By Tommy Trenchard
FREETOWN, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone has launched a new policy aimed at curbing road accidents that kill hundreds every year - a board game that anyone seeking a driving licence must buy and play before being allowed on the roads.
Competitors move models of classic cars around the board after rolling traffic light-themed dice. Their cars must negotiate obstacles like "vehicle tests" that result in fines if a windscreen is broken or insurance is out of date.
Players must also answer questions on road laws.
"It will help a lot," said Morie Lenghor, Assistant Inspector General of the police and the game's creator. "Most crashes here are a result of ignorance of the highway code. And most drivers don't even understand half the road signs.
"I realised that a lot of people don't like reading much, but what if I can put the highway code in a game that is attractive to young people?"
The Drivers' Way is manufactured in India and costs 60,000 Leones, about US$14. Three thousand copies have already been imported.
"It's played a bit like Scrabble," said Sarah Bendu, Executive Director of Sierra Leone's Road Transport Authority and an avid player of the game.
"They (novice drivers) will have to pay for it. Then they will play it for two or three months, or maybe just one if they're smart enough, then they will come for their test." There are plans for an online version which will be marketed throughout West Africa.
Balogun Koroma, Sierra Leone's transport minister, said the game was a "light-hearted way for people to learn road signs".
Driving in Sierra Leone is often reckless, vehicles poorly maintained and roads severely degraded in many areas. The country has no working traffic lights.
More than 380 people were killed in 2,204 registered road accidents in Sierra Leone last year.
Many drivers say they never had to take a test. "If you have the money it's easy," said an official in the car-hire industry. "Most people here do not take tests". (Editing by David Lewis and Andrew Roche)