Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in The Gambia, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Travel in The Gambia can be difficult due to poor road conditions, particularly during the rainy season, which generally lasts from June through October. Although there are paved main roads in the greater Banjul area, many are poorly maintained and poorly lit. With the installation of street lights on roads in the Banjul area, some drivers no longer use their vehicle lights at night.
Most roads outside the Banjul area are still unlit and unpaved. Caution should be exercised when using taxis, particularly at night. Most taxis lack safety belts and many are not road-worthy. Livestock and pedestrians pose road hazards throughout the country, including in the greater Banjul area. Drivers and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution to prevent accidents.
Numerous accidents are caused by intoxicated drivers. Tests are rarely done to determine levels of intoxication. If you are suspected of causing an accident while intoxicated, and the case is taken to trial, you may be subject to a substantial fine or imprisonment.
The police do not consistently apply traffic laws and regulations, and sometimes compel drivers to pay fines on the spot for violations, real or contrived. Written citations/tickets are rarely given. Police periodically set up impromptu traffic stops on major streets to check for drivers’ licenses and proper insurance. Drivers should not attempt to drive around these traffic stops.
Government convoys frequently travel at high speeds and often in either or both lanes of traffic, including in the oncoming traffic lane, requiring cars to move off the road. Whenever there are police lights or sirens, drivers should move off the road immediately and completely. There are no trauma centers in The Gambia and severe accidents often require evacuation to Senegal or Europe.
Water transportation in the region is unsafe. Ferries rarely keep to their posted schedules. The ferries, which are poorly maintained and often overcrowded, usually lack sufficient numbers of life preservers for all passengers. U.S. citizens are advised to exit their cars during the crossing. The wooden dugout “pirogues” that also cross the Gambia River often leave shore overloaded and occasionally sink in the middle of the river.
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