Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Nigeria, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Roads in many areas of Nigeria are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions. There are few working traffic lights or stop signs, and few traffic control officers to manage the flow of traffic during power outages. Additionally, some traffic control officers may occasionally seek bribes when citing drivers for traffic violations. The rainy season, generally from May to October, is especially dangerous because of flooded roads and water-concealed potholes.
Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles, and the absence of any official vehicle inspection for roadworthiness all present additional hazards. Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists. Accidents on inter-city highways with high casualties are common. Gridlock is common in urban areas. Chronic fuel shortages have led to long lines at service stations, which disrupt or block traffic for extended periods.
Public transportation vehicles, such as buses and motorbikes, are unsafe due to poor maintenance, high speeds, and overcrowding. Motorbike taxis, known in Nigeria as "okadas," offer a common form of public transportation in many cities and pose serious danger to other motorists, their own passengers, and pedestrians. Motorbike drivers frequently weave in and out of traffic at high speeds and observe no traffic rules. Motorbikes are banned within Abuja's city limits and many major thoroughfares in Lagos. Okada drivers and passengers are required to wear helmets in a number of cities in the country; police can fine violators on the spot. Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they were attacked and robbed. Several of the victims required hospitalization. The U.S. Mission recommends avoiding public transportation throughout Nigeria.
Short-term visitors should not drive in Nigeria. A Nigerian driver's license can take months to obtain, and international driving permits are not recognized. Major hotels and the customer service centers at the airports in Lagos, Abuja, and Kano offer reliable car-hire services complete with drivers. Inter-city roadside assistance is extremely scarce, and medical facilities and emergency care are poor. Persons involved in a traffic incident might encounter the lack of available medicalfacilities to treat either minor or life-threatening injuries.
All drivers and passengers should wear seat belts, lock doors, and keep windows closed. It is important to secure appropriate automobile insurance. Drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in injury or death have experienced extra-judicial actions, i.e., mob attacks, official consequences such as fines and incarceration, and/or confrontations with the victim's family. Driving between 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. should be done with extreme caution, as bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night. Automobiles, trucks, or "okadas" often drive on the wrong side of the road or on sidewalks. These vehicles are difficult to see at night because streets are very poorly lit, and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights, tail lights, and reflectors.
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