Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New traffic offence bill misses it, again

Traffic gridlock in Lagos. Inset: LASTMA logo
The new traffic offence bill just passed by the Lagos State parliament and currently awaiting Governor Babatunde Fashola’s assent again speaks to the cluelessness at the heart of Lagos traffic problems. Solution to increasing traffic infractions on Lagos roads does not lie in making the traffic laws more draconian. Instead, it lies in effective enforcement of extant laws. 
Can it be argued that everyone who has driven against the traffic in Lagos in the last one year has been apprehended and fined accordingly? Certainly not. If you have not arrested even 10 percent of those who have committed this violation in Lagos in the last one year, how can you come to the conclusion that the fine is not effective?
It has been demonstrated in other jurisdictions that people will generally not violate traffic laws if they know they will be detected and punished accordingly, with a fine primarily. Nobody is happy to pay out money unless in exchange for goods and services. Nigerians hate fines. Lagosians who travel to environments where traffic laws are enforced effectively are generally among the best behaved road users.
Namibia is in Africa, yet if you jump the red light at an intersection you are not likely to get away with it. Manual monitoring is complemented by an automated system, complete with cameras which capture your plate number. A ticket is despatched to the address registered with the vehicle within days. If the offender fails to pay within stipulated time, he gets a court summons. At that stage onward, he can land in jail. Nigerians in that country dutifully abide by the laws. Such an advanced system was not put in place overnight. It began with the development of a central database of vehicles and their owners.
The challenge of traffic law enforcement in an environment like ours is what the government should creatively and rigorously think about, not rolling out this simplistic solution that bodes ill for Lagos and its residents.
Three years imprisonment without an option of fine for one-way driving is an unreasonable proposition, which even if it works, will be at a hugely disproportionate cost to the society. There is a cost of enforcement beyond Naira and Kobo that the makers of the laws have not thought about. For every one daredevil one-way traffic violators that this law will send to jail, there are two otherwise law abiding citizens whose lives will be ruined by that law for taking a wrong turn in a city lacking in modern directional signs. Ignorance, indeed, is no excuse in the court of law.
Equally important is the fact that this law will be putting the enforcers in harm’s way. Those who came up with this bill apparently did not consider that they might be imperilling the lives of the LASTMA officials working to keep our roads free? They did not consider the fate of that hardworking LASTMA official that will try to stop a one-way traffic violator who knows he is certainly going to jail if caught. And for the motorists who do not have the heart to run over a LASTMA official standing between him and freedom, they will be willing to significantly jerk up the upper limit of a bribe they can pay a traffic law enforcer. Either way, the society is the loser.
Traffic management thrives on careful planning and rigorous thinking. This proposed law is not a product of that process and will ultimately make Lagos worse than it is. Why do we still not have a central database of vehicles owned in Lagos State, plus the biometrics of their owners? And when the bill talks about first-time offenders, how do they even determine who is a first-time offender when there is no central database that you can run the biometrics of offenders through? This bill is assuming that the offences will be repeated in the same locality by the same offenders who will be apprehended by the same LASTMA officials who apprehended them the first time! A little convoluted, isn’t it? But that’s the only assumption we can make in an environment where digital records are non-existent.
It is not too late. The government can initiate an exercise to collect and centrally warehouse the details of all vehicles used in Lagos and their owners. And it should be at no cost to vehicle owners. Governments miss the point when they turn a vital social project like this to money-making ventures which add to the burden of the citizens. They then fail to get the much needed buy-in of the public. If at all any money will be paid by motorists and vehicle owners, it must be a token.  
In the meantime, government should invest in modern traffic management gadgets for the traffic managers. Breathalysers, speed guns, radio communication equipment and other essential tools should be provided. And, as for this bill, it should be tossed where it belongs, the dustbin.

End

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

THE DRACONIAN AND ILLEGALITY BEHIND THE LAGOS TRAFFIC LAW ENVISAGE FOR PASSAGE AND THE REASONS FASHOLA MUST KEEP HIS HEAD HIGH AND REFUSE TO GIVE ACCENT TO THIS LAUGHING STOCK!

THE HOUSE IS ILLOGICAL WITH HIS LAW ... PLEASE CAN SOMEBODY HELP JUSTIFY BETWEEN THIS THREE RULES WHICH SHOULD CARRY GREATER PUNISHMENT?

12. driving with fake number plate
(Penalty) 1st offender N20,000.00 and 6 month imprisonment or both.

3.One way driving
(Penalty) 3year jail term after psychiatric examination

5. Failure to give way to traffic on the left at a roundabout
(Penalty) N20,000.00 fine

PLEASE HOW DOES A ONE WAY DRIVING CARRY A GREATER OFFENCE THAN DRIVING A CAR WITH FAKE ''NUMBER PLATE'' ... IS THE HOUSE MAKING LAW TO ENCOURAGE ILLEGALITY IN THE STATE!

GIVING WAY TO TRAFFIC ON THE LEFT IS NOT A CRIMINAL OFFENCE THE WORLD OVER, THE RIGHT OF PASSAGE IS ONLY NECESSARY TO DETERMINE LIABILITY FOR INSURANCE PURPOSE WHEN THEIR IS AN ACCIDENT!

ZAK BABAH (FACEBOOK COMMET)

Anonymous said...

Zak, That's quite true. Only a criminal will put a fake number plate on his car. This bill dosnt make sense

Johnson said...

This blog is very informative for all. Thanks for sharing valuable information regarding new traffic offence.

Driving Offences