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Lagos traffic law should be fine-tuned for effectiveness

By Helen Ovbiagele

If you live in a big and busy city like Lagos, the word ‘traffic’ is of so great importance to you, that it’s in your thoughts as you plan your day.  The state of the traffic in Lagos, to a large extent, rules our lives and determines the sort of day – good or bad – that we will have.

You set out very early for work or an appointment, and give yourself two hours, instead of the normal thirty minutes that the journey should last, to take care of any possible traffic hold-up on the way, so that you won’t be late.  Sometimes, fate smiles on you, and you coast along unhindered for a while,and then bang!

You’re confronted with several queues of all categories of vehicles in chaotic zigzag, with drivers struggling for any available means of inching forward.  Tempers are rising and insults are hurled around freely if anyone dares get in your way. It becomes a battle of the fittest.

You could be on the same spot for about twenty minutes before moving  a few metres and coming to another standstill.    You have to be careful that you don’t run into another vehicle and yours doesn’t get hit too, as this could invite a fight and cause further delay.

Meanwhile, the commercial motor bikes operators are weaving in and out between vehicles in a hair-raising manner.  You pray they don’t take off your side mirror.  If they do, they don’t stop.

Your stress level is increasing by the second, and in the long run, you miss your appointment or are late for work.  The cause of the traffic build-up could be a broken-down vehicle, unruly parking of tankers, trailers, and other heavy duty lorries.  It could be an accident too, or,  a very bad road.   You have to slow down at pot-holes and navigate your vehicle through them carefully, if you don’t want to wreck it.

Some people’s health conditions have been made worse by sitting tensely for hours in their vehicles, in a traffic build-up.  Anything that would improve the state of the traffic in Lagos, would be welcome by the majority of commuters.  So, the newspaper headline ‘Lagos Goes Tough On Traffic Violation, as new traffic law debuts’ brought much hope and expectation  to many of us here.

Let’s examine some aspects of the law that were highlighted in the publication:

–    To test alcohol level of drivers.

–    Th is is welcome news.  Judging from the way that many commercial vehicles and motor bikes are driven, it’s obvious that their drivers don’t operate only under their own steam, and alcohol, and probably something a bit stronger could be responsible for the unreasonable reckless way they drive, putting the lives of their passengers and other people in danger.

I hope the government will  have the right instrument for testing the alcohol level in a motorist’s system, and the law-enforcement officers who will use it, would be well-trained in its use, will be honest and will not be intimidated by the personality of the motorist involved. This shouldn’t be seen as a means to demand bribes, or haul people off to their offices on trumped-up charges.

–    For more effectiveness there should be a restriction on the open sale of dispensed or portable packs of hot drinks in traffic and in motor parks.

–    Smoking, eating, phone calls, others, outlawed while driving.

–    If there’s no serious traffic build-up, I doubt if these would be a problem.  One would need to be an acrobat to engage in these activities successfully,  if there are no potholes on the road, and the traffic is flowing well. Still it’s good to include them in the law because they could be the cause of  serious accidents on the road, when the motorist loses concentration.

Pity there are no cameras on the road to pin offenders, as it may be difficult for an officer who’s on foot to give chase to a motorist who’s moving fast and smoking, eating, making phone calls or sending sms.   Also, those selling snacks in traffic will have to be restrained from doing so.

–    Restriction of trailer movement to within the hours of 6am and 9pm.

–    I don’t quite agree with this order.  Shouldn’t this be the period these vehicles which are the causes of major traffic hold-ups, and serious accidents, are off the roads, so that traffic can flow well?  In most western countries, particularly in the U.S, and the U.K., trailers, tankers and heavy duty vehicles move at night, and end early in the morning, unless they happen to be on trans state journeys.  You won’t find any of them in the day time in the middle of the cities and in residential areas, like we do in Nigeria.

–    Prohibited routes for motorcycles and tricycles.

–    This would be most useful. For their own safety and that of other road users, they should not be on express ways.   I suggest that local government should run regular seminars at ward level for these riders who seem to feel that traffic rules and regulations are not for them.

From my own observation, the local governments seem to be more concerned about collecting the daily operating dues from them, than getting them to abide by traffic rules. Many of these riders would need interpreters for them to understand what they’re being taught.

–    Also, many of them don’t know their ages, so, it might be difficult to enforce the ban on people under 18 operating commercial motorcycles.  Are we going to ask them to have their birth certificates on them?

–    Ban on driving in a direction prohibited by the road traffic law; that is, driving against traffic popularly known as one-way driving.

–    Those most involved in this, in my opinion, are uniformed people themselves, government V.I.P.s, followed by commercial vehicles.

–    I’m glad that all stakeholders including, the Judiciary, the Police, LASTMA, VIOs, etc. sat down to deliberate on the contents of this new traffic law.  As charity should begin at home, we the masses will be looking up to them to obey this law, and encourage the rest of us to do likewise.

–    Dismissal, prosecution for compromised enforcement officers.

–    Ah!  Where do we go to report offenders?  To whom do we report them?

–    Enforcement not immediate

–    Well, we thank God that enforcement of this new traffic law will not be immediate, because the government does need much time to fine-tune all aspects of it.  Officers will need to be trained to carry out the implementation in a way that will bring respect and credibility to the government’s intention.

–    Like many decisions in our country, there’s a lot of good things in this new traffic law. Our problem is usually strict adherence to the guidelines, implementation and constancy.


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