There are certain things we just take for granted in what is considered the ‘civilised world’ – as opposed to other parts of the world still tagged as the ‘developing countries’ – such as consistent electricity, running water that is potable, functional and safe public transport and the unshakeable firmness of rules, regulations, laws and legislation that protect us and our fellow folk from each other and and at times ourselves, one such being, and often reminded during the festive season, traffic laws.
On my daily trawl online I came across the image of a mangled Vauxhall Corsa, which for a bereaved father, has become a symbol of heartbreaking loss but also a stark reminder to the public of the dangers of drink-driving.It was only last November, the unnamed 23-year-old owner of the vehicle lost her life after she lost control of her car and collided with a van. She was four times above the drink-drive limit.
With a campaign titled ‘Smashed’ In a bid to persuade young people of the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, the twisted wreck which became a 23-year-old’s grave will be displayed in town centres and outside nightclubs in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight during the festive season.
In what is considered the ‘civilised world’ there are a multitude of stark reminders as to the consequences of drink-driving, reckless driving, and lawless driving – take, for example, the ghost bikes planted in the nooks and crannies of bustling town centres in memory of cyclists lost in road crashes, or flower tributes often sporting a football jersey or teddy bears in desolate country roads. Perhaps reminders in numbers indirectly proportional to the amount of road deaths that occur in these parts.
What about the ‘developing countries’ where road accidents which claim lives in higher multiples are a daily occurrence, traffic lights are often faulty, street lamps not functional and lifesavers such as hazard lights, indicators, and even headlamps are often an afterthought, and and laws that govern traffic, much like any other scope of life, are not as religiously followed as they are in the ‘civilised world’.
It always strikes me with renewed fear just how reckless Lagos drivers are on the road, especially after nightfall. Imagine a city full of drivers with little or no regard to traffic rules in daylight, and imagine just how much scarier it gets after nightfall. What regard does a man have for drink limits if in broad daylight he does not even have any regard for keeping to his lane or even his side of the road? And what is there really to stop him from going over the drink limit and sit behind the wheel of his brand new 4-wheel drive?
In Abuja, where roads are better, it gets even scarier when you see sports cars whizzing past into the otherwise quiet night. The chances are, if a man can afford to drive a Lamborghini, what law is there is Lagos and Abuja he cannot break without paying the right amount to clear up the consequences? In a world, where drink-driving is not the exception but the norm, what law can protect us from the monstrosity of each other?
Don’t get me wrong, I too am known to have stepped behind the wheel after a glass of wine – the legal drink limit in the UK. But once a few years back, coming home from a get together, when I missed my turning two minutes away from home and found myself having to go 10 minutes on the motorway before the next turning to head back home, I saw first hand just how much even that one glass of wine can numb one’s senses. Now I’d rather wait long enough to flush the drink out of my system or I’d rather have someone who has not had a drink to drive us to our destination rather than take the chance.
Every time I step into a car, or every time I spot a road side flower tribute or a ghost bike, I can’t help but think of the enormity of a person of an average of 60kg in weight having control of a 1-tonne of metal with only a steering wheel and three pedals – 1 tonnes of volatile, sharp, crushable metal against 60kg of breakable, fragile flesh, blood and tissue where one minor error or wrong move can result in what you see above. And perhaps in the ‘developing world’ where traffic rules and regulations do not go far or amount to much, this is what we all need to remember to keep ourselves and fellow humans safe this festive season and always.