ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE By Jonas Agwu
When I chose drink-driving as my focus last week, I never knew I would stumble on someone who shares the Corps’ concern. As I continue on this subject today, this is how my friend Chioma summed up the drink-driving problem: “A man under the influence of alcohol will naturally stagger. His vision will be blurred as he will see double and sometimes sees even beyond the ethereal. Sometimes, he sees the dead spirits of his fathers. He also speaks to himself, and most times, a madman is considered more reasonable than him. Everything negative comes to play in his mind while being controlled by his only friend, “alcohol”. At this moment, everything becomes his enemy, not even his newly wedded wife can control his highly influenced personality. Of course, all the monsters in him are practically exposed. He has no single control or authority over himself. He becomes a wife tormentor, defaulter of the law, and an oppressor. The introvert is suddenly turned an extrovert because he has probably taken some “green bottles”. At that point not even the president can control him. His car now drives him. No, he may not even have drunk to stupor. He is normal, yet, his hands shakes on the steering, and his brakes fail each time he applies it.
Imagine a man in this state navigating through the busy street or moving through the highway. It is better termed ‘Suicidal’. Experts call it “mission of no return,” and even if such man will return to his family and friends, the possibility appears extremely slim, if not almost impossible.Experts have revealed that despite the hyperactive nature of that man under the influence of alcohol or drugs, his brain functions at a very slow pace. Alcohol slows down his entire body system. His ability to manipulate becomes very poor if not totally zero.
In this case, he struggles with the steering at each point he tries to navigate. Decision making in the traffic are often frustrated. A typical Nigerian who discards traffic laws even when he sees with his natural eyes will discard same twice when under the influence of alcohol. He has got some fake hands and legs that respond to emergency situation very poorly. The steering is steered sluggishly and the brakes are applied with all carelessness, yet he risks his entire family in such a mission, his entire life.
Experts have said that for a driver to be sure of himself, the concentration of alcohol in the blood must be less than 0.02 of a gram per 100 millilitres. When driving under the influence of alcohol, the driver’s perception declines and weakens, making it difficult to judge correctly and truthfully how far an object is from the car. The muscles of the eyes lose their precision and they close as if you are terribly sleepy. A driver who is influenced by alcohol while on steering cannot focus his eyes on an object because his vision becomes automatically blurred. Most times the driver sees double. In Nigeria, most of us see double, yet see nothing. If the FRSC is advocating that no one drives under the influence of alcohol, it’s no doubt because of our own safety. The law is meant to guide and protect us, but it’s a common trend in Nigeria to continue to curse the implementers of the laws when all they try to do is to make us humane, and free our community from the fever of lawlessness.
Drink, it’s your life. Enjoy your life with all the green bottles. Take your friends out to any kind of social function. But for your sake, the sake of your children, your wife, your mother and the rest of the society, do not drive after that. Let the next sane person drive. Let the car be parked there for the next hours, or even until the following day, because you can’t get a duplicate of yourself. Your life is one. Don’t toy with it; that’s why FRSC protects you.”
Chioma is not a staff of the Federal Road Safety Corps but she captures vividly the tragedy called drink-driving. Like she rightly captured, driving under the influence of alcohol is suicidal. Alcohol can cause over confidence, poor judgement, lack of coordination and recklessness. In many countries, including Nigeria, it is a major cause of road traffic crashes. This is the reason why special tests are conducted to detect those who have been drinking, prior to driving. Besides alcohol beverages, drugs, according to the Revised Highway Code can equally interfere with the ability to drive.
It states that even some drugs that are prescribed by doctors have sedative (ie sleep inducing) effect on the driver. Coffee and kolanut are also stimulants that tend to increase the alertness of drivers. Other drugs popularly taken by these drivers are: Indian hemp, which is a street drug, and sometimes cocaine. Such stimulant it must be stated, may work for some time and then tiredness and sleep come suddenly while driving, resulting to road traffic crashes.
This is why this series is focusing on the drink-driving problem as we prepare for this year’s sallah celebration and other festivities noted for increased motorization and incidences of driving under the influence. The National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004 and the Revised Highway Code dearly prohibit driving under the influence with specific penalties as punishment. This will form our focus next week.