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Defensive Driving in Lagos

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.

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Where are you coming from?
Where are you going to?
Where do you live?
Where do you work?
Do you have an identity card?

These are very simple questions, which can be easily answered by almost everyone. But when a police officer is involved, it can cause a lot of problems both for the officer and YOU. Most of the time, there is a reason for the officer to question you – even if it may not seem so at the time.

The officer may be investigating a complaint in the neighbourhood, or following up on a radio call concerning a crime committed in the area.

For one reason or another, you may be the individual the police suspect. You may have knowledge that will help in the investigation, or the officer may think that you are experiencing some kind of trouble.

Some times the manner in which the police question you may seem as if the officer is not respecting YOUR RIGHTS. Sometimes you may overreact to the questions and create a more serious situation. We will attempt to explain your rights. What to remember, and what to expect when an officer starts asking you a lot of questions… it could save you from answering a lot more unnecessary questions.


If you are driving a vehicle, the police can ask you to stop at any time. The best thing to do in this situation is to park and follow the directions of the officer. You will probably be asked to produce your driver’s license and particulars of the vehicle. This you must do, if asked. If you are stopped at night, turn on your interior light and show the officer that nothing is wrong. It is best to do nothing, which may give reason to search further. Having your light on and keeping your hand on the steering wheel will usually put the officer’s mind at ease.

Chances are that the officer might ask you to go if you have all your papers. The officer might say that you have violated traffic rules, if your papers are not correct or ask you to come out of your car for a search, if he is on Stop and Search duty. Remember that he or she is operating within the law in all these activities. Of course, you may explain at any point in this encounter, but you should limit your comments. Be careful how to make your points. A simple traffic violation may start costing you a fortune in fines for other violations. If you think that you have not violated any traffic rules, then carry your protest to the Police Public Complaints Bureau nearest to you.


Most of the problems you may encounter with the police can be avoided. Remember, they think they have reason (probable cause) to stop you and ask questions. At this time, you should stop, collect your thoughts and remain calm. Whether or not you are arrested, may just depend on how calm and prepared you are at this time. There are many factors that the police may take into consideration when observing you. Every situation is different and the officer may consider the following factors,

When you are running and a crime has ​been reported in the Areaù

If you are hanging around with people ​under police investigationù

You are in an area where crime has just ​been reportedù

You are in an area which the police ​believe to be abandoned or unoccupied, or a blackspot.ù

You are acting in a manner, which appears to be suspiciousù

The police believe you are in possession ​of stolen property.ù

Someone else has identified you to the ​police.ù

When you use derogatory or offensive ​language… You may be saying the wrong ​thing at the wrong time.ù

While these things are taken into consideration when questioning you, the police MUST STILL RESPECT YOUR RIGHTS NOT TO ANSWER QUESTIONS THAT SOUND ACCUSATORY

If the police have stopped you, they ​believe there is a reason to do so.ù

It is best to be calm and identity yourselfù

In many a situation, you can talk your way into arrest or detention as well as talk yourself out of trouble. By yelling, threatening or swearing at an officer, the ​BEST you can do is get yourself Arrested… and who needs that.ù

– See more at:

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25 Rules of Lagos Driving

  1. When in doubt, accelerate!
  2. Be prepared to ram into anything stopping you that is wearing uniform in Lagos (police, traffic warden, FRSC, Kai brigade, fire brigade, VIO, LASTMA, LAMATA, LASWA)
  3. If you get caught by any chance, do not allow them to enter your car, if they happen to get in do not drive from that spot (veer off traffic & settle promply), and if they don’t agree, pretend that you are calling your uncle who is in the army (believe me it always works), never follow them to any sort of office except you are ready to pay ten times more than what was demanded.
  4. Never give police or VIO your original particulars (whether expired or up to date).
  5. Danfo drivers believe they are immortal. Never yield to the temptation to teach them otherwise.
  6. Okada riders have a pact with suicide, avoid them like a plaque.
  7. Avoid BRT buses in all ramifications, they have no brakes.
  8. Taxi cabs (oko asewo) should always have the right of way, all of them have been driving in Lagos for 25 years.
  9. Never, ever, stop for a pedestrian unless he flings himself under the wheels of your car.
  10. The first parking space you see will be the last parking space you see. Grab it. Survival of the fittest you may say!
  11. Learn to swerve abruptly. In Lagos, potholes (and sometimes car-holes) are put in key locations to test drivers’ reflexes and shock absorbers,( I saw one man fishing in one of the potholes last week).
  12. There is no such thing as “one-way” in Lagos. Expect traffic from any direction at all times. The okada riders are the experts in this area.
  13. Never get in the way of a car that needs extensive bodywork, except you want to spend your whole Saturday at the panel beater’s place.

Morning rush hours

  1. Morning rush-hours are equivalent to Lagos grand prix (who gets to the junction first).
  2. There is no such thing as a short-cut during rush-hour traffic in Lagos. Everybody might be inclined to take that ’short-cut’.
  3. When asking for directions, always ask at least three people. Lagosians always claim to know every inch of the city – even areas they’ve never been to.
  4. Use extreme caution when pulling into service lanes. Service lanes are not for breaking down the traffic, but for speeding, especially during rush hour.
  5. Never use directional signals, since they only confound and distract other Lagos drivers, who are not used to them.
  6. Similarly, never attempt to give hand signals. Lagos drivers, unused to such courtesies, will think you are making obscene gestures to them. This could be very bad for you in Lagos.
  7. Hazard lights (popularly called “double pointer”) is not, (as commonly supposed) used to indicate a hazard. It is a warning to you that he is a bonafide Lagos driver, he’s headed ’straight’ and as such, will not stop under any circumstance. Take him extremely seriously especially if he backs it up with a continuous blast from his “horn”.
  8. At any given time, do not stand on the zebra crossing expecting traffic to yield to you, or else you will have to explain to the on coming traffic whether you look like a zebra.
  9. Speed limits are arbitrary figures posted only to make you feel guilty.
  10. Remember that the goal of every driver is to get there first by whatever means necessary.
  11. In Lagos every spot is a potential bus stop. FRSC and LASTMA know that too. It is in their constitution.
  12. Above all, keep moving. Even with a flat tyre!!!


Horn’ when someone executes a dangerous maneouvre.

‘Horn’ when you’re about to move off.

‘Horn’ when you’re about to overtake.

‘Horn’ when someone is about to overtake you.

‘Horn’ when turning into a road.

‘Horn’ when emerging from a road.

‘Horn’ back when someone horns at you. It’s considered good etiquette.

‘Horn’ when you hear a chorus of horns. Don’t worry if you don’t know what all the ‘horning’ is about.

‘Horn’ when you’re happy.

‘Horn’ to the beat when you’re playing music in your car.

Good luck, as you expeditiously navigate through Lagos and hustle and bustle!

Source: Mayowa Owoeye (facebook notes)

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