By Uche Amunike
I really do not like men in uniform. By this, I mean those in both the military and para-military. My reason? The word, 'brutality' is something that readily comes to my mind each time I see these men. In all fairness to them, however, it wasn't because of something they personally did to me. It was a mindset from my childhood, after watching the movie, 'Idi Amin of Uganda'. It was my most horrific film as a child. I saw torture, cannibalism, violence, etc. In my innocence, I used what I saw in that movie as a yardstick to measure the performance level of any officer, be they Military or Para-Military. I have a preference for those in Immigration or Civil Defense. Lately, though, I became quite close to a lot of them in the course of my job as a media practitioner and I must say there are really nice ones out there with human faces and golden hearts. When I drive to work every day and back, our paths cross and we have idle chit chats, exchange pleasantries, have a dose of laughter, wish each other a nice day and I drive on my merry way. I realized they were really nice when they weren't torturing criminals.
I have tried to be a patriotic Nigerian in my years of driving by seeing that my vehicle papers are correct. I am a law abiding citizen which explains why I stop whenever the policemen on duty or Road Safety Officers on duty flag down my car. I always stop and answer their questions. Thankfully, my vehicle papers are completely valid, so I have no cause for alarm whenever I am flagged down.
Very recently, the management of Fides arranged with the Sector Commander of the Anambra State Federal Road Safety Corp to visit FIDES and educate us on safety. To our greatest delight, he showed up a couple of days ago and did justice to every topic he handled.
Today, I want to share with our readers, some of the safety tips he talked about. People buy cars these days and start driving around town with their new cars without knowing what the law says. Well, according to this amazing gentleman, before you drive your new car, you should endeavour to learn how to drive. By this, he meant that most motorists hardly registered with driving schools to learn the ABC of driving. I agree with him. The reason why you see lots of carelessness on our highways is because road users do not know simple traffic rules. They also do not understand road signs. These seemingly simple details go a long way to prevent accidents if properly done. So, the rule is to go to a driving school, get the proper training and be certified. Then you get set to obtain your driver's license. It is a simple procedure that won't take your time if you go through the right process. There are so many agents that claim to process vehicle papers but it's always best to do it the right way. That way, you save yourself the risk of falling into the hands of fraudsters that will collect your money and give you fake drivers' licenses. Please note that the Driver's License is not collected by proxy. You must go to the Road Safety Office in person so as to be captured. Your thumbprint has to be taken. Your face has to be seen. You must do it the right way in order to get the right document or else face being penalized if found with a fake license. The same thing goes for plate numbers. Kindly be appropriately registered in order to avoid penalties.
He spoke about motorists working on their attitude while also striving to be conscious of Vehicle Safety Standards. He talked at length about motorists using brand new tyres which are better than the fairly used ones we usually buy. He did mention that people always claimed that the 'Belgium' tyres were more durable than the brand new ones but refuted that erroneous belief, while saying that one of the reasons why motorists preferred the so called 'Belgium' tyres was because they were cheaper than the brand new ones. He advised that it was better for us to buy brand new tyres that would serve us for a long time because, by the time we use the Belgium tyres for six months and change it, you realize that it is cheaper to buy the brand new one.
So many drivers do not have jacks, spare tyres and tools in their cars. These are very important for safety's sake. If you have a flat tyre, there is no way you can possibly change the tyre to the spare one without using the Jack. Others include the C-Caution and fire extinguisher. These are all very important to have in the car. The truth is that our safety is in our hands. We have so much to do to ensure that we stay safe always. The FRSC officials also have their own roles to play. These include eradicating road traffic crashes and creating safe motoring environment in Nigeria. That is why it is very important to co-operate with them whenever they stop your vehicle for one reason or the other.
This brings to mind certain people that refuse to be stopped by these officers because of their profession. These include Journalists, Lawyers, Medical Doctors and even politicians. Please, there is no such word as immunity. If these officers stop you for any reason, sacrifice five or ten minutes for them and after checking your papers, they'll let you go. Flouting their instructions or directives because of your profession simply means you have disobeyed the law and it doesn't tell well of anyone.
He also talked at length about the dangers of over-speeding. Most fatal crashes are caused by high speed. There are certain speed limits that should not be exceeded in certain roads. Everyone who is a motorist should obtain the High Way Code so as to study those details better. Let me even share an experience I had a fortnight ago. I usually ply the old road to and fro my work place every day. On this particular evening, I had joined the Eziowelle-Abatete Road and was heading to join the Uke Road that led to Ideani when I saw this dog that appeared from nowhere. I was at top speed and was torn between matching my brakes and sparing the dog's life and crushing the dog and saving myself from being crushed by the Hummer Bus coming behind me on top speed. It was a tough decision, but one I just had to take with the sole aim of saving myself and my car from irredeemable damage. So, I crushed the dog to death and even though my car bumper was seriously damaged, I was glad I came out of it unscathed, at least, physically. So, I asked the Commander, Mr Ajayi about the speed limit for such roads and he said that the speed limit for such roads was 90km/hr. He however said that motorists should use their discretion to know when to drive at top speed and when to slow down.
We were also warned about overload of goods or even people. It should be avoided because they cause more harm than good. It's not good for the roads and it's not good for the vehicle. The habit of taking one-way was as well frowned upon by the Sector Commander who also advised that we should always see ourselves as the only sane people on the road. That way, when other motorists drive irresponsibly, you just remember that they are insane. Then you drive yours like someone who is sane.
One of the worst habits he condemned seriously is that of making phone calls while behind the steering wheel. It is wrong and has been the reason behind so many road mishaps. There are hands-free gadgets that can be used for making calls while driving.
We were told to be careful about the people we buy cars from. So many stolen vehicles are sold to unsuspecting people. This is why it is expedient for anyone reading this to find out everything about the vehicle you're about buying to make sure it is not stolen.
Beating the traffic lights is a very serious offence. Do not be so impatient as to beat those lights. They are safety measures put in place for the good of every one.
Interestingly, Road Safety is now being taught in most primary schools. The reason for this initiative is for our children to grow up with safety in mind.
In all, it was a most educative, informative and interactive session. The management and staff of Fides fielded questions and their curiosity, satisfied. We were made to submit our vehicle licenses and they had the opportunity to do a thorough check on our cars. Thanks to that exercise, I found out that my papers had expired on the 15th day of June and I found out that my rear tyre had to be replaced as soon as possible. Thankfully, I have renewed the papers and can only pray that God blesses the amazing Michael Sunday Ajayi, Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Core, Anambra State. I feel truly enriched by his tutorials and I look forward to keeping the traffic rules as I drive through the streets of Anambra or wherever I find myself. God bless us all!!!