When a Ghanaian driver does a 'Hit and Run'

Here's the situation I found myself in on the way back from Accra to Kumasi recently. It's pitch black outside. I'm in a 22 seater ramshackle van (nominally a Mercedes but in reality about 100 hundred machines have been torn asunder and gelled together to make it semi road worthy). A truck is in our way. The stretch of road is quite good, but as always when night has descended, one can never tell what may appear outof the blue. Fog has descended in patches. But our driver nevertheless decides to give it a go, overtaking the truck, and getting home 1 minute earlier than if he waited for a safer opportunity. He moves into the oncoming hard shoulder to manouevure outside the truck. Then, all of a sudden a loud BANG. All the passengers scream.

I'm near the front of the vehicle and think I saw what appeared to be a bicycle light before the light disappeared alongside the left-wing mirror. The driver passes out the truck, and to my surprise keeps driving, not seeming to give a damn that he probably just hit somebody.

I shout at him, 'Stop driving, you just hit a cyclist.' The woman in the front seat ahead of me turns her head and agrees. But he just keeps driving. Nobody says anything. So I shout again 'Pull over, you may have killed an old man for all we know'. Silence. He slows down from 80kms per hour to about 40 kms p/h and moves into the hard shoulder to allow the truck he had just passed out to overtake us. About 3 of the passengers say something within 10 seconds, at last breaking their silence. But immediately after they talk, the driver, obviously reassured by his fellow passengers, moves back onto the main road and speeds on. I turn to the young, well dressed woman beside me, and offer my phone for her to ring emergency services. She turns her head the opposite direction. So I send an sms to Dorota to ring emergency services (at this stage I am a bit reluctant to do it given the passive nature of my fellow passengers and the fact that the driver and his mate (helper) may feel threatened by such a call).

I've noticed that we just passed the village of Yawkwei, about 100kms from Kumasi. After repeated attempts to call the police or ambulance to no avail, I arrive in Kumasi. I have our vehicle registration number in addition to the place where the accident occurred and the registration number of the truck we passed out, just in case the driver of that vehicle has witnessed something also. I call over a police officer and tell him what I saw. He calls a colleague and within 2 minutes there are 2 police officers in uniform and 2 plainclothes officers questioning the driver, his mate the more senior policeman turns to me and says „Please forgive him”.

At this stage I know it's a useless effort on my behalf. These cops are probably using the opportunity to extort money from the driver not to bring the case further. I travel back home as its late. Consulting fellow Ghanaian workers the following day, I am advised to drop the situation, that my concern will come to nothing. But as someone who has probably witnessed an accident where a cyclist was hurt, that just ain't something to leave one's head over night. So I make a 2nd attempt at the cops. I go to the main police station and am directed to the control centre. At last I meet two cops who take the issue seriously and call the local police stations and hospital admissions to give them feedback if anybody reported an accident in the area. I have had no contact from the cops, so either the cyclist survived unscathed, or else they just dropped the enquiries and the driver of vehicle GS 4900 Z continues to drive dangerously on the Accra-Kumasi road.

And what about the passengers silence. Well, it appears that the 3 who broke their silence may have encouraged the driver to keep going just in case it was a trick to stop him by robbers. I had just read of thieves who shot out the tyres of a bus in the Upper East region of Ghana, subsequently robbing all on board. But this did not appear such an attempt. Unless a thieving cyclist was willing to get killed in the process, that is.

Silence. It's amazing what fear can do to the most normal human being. We're all capable of keeping our mouths shut when we see something that we deem plain wrong, myself included. Having oer 20 people willing to keep their mouths shut was something that I hadn't expected witnessing though.


Damien Moran said…
See http://irishinghana.blogspot.com/2009/04/when-ghanaian-driver-does-hit-and-run.html for discussion on this blog.
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