Lane Indiscipline

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ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

Last week, I rounded up my focus on the first traffic infraction listed by the Federal Road Safety Corps for mental and psychological evaluation as promised a fortnight ago. This week, my focus will be on what I regard as the second infraction. My choice of the infraction to focus on is not just based merely on the severity or otherwise of the infraction, but on my perception of this infraction as pure madness and the interest this form of madness generates under my watch.  In all my years in the field as Sector Commander, especially in both the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Lagos State, phoning behind the wheels and lane indiscipline (driving against the flow of traffic) – commonly referred to as one- way driving, have always formed the core of my daily enforcement with such offenders undergoing more compulsory public enlightenment hours than others.

To refresh your memory again especially if you have not been following my series on these ‘insane’ infractions, the Corps justification for the mental evaluation which commenced on July 1, 2017, is based on the report that the FRSC recorded 3,646 cases of phone violation; 1,017 dangerous driving and 3,337 light sign violation between January to April 2017. The on-going test focuses on life threatening traffic offences such as the use of phone while driving, route violation, traffic light violation, dangerous driving and overloading which is my focus for now.Before I dwell on my focus for this week which will run till next week, please allow me to indulge you on the report of a poll conducted sometimes in 2013 by the Corps to gauge attitude of motorists.

 In that year, FRSC contracted NOIPolls to do a road attitudinal survey across 6 locations in Nigeria. To measure the level of compliance on the road, the survey was conducted across pre- identified corridors within 9hrs of the day  (morning, noon and evening) for 12 days. The observation monitored the following:  lane discipline, seatbelt/ crash helmet compliance, compliance to overloading rules, traffic light /road signs obedience and the number plate usage.

The survey was carried out in 6 locations; Abuja, Lagos, Owerri, Benin, Kaduna, and Gombe. The survey was conducted via observational study. 6 corridors in total selected by the clients were observed across all locations and 6 extra corridors were added by NOIPolls, giving a total of 12 corridors observed. Observation was done by 8:30 am – 5:30 pm daily for 5 days. A total of 70,180 vehicles/ bikes were observed across all 6 locations with 29,482 on the highway, and 40,698 on township roads. A total of vehicle/bikes observed by location were 13,426 in Abuja, 11,503 in gombe, 11,903 in owerri, 7936 in benin, 10,435 in lagos, and 14,977 in Kaduna. 83% of the total observed diver/riders obeyed road signs / traffic light with more observed on township roads (87%) than highways (77) %. Abuja 98% had the highest number of driver/rider that obeyed road signs/ traffic lights.

The highest number of drivers/riders that obeyed road signs /traffic lights was recorded on Monday (96%) and the highest rate of obedience was shown by other car drivers/riders (86%).In Abuja, from the point of observation, the vast majority 98%) of vehicles / bikes observed showed lane discipline. However, the highest proportion 31%) of vehicles / bikes that did not show lane discipline was recorded on Sunday.  Only (2% of the observed driver/riders did not adhere to road signs/ traffic lights and of this number, tricycle riders (6%) were most disobedient to road signs / traffic light.

I must confess that when this report was presented, I could not comprehend the finding although   the former Corps Marshal,Osita Chidoka  wisely explained the basis for the finding and the reason  why I felt the way I did. Despite this clarification, I regularly receive text messages, emails and phone calls from concern motorists on the increasing cases of lane indiscipline. 

The most recent was when a couple of my friends during the old boys meeting of CMS Grammar School, Lagos, Abuja Chapter carpeted and verbally battered my colleagues and I at the Federal Road Safety Corps for what one of them described as our lack luster attitude to curb the increasing cases of lane indiscipline which is prevalent in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.

 The colleague whom I will simply refer to as Senior Ken, wondered why this was happening in a place like Abuja despite the prevalence of functional traffic lights and numerous junctions meant to make driving easier. He lamented that it is also common on the highway to find drivers who despite the rule that states that the left lane is for overtaking while the right lane is for slower vehicles, could remain on the left lane during a three to six hours drive without making way for other road users as mandated by the traffic regulations. 

At   traffic light points and junctions, such drivers instead of remaining in the middle lane since they are driving straight and freeing the right or left lanes for drivers turning to either the left or right, would arrogantly block the right or the left lane and would not give way even when all the vehicles behind blare their horn to alert them. He also reminded me that lane indiscipline or what he also called reckless and irresponsible driving is also pronounced in other parts of the country including the major highways. 

