..Killing a road ant with a traffic hammer..

I recently came across a news item prescribing jail terms for some traffic offenses. Have a look at 7 Jailable Traffic Offences in Lagos

Predictably, there have been protagonists and antagonists to this law.. which would start being enforced stringently very soon.

Some are of the opinion that this would bring sanity to our roads. Others believe that this particular law is too harsh.

I belong to this last School of Thought.

I first wanted to know if a traffic offense can attract a jail offense, and proceeded to ask a Lawyer. He said, obliquely, as Lawyers are often wont to respond:

It all depends on the laws creating the offence. That’s how you’ll know if jail is applicable

That response was totally useless to me.

Here are some points and counterpoints.

+++ How can you jail someone for committing a traffic offense? I was arguing this with someone on twitter yesterday. What I do is, take a bus or motorbike to most places to familiarize myself. Next time, I’m driving, I would be better informed, and not fall into the dragnet of the Law.

—Why should any sane person commit the jail-able offenses to start with? Lawlessness is too much in Lagos jor. Let them conform, stop driving, or rot in jail.

The law says: fine, jail or both. It’s not all instances that will attract jail sentence but willfully driving against traffic will – like doing so on 3rd Mainland Bridge, or Ikorodu road.

+++ If a road is one way, and you are unaware, and go the wrong way (this could easily happen to someone unfamiliar with some areas on the Lagos Island) would you go to jail for committing that traffic offense? How grievous can a traffic offense be, unless for instance, you knock somebody down and attempted to run away?

—Usually jail may not be the option for first timers. Repeat offenders find it more difficult to claim ignorance. You can’t claim ignorance on 3rd mainland, lagos-Ibadan highway, Ikorodu road, etc.

+++This is precisely why I rarely drive to where I don’t know well on the Island. It could be an invitation to a day of sorrow.

—Okay oo.. Go and claim ignorance then. That is why I am also leery about driving around that (Lagos) island. There are lots of roads not marked one-way that are one way. And you wouldn’t know till you enter. You take a wrong turn, and “sorry” would be your name.

Meanwhile, if you claim ignorance on the Island, you will know the wrong side of the law.

+++I would love to know, if you accidentally take one way on Adeniyi Jones Street (in Lagos), do you think jailing somebody for that is not like killing an ant with a hammer?

—For those who feel the law is too harsh.. when would it be right to jail people that cause avoidable accident or even a total traffic jam as it sometimes happen on LAGOS-Ibadan highway when people drive against traffic just because they are in a hurry. Anyway, it’s the law…and it happens every other part of the world…for such rare display of insanity. And not many people go to jail by the way because the majority are sane.

+++I could drive against traffic, and claim I didn’t know it was one way. How do you determine if it was willful, or due to true ignorance. Supposing I am a visitor to Lagos? The traffic official, who may merely (likely) be interested in fleecing you, would not determine if it was willful, or done in error?? They could make a road 1-way, a road that used to be two way, and with no sign. This happened to me in Ojodu years ago…Happened to somebody I know.. in Apapa too.

So, you go about jailing people anyhow for traffic offenses.. Locked up with criminals? (a traffic offender is not a criminal!).

Unless you wouldn’t risk driving where you don’t know very well o.
Yes, it could be a strategy to decongest the Lagos roads only for the bold and road knowledgeable people. it will certainly work, as the mad Danfo Drivers will all be hauled into jail, unless they correct their errant ways sharpishly.

However, in addition to this heavy footed approach, how about improving on the road signs? Make the signs truly clear and positioned at vantage points and entries. As we currently have it in a place like Lagos, this law simply makes it easier for the traffic enforcers to make far more money fleecing accidental and deliberate traffic offenders. Nothing more, nothing less.

For instance, at different points in tine, Adeniyi Jones Street in Lagos had been 1-way, and then nade 2-way, then back again to 1-way. I don’t even know the current status! And I certainly do not want to get caught in this quagmire, as I am a law abiding citizen!

So, do you consider these Traffic Laws as being too draconian, or would you say, “a bad disease needs a terrible medication”?

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