By Maria Famakinwa
An accident was averted recently along Oba-Ile road after a learner with a private car driving his kids to school in a Toyota Camry hit a vehicle from behind. It was after the man was forced out of his car that people discovered he was a learner when they saw the sign “L” in his car but did not hang it as expected of every car learner.
When asked why he failed to hang the “L” sign, he claimed to have forgotten. His claim was immediately refuted by other road users who revealed that most people learning driving intentionally refused to hang the “L” sign because they hate being referred to as learners.
In Nigeria, section 27, sub section 1-3 of the National Road Traffic Regulations mandates all learner drivers to attend a certified and approved driving school as prerequisite to obtaining a fresh drivers licence. In the course of this coaching, the letter “L” for learner must be affixed to the front and back of a vehicle.
Besides displaying an “L” sign, a learner driver when issued a learner’s permit, must be accompanied by a licensed instructor sitting beside him, must at all times comply with relevant traffic rules and regulations among others.
Some drivers who spoke with The Hope revealed that not all drivers learning driving use the “L” sign. This, they said caused an increase in road crashes. A commercial driver who simply gave his name as Olalekan, said that failure to use learning sign by those learning to drive endanger the lives of other road users. Some of the road crashes would have been averted if learners signs were used by those concerned.
“Hanging “L” on any vehicle gives such some immunity while on steering. Like it is not possible to compete on the road with a learner and it is very rare for traffic warden to stop learners. They enjoy some respect on the road. We appeal to the authorities concerned to clamp down on learners who failed to hang the “L” sign.”
Sharing a similar view, another commercial driver, Mr Patrick, who said that he almost killed a teenage boy who ran into him while he was driving weeks ago thanked God that he was not speeding.
His words: “If I was speeding on that fateful day, probably, the boy would have died. It was after the boy was rescued that I discovered he was a learner who refused to hang the sign. He was already drunk and blamed the weather for his mistake. Some who could identify him said that he was an internet fraudster. I don’t see the big deal in hanging the “L” sign. I think those saddled with safety on our roads should sensitize learners on the need to always use the “L” sign while driving to prevent avoidable road accidents,” he said.
Also, a taxi driver, Mr Okunola Oladimeji, lamented that those learning how to drive are the major challenges facing taxi drivers across the state. While advising those who refused to hang the ‘L’ sign to do so for their safety, adding that as interesting as driving is, it could lead to sorrow if not careful.
His words: “It is better not to drive at all than driving without experience. We have read about cases where learners who either failed to hang the learning sign or fail to obey traffic rules killed innocent people.
Normally, those who are still learning are expected to hang the “L” sign for six months, but some removed it after a month or two causing problems for other motorists. Even those who have been driving for years cannot claim to have perfected the act of driving not to talk of those learning it under six months. Learning how to drive is a continuous process because we have different drivers who ply the roads daily. Until learners who refused to hang the learning sign are arrested, others will not understand the importance of hanging the “L” sign,” he said.
A man, who does not want to be named said that some learners refused to hang the learning sign because they see it as an embarrassment.
He asked: “How do you think a man who is just learning how to drive will be encouraged to hang “L” sign on his vehicle?
Asked if he used the “L” sign while learning driving refused to answer but maintained that he did not violate any traffic rules. “What matter to me was not to violate any traffic rules. It is only when you drive against traffic rules that can put you into trouble.”
When told that not using “L” sign while learning driving is a violation of traffic rules, he argued that it was only when one drives against traffic rules that exposed the person.
A private driver, Mrs Remi Eric, who was still learning driving also disclosed that not all learners like hanging the learning sign because of the way other road users insult and look down on them.
She said: “Though, I am using the “L” sign as part of the road traffic regulations but I must confess to you that I am not comfortable hanging the sign on my vehicle because of the way other road users look at me. They don’t give one any respect and most times shout at learners and confuse them. A friend of mine narrated her ordeal that almost took her life.
“She was driving along roadblock and there was traffic jam, in an attempt for vehicles to manipulate their way through the hold up, they started horning despite the fact that she displayed her learning sign at the front and back of her vehicle. When the horning continued, she became confused of what to do, as she was trying to pave way for the vehicle at her back, she mistakenly pressed the turtle instead of the break and she hit the vehicle at her front. She was made to repair the damaged vehicle without considering she was a learner. There is need for road users to be educated about the right of learners on the roads,” she said.
In the reaction of Ondo State Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Public Relationship Office, Ruth Jaiyeola, who condemned the act of Learners driving without hanging the “L” sign described it as a serious traffic offence and warned that anyone caught in the act will face the wrath of the law.
She said: “It is not ideal, it is dangerous for those who are still learning how to drive not to use the “L” sign for whatever reason. The driver with a vehicle bearing an L shape sign is a learner. The L shape is a sign that is expected to inform all trained drivers and vehicle owners that the driver of any vehicle carrying that shape on the bumper or fender is an amateur yet to go through all the learning processes of driving. Any learner who fails to hang the “L” sign is endangering not only his/her life but also the lives of other road users. I don’t see any reason why hanging a learning sign should be difficult. Any learner driver caught for not hanging the learner sign boldly at the front and back of his/her car will be arrested and prosecuted,” she warned.
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