The Lagos state government does not really care whether you smoke or not. Yeah… Don’t let the disclaimer on every cigarette packet ‘smokers are liable to die young.’ If you want it to stay that way, do not smoke while driving through Lagos else it becomes government’s business.
With over 20 million people — energetic people, if I may — parading the city, the vibes in Lagos are unmatched. From Molues filled to the neck, or to bridges that serve as homes for hoodlums. Even the gory stories of jungle justice meted out on petty thieves are not left out. One might assume that this Lagos is a lawless state, but one couldn’t be more wrong.
It may be that of all states in the country, Lagos (with its LAWMA, LASTMA, etc) seems to have more structures or systems to enforce order. Under the Lagos State Traffic Laws released in 2012, smoking while driving is listed as an offense. One that could attract a fine of N20,000 for a first-time offender and N30,000 for a repeat offender.
Law and order in Lagos
If there’s one thing that we both already know, it is that security operatives in Nigeria can milk your pockets even when you are innocent. How much more when you are actually guilty?
But putting this law side by side with the laws of other countries, one will find that smoking while driving isn’t considered straight-up illegal. For instance, although smoking while driving a private car in the United Kingdom is listed as a distraction. And it is best avoided in Rule 148 of the Highway Code, it isn’t considered a crime. On the list also includes listening to loud music, eating and reading maps.
It does, however, become an offence when one smokes in a car where one of the passenger is below the age of 18 (or 16 in some cases).
How bad can it be to smoke while driving?
Does smoking impair the driver’s judgement? Ask a smoker this question and he would tell you that it does not. But research has shown that cigarettes, at first drag, causes an increase in stress and anxiety in the body. And it is the body’s return to normal level that gives smokers the impression that smoking is relaxing. In fact, studies show that a smoker is 1.5 to 3.2 times more likely to have an accident than a non-smoker.
Away from that, the distraction that smoking while driving can cause is not one that can be overlooked. Australian video studies of drivers lighting a cigarette found that the average length of distraction is 12 seconds. What this means is that, should a person be driving at 100kph, he would have driven no less than 320m while not paying attention to the road. And driving 320m with halved attention on a Lagos highway is a disaster waiting to happen.
(In Lagos, one needs more than two hands while driving. Two to grab the wheels, one to press the horn nonstop, and another for when one wants to stick out a hand to insult other road users — just kidding!)
Steering a car with one hand, bumping to a loud, upbeat song, and smoking. All that might seem like a pretty cool combination when you are on the set of a Hollywood movie. But when you are in Lagos, don’t. Especially if you don’t want to part with 20k or kill people.