnel of the MTTU had also been asked to buy copies of the LI to be able to better enforce the law.
He, however, gave an assurance that if motorists were found breaking the law, they would be arrested and dealt with; stressing that even before the new LI came into effect, the use of mobile phones while driving was considered an offence under Act 683.
On the use of earpiece or Bluetooth while driving, he explained that although it was not an offence, the MTTU admonished motorists to desist from using it while driving.
He called on motorists to make conscious efforts to respect the new law, since voluntary compliance would not only save their lives but also save them from brushes with the law.
Mr Awuni also urged the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) and the National Road Safety Commission (NRSC) to embark on a public education exercise to create more public awareness of the new law.
Since the law came into effect, no arrests had been made, he added.
For his part, the Head of Communications at the NRSC, Mr Kwame Koduah Atuahene, said many road accidents could be attributed to the actions of the Okada riders.
He said although people acknowledged the positive influence of Okada operators in their lives and businesses, that could not be compared to the harm and danger the operators posed to people’s safety.
Mr Atuahene explained that in countries such as Nigeria, Benin and Togo where Okada operations had been legalised, the authorities were now confronted by many challenges because of the devastation the Okada business had caused their economies.
He said insurance companies in Ghana had refrained from taking the Okada business on board because the insurers considered the Okada business as high risk.
Meanwhile, some commercial drivers have particularly welcomed the decision to ban the use of motorcycles for commercial activities and described it as long overdue.
According to the drivers, the commercial motorcycles were major contributory factors to road accidents in areas where they operated.
They commended the government for passing the law, saying it would help reduce the number of accidents on the roads.
One of the drivers, Mr David Otoo, said he was glad the Okada business would come to a stop because the riders caused a lot of nuisance on the roads.
A businessman, Mr Rashid Kanka, described the law as a very good one, noting that the only problem he had with it was whether or not it would be implemented to the letter.
He said his other concern with the new law was how business people would communicate with their clients in the event that they were held up in traffic.
While describing the law as excellent, a doctor at the Maamobi Polyclinic who refused to give his name, however, wondered why doctors were excluded from the list of those permitted to use communication devices while driving, since their work was also delicate.
He explained that with the heavy traffic situation and other operational challenges, most doctors gave instructions to nurses via the mobile phone before getting to hospitals.
A driver with the State Transport Company (STC), Mr Agyekum Osei, explained that as a long-distance driver, he needed to keep in touch with friends and family at any time of the day.
“I need to be able to call my wife and children and also respond to their calls. What if I don’t pick her calls? She will say I do not have time for her,” he lamented.
A taxi driver who plies the Kaneshie-Korle-bu route, Mr Richard Addotey Addo, said he was grateful to the government for enacting the law.
According to him, it was a good initiative by the government and hoped that it would be implemented and enforced.
A tour of some of the Okada stations at the General Post Office area, the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and Abossey Okai indicated that the Okada operators had adopted clandestine methods to outwit any law enforcement officer.
Instead of parking at their usual stations, some of them ride around soliciting for clients.
They mostly go around beckoning passengers or stopping to find out from people standing along the road whether they want their services or not.
Those who are bold to park at their usual stations, however, speed off on seeing policemen.
Some drivers at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Trotro Station said if the law banned the use of hand-held devices while driving, then no one should be exempted.
According to them, those permitted to use hand-held devices could also cause accidents.
They expressed concern over the selective exemption of security personnel in the use of communication devices and stressed that those in the health and other professions were equally important.
At Abossey Okai in Accra, a section of motorcycle riders said the law would effectively deprive them of their source of livelihood.
The law prohibits the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) from registering motorcycles for the purpose of carrying passengers for the payment of fares.
An Okada rider, Mr Alhassan Antaru, who spoke on behalf of his fellow riders, said the law had put him out of job.
He described the law as not only unfair but also discriminatory, as it prevented those who had opted for the Okada business from getting their daily bread.