This madness he posited ,is responsible for, road traffic crashes, gridlocks in major routes within the Federal Capital such as the Nyanya-Karu axis,Kubwa highway,Gwarimpa,just to mention a few  and daily paints our nation as lawless.

 Senior Ken summed up his worry which I share by noting that it is indeed crazy to see adults and parents who profess all kind of faith through the kind of stickers on their cars exhibit crash irresponsibility at traffic junctions, roundabouts and or traffic points. The battering I got last Sunday prompted me to do this piece with the same title, Lane indiscipline driving.

‘’Lane indiscipline is when a driver intentionally straddles on to anotherlane that is not theirs and does not keep within the lines of their lane. Whether done intentionally but not safely, or if the driver is completely unaware, this is a form of dangerous driving that could lead to a road traffic crash and is a traffic offence. Safe and correct lane discipline is essential for smooth traffic flow and for a crash free driving environment. Bad lane discipline is often the result of a lack of unplanned journey, and lack of concentration and mostly a demonstration of gross disregard for laid down traffic rules’’.  In the words of one of senior Ken, lane indiscipline or impunity driving is the result of lack of morals as he noted that a driver who is culturally nurtured will comply with laid down rules and show respect for others. Like I said lane indiscipline is common at roundabouts where drivers are to give way to vehicles on the right, at junctions, traffic light junctions and also along the highways

I will allow the Highway Code which is our guide to teach us because I know that most Nigerians even though they claim to have attended driving schools and have copies of the Highway Code rarely take time to study this vital document whose contents holds the key to their safety on the road. I have therefore decided to vomit the Highway Code contents in this regard

 

What then are Lanes? According to the Nigerian Highway Code, lanes are spaces on the road demarcated by lines to guide traffic flow moving in the same or opposite direction. For traffic in the same direction, the lines are normally yellow. Lines separating traffic moving in the opposite direction are usually white. The lines may be broken or solid, indicating whether or not they may be crossed. Usually broken lines may be crossed while solid lines are not expected to be crossed. There are rules guiding lanes and according to the Highway Code, you are to keep between the traffic lane markings. Stay on the right- hand lane unless you are ready to overtake, to turn left or pass an obstruction. Do not unnecessary hop lane. If you need to move into another lane, first use your mirror and if it is safe to move over, signal before doing so.Do not endanger the road users by your act. After joining the highway, stay on the inside lane long enough to blend to the speed of traffic before overtaking.

 

On a two lanes road, you are to drive in the right hand lane on a two-lane carriageway, except when overtaking while on a three lanes road On a three-lane carriageway, you may stay in the middle lane when traffic is slower on the inside lane, but you should return to the inside lane when you have passed them. The outside lane is for overtaking ONLY. If you use it always move back into the middle lane and then into the inside lanes as soon as you can, but without cutting in.

 

The same Highway Code guides us on how to overtake thus; overtake only on the left lane, unless traffic is moving in queues in all lanes and you have no choice but to keep moving forward where you are. Do not move to a lane on your right to overtake. Hard shoulders are meant for maneuvering during emergencies only. The hard shoulder is there for emergency use only, and you should never use it for anything like overtaking! Occasionally if other lanes of the motorway are closed the hard shoulder will be used as a temporary lane, but in virtually all road conditions you should never use the hard shoulder.

 When coming to junction, obey any lane indication arrows marked on the road. These markings are also there at roundabouts, traffic light junctions and highways. At the Traffic Light at Junctions, although green light means you may go, do not go forward if other vehicles ahead are held up at the junction. When the red and amber lights are showing together you must stop. It is an offence to pass a junction when the red and amber lights are shown. Make sure you stop at the stop line (double lines) to enable you see the lights.                          

In a traffic gridlock so-called “traffic jams”, do not try to “jump the queue” by cutting into another lane or unauthorized use of siren to overtake the vehicle waiting in front of you.The Highway Code says that for slow moving vehicle on a single carriage, they way must ensure that they pull-over when four or more vehicles queue up behind them warning that failure to pull-over is a traffic violation. On a dual carriage way, all vehicles must keep to the slow lane except when overtaking. It is an offence not to do so.