Honking, screaming, jaywalking across freeways and driving on the wrong side of the road are just some of the components that make up the driving in this city.
Lines on the road are merely suggestions. Seat belts are optional. Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way, even across freeways. The herd of goats roaming through town is welcomed to share the road with the busy traffic. When people honk at us they’re probably just saying hi. And when the streetlight is red, well, we’ll stop if we feel like it. Driving in Accra has no rules and I somehow feel completely safe.
9:30 p.m. rolls around and two other girls and I are urging for an adventure. Eager to get out of our house to explore some Ghanaian nightlife, we grab our first taxi and head to Osu, a section of Accra with a popular night market. Windows down, frizzy hair blowing, and high life music on full blast, I take a moment to reflect on my flight here, my day, our group, and our current exploration. Our driver is swaying to the high life, tapping the beat on the steering wheel and humming to himself. He’s loving life. I look out the window to see all other taxi drivers and riders doing the same. We exchange glances and smiles to acknowledge one another and our complacency. Driving in Accra is a form of communication between people.
With no rules, communication between taxis and some high life music blasting, I’ve come to realize that the driving in Accra is an interpretative dance. The dance moves are situational and drivers make their moves based off surroundings, not the law. This would be chaos if everyone weren’t on the same page, but luckily they all are. Policemen rarely pull speeders over. If a car doesn’t stop at the streetlight, then people understand they were probably in a hurry. When pedestrians jaywalk across freeways, it’s understood that’s probably the quickest way for them to get where they’re going. Ghanaians treat each taxi as a car filled with their brothers and sisters, not as a taxi in a sea of taxis. Respect is the foundation for this way of life.
Driving in Accra is not black and white like it is in the United States. It’s an interpretive dance with all sorts of grey areas that I am privileged to be a part of for the next five weeks.