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Doctrines & Morals
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I WAS ABOUT FIVE vehicles behind the heavy laden truck on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, a road often described as the expressway to heaven. It was about 7:30pm and already dark. There was a fine drizzle and the visibility was poor. The truck driver was doing more than the allowed speed limit of 100km per hour. I had a foreboding of danger and I decided to slow down, allowing more vehicles to overtake me so that I could keep a safe and respectable distance between me and the fleet of vehicles ahead of me. 

Just then,  an interesting thought crossed my mind. When I was leaving for Lagos a few days earlier, I had seen some Road Safety men on the city roads checking vehicles but none on the highway. Now on my return journey, none was in sight. I decided I was going to write to their headquarters to find out if the Road Safety Corps was now for city patrol! I was still ruminating over this when I saw some commotion at the distance. All brake lights suddenly came on as the vehicles in front of me slammed on their brakes.      An accident had occurred! The truck driver, in an attempt to avoid running over a policeman, clad in their usual all black uniform, who suddenly loomed up in front of him, at a makeshift checkpoint, swerved to his left and because road was at a much higher level compared with its hard shoulder, the truck tilted and landed on its side. The vehicles directly behind ran into the overturned truck and the ones behind ran into each other. It was a gory sight! 

Three things contributed to the crash and loss of life that day. First was over speeding. Second was the darkness and poor visibility. Third, the policemen wearing black uniform and their ill-advised checkpoint. “Where are the Road Safety men? What are they doing on our city roads? Isn’t their job that of preventing accidents on our highways? Wole Soyinka, what happened to the wonderful men and women of the esteemed corps you founded and nurtured? They were both feared and loved and the organisation won accolades within and outside our shores?” I lamented. Now I felt the compulsion to write the authorities about this.

From what I see everyday I pass by checkpoints, it appears that our policemen are totally oblivious to the danger they face on the highways in their all black uniform, barely perceptible during the day and which blend with the darkness of the night. It is a marvel that they are not knocked down more frequently. But they do cause accidents and are responsible for chain accidents every now and then. The police authorities should consider doing something about their night time uniform and checkpoints.

Night driving however poses its own peculiar challenges. The ability of humans to see well at night in a dark environment is severely limited compared to many animals. Our field of vision is much smaller at night and when combined with dim headlights, dirty or scratched windscreens, worn-out or faulty wiper blades, uneven road surfaces, potholes and deep trenches, our ability to see in front of us or react to sudden appearance of these unexpected distractions make driving even more hazardous. In addition most drivers are already fatigued by that time of the day because they have been at other tasks before taking to the road.

Those who wear glasses for distance are advised to put them on to ensure maximum visibility. Scratched glasses are just as bad as scratched windscreens and increase the possibility of an accident occurring. It is estimated that about 4 out of every 5 people driving at night are taking unnecessary risks by driving with ineffective headlights. Please note that just like your eye glasses, nearly all headlights are made of plastic and may be necessary to replace them instead of just replacing the bulbs. Most dim headlights are not due to bad bulbs but to cloudy and worn-out headlight lenses. Therefore we must pay attention to our headlights and windscreens. Fortunately, there are headlight restoration and cleaning kits that can be used to bring worn-out headlights to normal.

The government must, as an urgent step, provide other means of mass transit such as rail transportation between and within cities. With the ever increasing numbers of heavy vehicles, our roads will continue to be in a state of disrepair and we shall continue to lose lives to senseless accidents.  


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