MADMEN AS DRIVERS

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On Wednesday, the 14th day in June, 2017, a crash involving a bullion van and    a DAF truck occurred by polo junction along the jos-bukuru road. The probable cause of the crash was brake failure of the truck,which  killed two  people including a policeman in the bullion van. That crash was a re minder on some of the critical risks I would have to contend with as  Zonal Commanding Officer, Zone 4, comprising Plateau, Benue and Nassarawa States. Despite the sourness the crash brought on my third day in Jos, Jos, the Plateau State capital has always held fond memories for me for some reasons; as an advanced level student at CSM Grammar school Bariga, I was too eager to round up and pick up admission at the University of Jos to study Theatre Arts. Although the admission did not scale through, my first and second trip to Jos caught my fancy partly because of the   weather which  is too soothing to ignore while the people are friendly and hospitable.

It was therefore with excitement that I received my redeployment from Port Harcourt, the Rivers Sate capital to Jos from where the introduction to this old piece is being done. I therefore wish to thank my boss,Dr Boboye Oyeyemi,the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps for allowing me fulfill a childhood dream of savoring the endearing weather and receptive people of Jos,popularly referred to as J city. Before you start getting jealous, please note that this piece is not about the wonderful weather in Jos, but about the recent pronouncement by my boss on the commencement of psychiatrists test for certain categories of recalcitrant drivers.

As a prelude to a piece on the new directives which I hope to do next week,I have chosen to wet your appetite with a write-up I did  sometimes in 2014 and 2015 on the nuisance learners constitute even though by my boss’s pronouncement, they are excluded from the psychiatrists evaluation. Here is the piece for your perusal- When I set out to do this piece I was torn between the topic, “saints and sinners and madman as drivers”. 

I settled for the latter because of the need to be original knowing that a lot of write-ups and movies have been done on the topic. I am hoping that my views would change the attitude of some people who by their actions on the wheels naturally tag them as madmen on wheels. It is not my first piece on this. I recall a piece I did sometime in 2014 titled learners or lunatics. In that piece I tried to paint the picture of the nuisance learners constitute daily on the roads…  

Thirdly, I wish to also state that while I was pondering over the appropriate title for this piece, my mind quickly flashed to Oga Driver, an interactive awareness program conceptualized by me and my colleague, Salihu Ibrahim Kindo of Aso Radio when I was the sector commander in the Federal Capital Territory. It was in the cause of that program that we coined the above title as a way of raising awareness of the seriousness and risk involved in this driving behavior, in addition to the need to draw a line between the good and the bad guys among learner-driver. If you want to know what I mean by the good and the bad, let me first state that from our observations, the good guys represent learner-drivers who are not ashamed to be tagged, learners and as such body display the ‘L’ sign as mandated by law. 

The bad guys on the other hand represent learners that refuse to display the ‘L’ out of ego and pride and even when they do, they willingly flout all rules that guide learners. Specifically, the National Road Traffic Regulations 2004 mandates all learner drivers to observe the following rules: attend a certified and approved driving school as a prerequisite to obtaining a fresh drivers licence. In the course of this coaching the learner driver must display an ‘L’-plate for learner, which is a square plate bearing a sans- serif letter ‘L’ for learner, which must be affixed to the front and back of a vehicle in many countries, if the driver is a learner under instruction or a motorcycle rider with provisional entitlement to ride restricted motorcycles. What this means is that this rule is a universal convention with slight variations from country to country. In the case of Nigeria, section 27, subsections 1-3 of the National Road Traffic Regulations earlier cited spells out the details as applicable to learner drivers. For the purpose of this piece, let me stress here that besides displaying an ‘L’ sign, a learner driver when issued a learners permit, must be accompanied by a licensed driver-instructor sitting beside him to drive a vehicle or type stated in the permit from a period not exceeding three months from the date of issue on the highways specified in the permit. Besides, the permit in itself forbids the learner from carrying any person no matter the level of affiliation except the instructor. In addition, the learner-driver must at all times comply with relevant traffic rules and regulations. Unfortunately, these provisions are daily abused by learner-drivers who no doubt display the ‘L’ sign yet disregard the other provisions meant for their safety and the safety of others. 

The highflying learners on their own don’t display the ‘L’ sign and arrogantly violate all other provisions. It is even strange that other motorists expose themselves to unnecessary risks by offering to drive in such vehicles. It is also strange that women by our findings in the course of patrols rank among the greatest offenders when it comes to infractions that have to do with learner-drivers. It is very common to see women who are learner-drivers on Sunday and during school run flout all safety precautions by carrying children in such vehicles and even doing the same on their way to worship centers.

 I must emphasize at this point that the rationale behind the Federal Road Safety Corps driving school standardization program which makes it mandatory for fresh applicants to attend a certified and approved driving school, is to nurture a fresh generation of drivers who will drive by the rules and help the national projection of a zero level for road traffic crashes.