ROAD SAFETY ARTICLES
I once wrote on this same page describing myself as a Lagos boy. My friend and colleague Tunde Rahman re-echoed this few years back when I was bidding Lagos farewell after almost four years as Sector Commander. Nothing has really changed as I remain a Lagosian who is always proud of being called one. If you mistake us for being proud and brash, please I beg you to kindly bear with us as we are just who we are, always striving for excellence as the State is noted despite our acknowledged inadequacies which we daily strive to tame.
As Lagosians, excellence is our watchword. It was for former Lagos State Governor and now Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Raji Fashola who as Governor delivered and became the toast of almost all. The current Governor,Akinwunmi Ambode is presently on the tracks, striving to deliver with his new traffic laws which has just jolted me, pondering on why other states are yet to copy not just the Lagos model but the zeal and passion geared towards making Lagos better in keeping with the Federal Road Safety Corps commitment towards the establishment of State Traffic Agencies.
The new traffic law excites me for several reasons; first it tallies with my belief that stiffer penalty will deter motorists from turning our roads into deathtraps; it captures the clamor by handfuls who believe in the promotion of responsible driving and global best practices. It encompasses basically all elements of the traffic madness that we delight in exhibiting on the road irrespective of status, sex or age. It demonstrates not just the commitment of the State to change Lagos for good but a sense of continuity in strengthening the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency-LASTMA, which has become the model to emulate in addition to bequeathing a safer environment. The jail terms and fines attached to infraction is also crucial as deterrents
I told you the law captures everything. Let me start with driving against the flow of traffic with emphasis on notable deviants such as bullion vans,motor cycle operators among others. Driving in a direction prohibited by the Road Traffic Law; (that is driving against traffic, popularly known as “One Way” driving) as contained in the law now attracts a 3-year jail term, while a first offender gets one year term and the vehicle forfeited to the state government. Driving against traffic, popularly called one-way driving which we in FRSC call route violation, refers to the contravention of the provision of any traffic law or regulation relating to directions and routes to be followed by vehicles e.g. facing on-coming vehicles or plying route prohibited for certain categories of vehicles. It is a global menace but not as pronounced as in our clime, where it has become a common practice especially among commercial bus drivers. Daily people have been killed or maimed by vehicles moving against the traffic. This infraction is more common during traffic gridlock when there is heavy traffic on one lane thereby prompting the impatient and irresponsible drivers to illegally divert to the lane of oncoming vehicles. . It is common to see these deviant drive furiously and recklessly mainly because they are conscious of their irresponsible and disgraceful driving .These irresponsible drivers are often guilty of hit and run . Ironically, VIPs, and some security operatives who should lead by examples are also guilty of this terrible offence. To curb these madness, the National Road Traffic Regulations provides a penalty of N5000 which in my personal view is grossly inadequate even though some might argue that increased penalty merely provides grounds for law enforcement operatives to enrich themselves.
But I still maintain that increased penalty like the Lagos example with the jail term will deter this ugly trend and that is why I salute the state for this strict law. I know of the provision of the Federal Road Safety Establishment Act, 2007 which in section 20 which says that a person who causes the death of another person by the driving of a motor vehicle on the highway dangerously or recklessly shall be guilty of an offence and be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7years.In section 21(1)it further says that a person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway dangerously or recklessly shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction of a fine of N50000 or to imprisonment or a term not exceeding two years or to both fines and imprisonment.
The second is the one on bullion vans. It states that bullion vans are not exempted from the law as any bullion van driven in a direction prohibited by the Road Traffic Law will be forfeited, while abandoned vehicle on the highway will be fined N50,000.00 or three years imprisonment, or both fine and imprisonment. I recall a write-up titled ‘’the madness called bullion vans’’ where I x-rayed the havoc they cause and how they arrogate to themselves privileges that do not exist and immunity that does not exist in our traffic laws. I believe it is time to tame these operatives and cut them to size.
Bullion van drivers are just one of the deviants. The law also captures riding a motor-cycle against traffic and riding on the kerb, median or road setbacks and states that this driving behavior will attract N20,000.00 for first time offenders, while subsequent offenders will get N30,000.00 (thirty-thousand Naira) fine or the riders’ motor-cycle will be impounded.
Other provisions includes smoking while driving which will attract N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira), failure to give way to traffic on the left at a roundabout attracts N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira), disobeying traffic control is N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira), while motorcycles and tricycles are prohibited from riding on major highways in the state. The highways are Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, Oworonshoki – Ikorodu, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and Babangida Boulevard Way. Others are Lekki-Epe Expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue, Agege Motor Road and Eti-Osa-Lekki coastal road. Violation of route by commercial vehicles will attract N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira), Riding motor-cycle without Crash Helmet for rider and passenger will attract N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira) or 3 years imprisonment or both. It equally prohibits under-aged person, under 18 years old from riding a motorcycle and the fine for this is N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira).
Also contained in the law are those against operating a motor-cycle in a restricted area on or prohibited route which attracts a fine of N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand) or his motor-cycle will be impounded. Driving without a valid driving License will result in vehicle being impounded while learner drivers without permit will attract a fine of N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira). Driving with fake number plate will attract N20, 000.00 (twenty thousand Naira) for first offenders and 6 months imprisonment or both for subsequent infractions.
It however makes an exception for medical emergency vehicles to drive through traffic light.