ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE
Austen Buke,(not real name)is a 45year old resident of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. He is a driver and a self employed Nigerian. Sometime in 2003,I was on my way to anchor Oga Driver, an interactive road safety Radio programme on Aso Radio when I spotted the young man on his wheels driving from Mabushi towards the Aso Radio junction. On approaching the traffic light by Nicon junction, the light changed to red but the young man to my astonishment, jumped the traffic. After the light changed to green, I followed him and finally succeeded in pulling him over and asked him why he jumped the traffic light. His reponse was funny but a great eye opener on the level of ignorance exhibited by some drivers. He told me there was no reason for him to stop since there was no oncoming vehicle from either side of the road. When I asked him the meaning of red, he said it meant go.
Worried by his gross ignorance, I decided not to book him but to use him as a subject for enlightenment by driving him to the studio where his narration of the incident that brought him to the studio got my listeners reeling in laughter and shock.My experience with him is a pointer to the dangers some drivers constitute to themselves and other road users and explains why I have today chosen to focus on traffic light violation. Since I commenced the series on the life threatening offences, I have treated each with reservation because of my last experience some years back when after a piece I titled, learners or lunatics, I received a mail from a reader who felt different about the choice of my topic. I am however relieved that no such response has been received yet. This explains why I am today continuing my focus by looking at another of the listed traffic infractions-traffic light.
The notice of offence sheet usually issued to traffic offenders made pursuant to section 10(4), 28(2) of the FRSC(EST) ACT, 2007 and Regulations 220 of the NRTR, 2012 list 38 offences, their codes, penalty points and penalty or fines. Light or sign violation which is our focus for this week, is incidentally the first traffic infraction listed on the offence sheet. It carries 2penalty points and a fine of N2000.This offence is defined as ‘’failure to use headlights, rear lights between 1900 and 0630hrs or when it is dark while on the highway or failure to use directional signal indicators when required to do so or non-observance of traffic light’’.
This is not my first piece on traffic light. My usual style is to treat,’’ Lane Indiscipline before traffic light because I believe the two infractions are insane behavior from the same stem.I was however compelled change my style by treating dangerous driving before treating traffic light The last time I treated the two simultaneously, I was stunned by text messages and phone calls from two very interesting readers whose comments I will forever cherish.I will not bore you today with the first but will simply go to the second response from a reader whose details I do not know till date. This is what he said; ‘my brother, you are doing very well with the public awareness on right motoring. I just read the one on lane indiscipline driving which is very educative. I wonder whose duty is to arrest road traffic light offenders in Abuja town. The violation is done with impunity and nothing is done to such characters. I think something can be done to check the current abuse to avoid unnecessary rod crashes. The icing came from Cliff, my brother from Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), who took me to the cleaners when he challenged me to take drastic actions, pledging to back up my enforcement with detail coverage.
Although I partly spoke about traffic light infraction a fornight ago, I have chosen to dwell more on it this week.
The Revised Highway Code advises thus; ‘’When coming to a 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’ ‘Unfortunately it is common to see motorists treat the traffic light as a souvenir.
But how bad is the traffic light infraction across the country? What percentages of drivers really jump traffic lights? To answer this, please allow me share an experience I narrated in a piece I tilted, I love my barber.In that piece I narrated how On my arrival on this faithful day, I was stunned at the topic for the day. Instead of the usual politics and football, road safety was the menu. In order to have a feel of what some saintly Nigerians think of our driving behavior, I choose not to disclose my identity but to just listen to this seven feet client who spent over an hour lamenting at what he described as the madness on our highways. In his feat of anger, he said it is obvious that madness is the order of the day while driving on Nigerian roads.
He submitted that there was indeed a funny irony as those who chose to drive sanely are actually seen as mad while the real madmen are hailed as heroes for their guts in exhibiting grass irresponsibility and disrespect for the rules that govern civil driving. This young man cited several cases when this madness is displayed.
The most common in cities such as Lagos and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory is at traffic lights. According to him, every time, he stops at a traffic light point as indicated by the red light, uncountable number of vehicles blare their horns for him to give way .He wondered why this level of impunity is displayed when there is a Revised Highway Code which for instance says you must give way to vehicles on your right at a roundabout and stop at a traffic light point when the red light comes on. He also lamented on people who indulge in using their phones while driving and even the rate at which people speed even when they have the whole family with them in the car