Driving in Lagos has necessitated a defensive driving approach. Safety is paramount and very important as driving a vehicle is a risk activity. This cannot be over emphasized.

The close quarters driving done in Lagos means that the probability that cars will be involved in collisions are quite high. Our road network (or lack of a proper one) has also meant that the road quota per car is quite low. Factor the population of Lagos (17.5 million, Lagos census 2006) and the fact that most middle class families have more than one car; one for Dad, another for Mom and another for school runs. The crazy driving by commercial bus drivers is also a key factor in the collision matrix as they are always in a rush. They use the ‘surprise’ tactic to scare you to letting them enter your lane. Most inexperienced drivers will freeze and that split second is enough for them to have passage into your lane. Another tactic is to squeeze you out of your lane. They begin to move so close to your car that you either stop for them or move out of the lane. The money and time spent to fix your car is what prevents you from making a fuss with them especially if you are driving a brand new car.

As most drivers in Lagos are in a rush. You need to develop traffic management skills to ensure you avoid traffic congestion pitfalls.

Most drivers disregard or do not even know what “Stop”/”Go” and ‘Yield’ signals are. Most also have a tendency to tailgate and follow too closely. During traffic congestion, you look in your rear view mirror and you observe that the bus/car behind you is so close that you think it’s actually touching your back bumper. You could actually see the facials details of the driver.

Bunch this all up and you have a catalyst for an accident!

Is it possible for you to drive in Lagos and not have a collision or crash, not even a small scratch on your car. This was a debate during one of the defensive driver courses that I took. Yes, it’s quite possible if you can be aware of situations and circumstances 100% of the time. Notice I said 100% of the time.  That is the caveat.

So what is Defensive Driving? Simply put, it is driving to protect yourself while on the road by preparing for and preventing collisions before they occur to you.

Accidents do not just happen; they are caused by certain manageable factors which are Human, Environmental and Mechanical

Most of the manageable factors causing accidents and crashes are human error hence why we would focus mostly on the human capacity for a defensive approach to driving. Why would someone be driving at a crazy speed when fully aware that the roads have series of potholes along the way is just one example.  Some of the human factors impacting on this are education, inadequate training, alcohol abuse, fatigue, over speeding, Nigerian mentality, Physical (health, distractions (use of mobile phones)) etc.

Good knowledge about the various road signs, signals and marking will go a long way to ensuring who has the right of way on the road if there is a dispute.

Understand that night driving is different from day light driving. Also driving in adverse conditions needs caution as factors impacting on driving are altered.

Always look ahead, scan and keep your eyes moving, you will spot potential hazards more easily. Once you have identified a potential hazard, decided what to do and act immediately. You would ask; what is a hazard? It is any possible source of danger on or near the road that could lead to a collision or crash and it can come from any direction

Understanding, Skill and Attitude (USA) is a defensive tactic that is deployed for defensive driving. Understand your environment, know the Skills nodded for driving, which are visual, hearing, touch, smell and your reaction ability. Last but not least, you need a mature Attitude. Habits, feelings, and emotions all come into play when you’re driving. A driver carrying emotional reactions like anger or rage is said to be an aggressive river. Do not get angry also. Be patient and avoid them.

There are also physical forces that influence driver control of the motor vehicle. They are Effects of Acceleration, Traction and Force of impact. You also have to be aware of stopping distances. What adds up to the total Stopping Distance are Perception Distance, Reaction Distance  and Braking Distance.

I cannot but mention roundabouts. There are accidents on a daily basis along the numerous roundabouts on the Lekki expressway. To avoid collisions, make sure you stay inside your own lane and be in the correct lane for your next turn. For instance if you will turn right into a side road by the roundabout, stay in the right most lane. And of course, when coming to the roundabout, yield to traffic already in the roundabout.

You must signal your intention. Make sure you signal your intention with your signal/pointer lights. Other drivers cannot know what you are going to do until you tell them by signalling.

You must also communicate your presence using your headlights (when dark), horn, hazards lights (if there is a problem or visibility is low)

Be careful of road slippery surfaces e.g. oil, diesel and water. Hydroplaning comes to mind in adverse conditions like rain. Be careful about foggy or hazy condition as visibility is so. Reduce speed for a better reaction time.

Other tips are stay in your lane and adhere to speed limits. Speed limits are there for a reason. Obey them. Be mindful of distractions (radio, CD player or climate controls, cell phones, navigation systems, smoking, eating and drinking  etc )within the car and make sure you are in the right frame of mind to drive.

Please schedule a defensive driver training course with Green Light Driving School to know more about a defensive approach to driving and save money, time and resources as you drive in Lagos.

Driving can be fun. So have a defensive approach and enjoy it.