Unathorised users of sirens in trouble--IGP (Front, April 6)

THE Police Administration has directed persons and institutions which have installed unauthorised horns and sirens on their vehicles to dismantle them or face prosecution, as it will begin a crackdown on the practice from next Wednesday.
“The Police Administration hereby wishes to caution all unauthorised persons and institutions which have installed and are using sirens and horns to cease the practice, since defaulters shall be prosecuted,” a statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs of the service, Superintendent of Police Mr Cephas Arthur, said.
It is common practice these days to see some road users (motorists) put on their headlights and continually blow their horns to raise alarm as if there is an emergency for which they have to be accorded right of way.
But,  according to the police, only six categories of vehicles or institutions were allowed to use horns and sirens.
They are government vehicles used for official purposes by the Head of State, police vehicles, Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) vehicles, ambulances of hospitals or clinics, recognised government security services and bullion vehicles registered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA).

The law
However, contrary to Regulation 74(2) of L.I. 2180, some individuals and institutions, including funeral homes, private security companies, commercial drivers, and security personnel carrying their families in official vehicles, abuse the law during rush hour and traffic congestions.
Regulation 74(2) of L.I. 2180 provides that “….. a person shall not fit on a motor vehicle a warning appliance other than a type approved by the licensing authority (DVLA)”.

IGP speaks
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr David Asante-Appeatu, said the Police Administration would set up a special unit and equip its officers with motorbikes to track unauthorised users of horns and sirens.
While the public accuse the police of closing their eyes to the infringement of the law by some government officials, the IGP said: “Our officers are not going to be afraid of stopping them.”
He said the law was clear on who could install and use motor vehicle warning appliances, including bells and sirens, in vehicles and persons who breached the law would  be penalised.
He said it was an offence for any person not within the listed entities to install or use sirens and horns.
He said although police officers were authorised to use horns and sirens, they were allowed to do so only in response to emergencies.
“They cannot use sirens when they are going to drop their children in school,” he said.
He said internal memos had gone around within the service, warning police officers who abused the facility to desist from the act or face disciplinary action.
According to experts, horns and sirens are meant to herald arrivals, alert motorists and pedestrians, as well as forewarn traffic controllers. They are essentially designed to be used in emergency situations.
But in Accra and other regional capitals, particularly schoolchildren come under constant harassment from sirens, sometimes by unauthorised persons, including some government officials and security services.

Public concern
Meanwhile, some residents of Accra have condemned what they describe as frustrating and unreasonable use of force sometimes by some government officials, the police and some influential members of the public who resort to the use of sirens and horns to dodge traffic.
They described the habit as “an act of impunity” largely committed by security personnel and government officials.
That abuse of the system, they claimed, often created unnecessary panic among road users, a situation which sometimes resulted in road accidents.
“The loud siren usually scares other road users, which causes accidents as they struggle to give way. The outrageous part of it is that sometimes it is just a group of tourists in a bus. Why do we disrespect other road users to satisfy our egos?” Lord Ametepe, a driver who plies the Amasaman-Accra central business district route, lamented.
For Mr Andrews Kwei, it was regrettable that in spite of the existing laws that regulated the use of the facilities, drivers of hearses breached the law with crass impunity.
He observed that most users of sirens switched on the gadget to scare away road users in times of heavy traffic to gain easy passage.
Mr Joshua Danso-Abiam, for his part, observed that the police warning might not make any difference, since similar cautions in the past had not made any significant impact.

Past directives
The Police Administration had, in the past, issued similar directives to check the use of sirens and horns by unauthorised persons and institutions.

July, 2011
The Police Administration warned motorists against the abuse of sirens and hazard lights by some state institutions and officials, hospital ambulances, security companies and bullion vans.
A statement issued in Accra by the then Deputy Superintendent of Police Cephas Arthur, the acting Director of Police Public Affairs, said: “The Police Administration has observed that the abuse of sirens and hazard lights by both authorised and unauthorised persons has become a nuisance to law abiding citizens.”

March 2015
The Ghana Police Service warned that it would  begin a nation-wide operation to arrest and prosecute all motorists who misused sirens on the roads.
The police, in a statement, cautioned government officials who unlawfully used sirens on their vehicles or resorted to switching on their double indicators to evade traffic to desist from the act.

April 2015
The Police Administration mounted a nationwide operation to arrest and prosecute all motorists who violated road traffic regulations, including the unauthorised use of sirens.

December 2015
The  administration gave a two-week grace period, effective December 19,  2015, for all unauthorised vehicles fitted with the gadgets to have them removed, warning that after the expiration of the period, the police would mount a massive operation to arrest and prosecute all offenders.

Help us
But Mr Asante-Appeatu, while admitting that the situation could be better, pledged that the current directive would not be a nine-day wonder but be sustained.
“It will be sustained. There must be discipline on our roads. It is a commitment we are making,” he added.
He rallied the public and the media to help the police deal with those who infringed the law by taking pictures and videos of vehicles involved, capturing, for instance, the licence plates to make it easy to track the drivers.

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