Veteran journalist Tunde Rahman is my friend. Our professional friendship dates as far back as our years as reporters in Lagos. While I was with the defunct Concord press in Lagos, Tunde was with Lagos Horizon, a community newspaper from where he moved to the old Daily Times. Our beat was the defunct National Republican Convention and Social Democratic Parties in Lagos when the likes of Dapo Sarunmi, His Excellency, late Michael Otedola, former Governor of Lagos State, and Prof Femi Agbalajobi held sway on the political terrain of the State.
His dossier on our days in the political trenches of Lagos as reporters prompted him to do a piece on me titled, ‘’Bariga Boy is back to base’’ to announce my redeployment to the National Headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Corps as spokesman for the second time. Today, I doff my hat for him as he joins the big league among the 20 newly appointed aides of President Bola Tinubu as Senior Special Assistant (Media) to the President.
As I clink the wine glass in celebration of my friend on his well-deserved appointment, I look to the heavens to smile on me someday. Tunde’s appointment brings fond memories of our paths together. It equally fills me with nostalgia for Lagos and some of its feats especially in traffic management worth emulating as we thinker on strategies to redress death due to avoidable road traffic crashes
Before you get me wrong, this piece acknowledges Tunde’s rise while at the same time uses the same brush to paint the positives of Lagos novel traffic management. The development speaks to the concern raised in last week’s piece. Incidentally, last week, my pal shared an interesting chat tagged, ‘Beware-Lagos Road Fines’.
The message and warning was very direct; ‘please, don’t drop people on Obalende bridge’ .They have apparently installed a camera there. The offence is called ’Highway Obstruction’ while the penalty is N25K.Tell your family and friends. On the same date, I received a sample of a message or violation notification. Incidentally, within the same period, I stumbled on a report, tagged, ‘Senate wants VIO, FRSC to enforce penalty on traffic offenders on Abuja-highway’. The focus was against indiscriminate parking on highways in Abuja.
While we wait for both Agencies to step up curtailing what the Senate described as the ‘’terrible habit’ of transporters on the Abuja highways partly responsible for the traffic congestion experienced daily on almost all the roads in the city, I believe that one of the urgent steps is to review punishment through fines or jail terms meted to offenders for certain infractions including traffic infractions resulting in deaths or disabilities.
This, I believe, is the crux of the matter behind the level of what I call ‘irresponsible driving mannerisms‘ by a handful of road users. This increase in fine/punishment should be backed up with implementation of the penalty point system which was my focus a couple of weeks ago. Until motorists come to terms with the possibility of having their driver’s license suspended or withdrawn and stringent procedures for re-issuance, we may continue with the cosmetic punishments that deter no one.
The need for more severe penalties for serious traffic offences explains my reason for navigating through the issue of the penalty point system last week. I hope to round off this week, having guided you last week with snippets on the provision contained in the FRSC Act where the penalty for causing death or disability of anyone was a jail term not exceeding seven years.
I remember expressing reservations on the punishment for critical offences such as speeding which is regarded worldwide as the biggest causative factor in road crash as well as . I captured driving under the influence of alcohol and any psychoactive substance or drug increases the risk of a crash that results in death or serious injuries, noting that in the case of drug-driving, the risk of inducing a road traffic crash is increased to differing degrees depending on the psychoactive drug used. For example, the risk of a fatal crash occurring among those who have used amphetamines is about 5 times the risk of someone who hasn’t.
Seat belt usage which I focused on a couple of weeks ago was also highlighted in the write-up. I noted the significant impact created so far by the Corps but observed that we are yet to translate this to include rear- seatbelt usage as well as child restraints. The use of child restraints can lead to a 60percent reduction in deaths.
My write-up focused also on distracted driving stressing that drivers using mobile phones are approximately 4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers not using a mobile phone. This is because using a phone while driving slows reaction times (notably braking reaction time, but also reaction to traffic signals), and makes it difficult to keep in the correct lane, and to keep the correct following distances. Hands-free phones, I warned, are not much safer than hand-held phone sets while texting considerably increases the risk of a crash.
Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that in countries such as the United Kingdom, sentencing guidelines are being reviewed. Please enjoy the reading as I share verbatim the material which states that a comprehensive package of twelve new and revised sentencing guidelines for offenders convicted of traffic infractions in England and Wales came into effect on 1 July, 2023. ‘’The package reflects new maximum sentences for some of the offences, including causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol or drugs’’.
In addition, ’’the maximum sentence according to the report, for these two offences has increased from 14 years to life imprisonment.This is contained in a legislation introduced in June ,2022.The six guidelines will be updated in line with the current, step-by-step format of sentencing guidelines now used by the courts.
The Sentencing Council has also developed three guidelines for offences of ‘causing injury by driving’. The offences are causing serious injury by dangerous driving. The other is causing serious injury by driving while disqualified. Meanwhile there is also the recently introduced offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.
As I conclude, there are other new guidelines .They include the following; causing injury by wanton or furious driving-this infraction can be used where a cyclist causes death or injury. It also includes driving or attempting to drive with a specified drug above the specified limit. These new guidelines will provide judges and magistrates with up-to-date procedures that cover the full range of these offences.”