Today, October 15th, is Lagos Horn Free Day and from the title of this post, I bet you think you already know where I stand on the subject. Walk with me.
I love scenarios. They make it harder to argue against sensible points and make bad points more apparent. Now, let’s paint a few scenarios:
You live in one of those nice, enclosed estates where the street lights (which somehow exist in the first place) still work and where, on a quarterly basis, they harass all residents for estate dues as they drive out of the estate gate in the morning. Like many people in Lagos, you leave your house really early in the morning, before the sun even comes up. As you drive down one empty, well lit street, you come across reverse lights. They are backing out of the open gates to a residence, right towards your car. You can see the head of the young lady in the driver’s seat swinging this way and that to use her rear mirrors but you can also tell that she somehow hasn’t spotted you. You have only a split second to alert her… and you begin flashing your headlights at her, even though you know the eager street light overhead has swallowed them. She runs into you. It’s Lagos Horn Free Day, so you didn’t honk for her.
You hit the highway and you’re gunning up one of the numerous bridges when you hit a little ‘hold up’. After years of living and working in Las Gidi, you know now that every second counts and the smallest pocket of traffic could be the one responsible for making you late. You’re growing impatient. You take a peek around the avensus in front of you at the road in front of the danfo further up front to see if you can perhaps spot the reason for the traffic and… Behold, the road is free, bereft of vehicular or human traffic. The danfo is picking up passengers and is neatly parked on the road so no one can pass till it’s done. The avensus in front of you won’t toot his horn to let the danfo driver, his conductor and their passengers know that this is utter madness. You won’t toot yours to let the avensus know you agree. The passat behind you can’t honk to agree with something you haven’t expressed. No one presses their horn because it’s Lagos Horn Free Day.
You arrive home late from work, tired. You point your car at your gate and pause for a moment debating what to do next. Typically, you honk and the gateman, who knows the sound of your horn like he knowns his mother’s voice from even a street away, scurries to throw them gates wide open like he’s overjoyed to see you. But today is Lagos Horn Free Day. So you throw your car in reverse and proceed to three-point-park right in front of your destination, so you can go knock on the gate or just open it by yourself. Stress.
And those are my scenarios.
I believe the Lagos Horn Free Day initiative is a laudable cause. It strives to reduce noise pollution in Lagos, which is undoubtedly an issue which needs tackling. I doubt there’s any real research out there but I’m sure if there was, we’d marvel at the amounts of cases of stress disorder, mental illness and depression that are direct results of an abnormally high level of noise pollution here. Something is being done and that is good.
However, I wonder at the practicality of driving in Lagos today without the use of your horn. It is widely known that Lagos roads are a place of pure insanity and a school of thought I wholly subscribe to says “Drive in Lagos like you’re the only sane one on the road”. I believe this is called ‘defensive driving’ – a form of driving which involves a mix of paranoia, unnecessary bravadoccio and frequent useless bouts of road rage. Sigh. Why should there even exist a thing such as defensive or offensive driving? Why? Only in Lagos.
Here’s how I see things… Honking is the severely temporary solution to a problem and has now, sadly, become a problem itself. Lagos Horn Free Day brings awareness to and attempts to tackle the resultant problem, which is all well and good, except that the initial problem hasn’t been effectively tackled yet. If this time, energy, funds, publicity, etc were channelled more towards curbing bad, nay very terrible behaviour in our driving, we would hardly need to drive same resources towards changing the adaptive behaviour we’ve cultivated.
Also, and rather sadly, it’s worthy of note that our best changes in road behaviour have come about as a result of perpetual policing and not mere education aka nicely suggesting. Cases in point are our better use of seat belts, the absence of hawkers and road side traders (in certain locations) and the more steady application of insurance policy. We are a hard headed people and the only way we tend to see reason is when it is enforced upon us. That’s just the hard reality.
I’d honestly hate to see such a good hearted initiative as Lagos Horn Free Day go from educative to enforced, especially if the previous issues haven’t yet been properly addressed (Lastma, I’m looking at you) but I also have to admit that that’s the only way this will become entrenched.
So in conclusion, my stance is: In Lagos, the use of horns is a very necessary evil… but only for now. I’ll try my best to adhere though, so help me God.
What’s your stance?