The Tema motorway is a death trap


In 48 months, 136 people have died on the Accra Tema motorway. And with the current state of the road, more people are at risk of losing their lives every day.

According to the Motor Traffic and Transport Department, at least 39 people died in accidents in 2018, while 150 were injured.

On the roads, 107 incidents were also recorded in 2018. Out of 75 accidents that were registered in 2019, 91 people sustained injuries and 36 died. Data on motorway accidents also show that 22 people died and 74 were injured in the 80 accidents recorded in 2020.

Reports indicate that there were at least 105 motorway accidents in 2021, resulting in 39 deaths and at most, 39 injuries.

The road, which is 57 years old, showed more weariness than a fifty-seven years old person. As if screaming for help, it showed signs of fatigue and lay helplessly, as heavy trucks drove by with huge tires. The cracks and large potholes are signs of over 50 years of neglect.
The weather has left the current condition of the motorway in a state of flux and it is uncertain what its future holds.

The motorway is no longer a fast and easy route to Accra or Tema. It has been ravaged by serious potholes and cracks that drivers must navigate to and fro work.
Every time motorists choose to use the Tema–Accra motorway, users face obstacles. On the 19-kilometre stretch between Accra and Tema, drivers must carefully navigate around 400 potholes. This is far more than what it takes to complete a game of chess. The dangers that come with it are much more severe. Ghana’s only motorway linking the Volta Region, Tema Metropolis and Togo by road to the capital of the country is the Tema motorway.
Today’s motorway is like a circus. Passengers bump up every second the car hits a crack.

Cracks and potholes

Investigative reporters, Redeemer Buatsi and Prosper Prince Midedzi, walked from Tetteh Quarshie roundabout where the motorway begins to Tema tollbooth within a period of two and half days. The reporters recorded over 417 potholes on both the Accra-Tema and Tema-Accra lanes. Many potholes had iron rods sticking out of them, but others were exposed to the ground. The reporters observed cars trying to navigate around potholes and edging dangerously towards other road users.

Accidents, dangers

The bitumen on the concrete road has separated from the concrete surface like oil from water. This has created huge bumps similar to unprofessional speed bumps by members of communities on busy roads. It is not clear what engineering knowledge was used to fix the concrete cracks using bitumen. It is clear, however, that such thinking has led to increased discomfort and added hurdles for drivers.
Redeemer and Prosper recorded 432 patches in their two-and-a-half-day eyewitness inspection. Some have become speed bumps while others have developed into larger and more dangerous potholes.

illegal U-turns

Over 55 illegal U-turns were also identified by the reporters during the two-and-a-half-day survey. Driving a U-turn is a 180-degree turn to reverse the journey’s direction. Ideally, U-turns are expertly and strategically positioned on roads to protect road users but this is not the case on along the motorway. Some drivers make illegal U-turns on the motorway, which violate highways traffic regulations. This also poses a great danger to drivers and other road users. For instance, commuters who not aware of such illegal U-turns may not be able to take safety precautions, which could lead to an accident.

Illegal bus stops

Motorcyclists using the motorway park incongruously on the roads. Reporters recorded 33 illegal bus stops along the motorway. Taxi drivers and commercial drivers, also known as “trotro”, park anywhere they like on the highway to pick up and drop off passengers, with other drivers also parking anywhere on the highway.
An Okada rider at KICC spot lamented that every week there is an accident because of illegal bus stops, adding that the government’s attention is urgently needed to end this dangerous practice on the highway.
A ‘trotro’ driver, Kwame Asare, who was seen parking illegal to pick up passengers said that if he did not stop at illegal bus stops to pick up passengers, his colleagues would. “We are all doing the wrong thing for survival”, he said.

Road Traffic Act

Section 19 of the Road Traffic Act (Act 683) says: “A person who parks their motor vehicle entirely or partially on the verge of a road or on any land between two carriage ways, which is not a footway or pedestrian crossing, or in a place reserved to the physically handicapped, commits an offence”.
This offence will result in a summary conviction and a sentence of “a summarized conviction to a fine not surpassing 250 penalty units (GH¢3000), given that one penalty unit equals GH¢12 or to a term not exceeding 12 months or both.”
However, the authorities and police have not enforced the law, even though they are aware that motorists continue to violate it.
The reporters met with a police officer, who had just arrested a “trotro driver” at ‘under bridge’ along the motorway. The ‘under bridge’ is one of those spots where drivers stop illegally.

While the police officer stated that the driver had been arrested for illegal parking, others were seen doing the wrong thing. Although he was the only one present, making it difficult to handle the many drivers who were blatantly violating the law, it goes to show how widespread the problem has become.

Ghana Highway Code

The Ghana Highway Code of Conduct Section 35 states that “Leave enough distance between you and the vehicle in the front so you can pull up safely if the vehicle suddenly slows down or stops abruptly”. It is best to not get closer than the total stopping distance. In good conditions, however, a gap of 1 yard per mph may be sufficient on open roads. The gap should be wider on wet roads. If an overtaking vehicle fills in the gap, you should drop back.
Responding to section 35 of the Ghana Highway Code of Conduct, Inspector Kingsley Addo, Head of the Accident Investigative Unit of Tema Motor Transport and Traffic Department stated that: “Most motorists don’t know how to use the motorway”.
In November 1965, the Accra-Tema motorway opened to traffic to connect Tema and Accra. It was constructed under the leadership of Dr Kwame Nkrumah – the first President of Ghana. It was built in the style of the Autobahn, a German motorway.


The motorway was rehabilitated to its original condition in August 2009 at a cost GH¢500,000. Part of the motorway was to be reconstructed using epoxy cement. Eight weeks of rehabilitation were required to remove and replace concrete slabs that had become damaged and to repair the asphalted shoulder of the motorway. The motorway was made safe for motorists in 2009 after the rehabilitation works.

Plans for expansion

After years of public outcry over the poor state of the motorway, many promises have been made to improve it in the past. Recently, Kwasi Amoako Atta, Minister of Roads and Highways, claimed that the motorway would be redeveloped to become a 10-lane urban highway, with 5 new interchanges. However, the highway is still remains unfixed as of January 2023. Potholes continue to develop every day and are being repaired with bitumen. According to Empire Parking Lot sservices – a construction and repairs company based in the United States, it is cheaper to repair asphalted roads over concrete ones, but it is technically not safe to repair concrete floors with bitumen since these are completely different materials.
Efforts to get the roads ministry and the urban roads department to comment on the issue proved futile.

However, one thing is clear, the Tema-Accra motorway continues to deteriorate, posing serious threats to the thousands of Ghanaians who ply the road daily.

The writers are 2021 cohorts, Next Generation Investigative Journalism- Media Foundation for West Africa

Leave a Reply