23 December 2012

Nigeria: Ten Commandments of Festive Season (I)

"Tragedy as truck kills 2 persons," "27 die in auto crash in Sokoto," "car crushes toddler to death".

These were some headlines on road crashes that occurred before Christmas. There were others; I did say that there would be crashes, deaths and injuries. I also said these crashes would be traceable to human error or human factor.

With just few days to the end of 2012, and the beginning of 2013, driving will no doubt be tasking once again. These Ten Commandments should guide you as you prepare. Before you embark on that journey back and even short trips within your community, be guided by the relevant traffic regulations especially the national road traffic regulations, 2004, which prohibits anyone who is not duly licensed to drive. A valid driver's licence is therefore your legal right to drive. This legal right restricts you to a specific type of vehicle.

Secondly, before you drive that car in the face of the crippling and biting effect of the global economic crisis is to ascertain that your vehicle meets minimum safety standard. This simply put means that you must ensure your vehicle is well maintained and that all the necessary safety paraphernalia are in proper shape. Don't join the multitude who play lip service to safety. Vehicle maintenance is a key to safety this season. Remember that mechanical factor is one of the three ingredients responsible for road crashes. Having a sound vehicle is therefore a plus.

Having crossed these two hurdles, you must ask yourself a very critical and personal question such as the following: am I emotionally, mentally and physically sound to embark on that journey? This is perhaps the most critical decision that must be taken before any journey. Driving is pleasure. However, this same pleasure kills. This same pleasure killed the number outlined in the media report that forms the introduction to this piece. When they embarked on that journey they were convinced that the drivers were sound. The 27 who died in a crash in Sokoto, just few days before Christmas, trusted their lives in a hand of a driver whose mental, emotional and physical state they could not ascertain. So the choice you make is key. If it is not a personal vehicle, then you must be sure you patronise a transporter with a track record of safety or check our new web portal on the road transport safety standardization scheme.

A good number of people, especially in our clime, drive under emotional stress. Some do so under financial stress. It's important that you stay off the wheels if you have issues to contend with--issues that would affect your total concentration on the wheels. If you just won a jackpot from any of the ongoing promos, please allow someone else to drive you or else you kill yourself because of excitement.

Your knowledge of the traffic rules and regulations is also important as it ensures good driving culture. Remember the biblical injunction which says obedience is better than sacrifice. Let it always be your key this season and always.

A typical Nigerian driver is self-centred and is not willing to share the road with another. This self-centredness he exhibits the more when another attempts to overtake him. When overtaking, do so when you are sure it is legal and safe for you and other road users. The road signs and markings will always guide you on when and where to overtake. The choice to determine when it is safe becomes yours to make and is it necessary. You must learn to use your mirrors and glance behind you to see the blind spots. Remember the look-signal and look-again and move routine. Overtake only on the left and avoid overtaking on a hill, bend, built up areas, pedestrian crossings, if you would have to cross double solid white lines and when you see a 'no overtaking' sign.

Speed is another commandment. The traffic regulations specify different speeds for different vehicles. This is because speed is one of the critical factors identified by the world health organisation and World Bank as responsible for increased fatalities. What this simply means is that your chances of survival while driving, should you be involved in a crash, are dependent on your speed. So if you are a speed freak, watch that speed. Don't forget that as you drive fast anything can happen, such as tyre burst, brake failure or even a pedestrian crossing the road. Whenever you drive fast, remember that at 100km/ph a vehicle moves at 28 metres per second on a road. The speed limit for private cars on an express way is 100km/ph. Taxis and buses are allowed to maintain speed limit of 90km/ph on an expressway while articulated vehicles like tankers and trailers are to maintain speed limits of 60km/ph on the expressway and 50km/ph on the highway. Within built-up areas, taxis and buses are to maintain speed limits of 50km/ph.

However, you must note that common sense often dictates lower speed limits. Common sense speed should therefore be lower in bad weather, or bad roads. The same should apply when the roads are busier.

Globally, defensive driving is the 'voodoo' to safety on the road. It is therefore an all round medication. A defensive driver assumes he is the only sane person on the road. Since crashes are caused by individual errors, he is always cautious, obeys all rules, and develops the right attitude such as patience, care, skill and consideration for other road users. A defensive driver never allows his safety to depend on the response of others, anticipates wrong actions of others, and always gives correct, prompt, adequate and clear signals.

Are you a prayer warrior? An experienced driver? Are you too familiar with the roads you travel? Do you drive a sleek car? State of the art car? Or do you drive an articulated vehicle? A luxury bus? All these have a way of playing on your confidence on the road. Never allow the size of your vehicle get into your head and cause you to drive aggressively towards others or affect your comportment. Drivers often feel they are masters of the road and tend to allow these and other factors affect their attitude to road usage. Remember that that machine is beyond you, although you are the pilot. Never assume that it can never happen to you; drive by the rules.

This season is a season of merriment with lots to drink. Driving under the influence of alcohol or hard drugs is dangerous and illegal. This is because alcohol causes over confidence, poor judgement, lack of coordination and recklessness--it also affects your vision.

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