There is a popular saying in Lagos that goes “If you know how to drive in Lagos, you will know how to drive anywhere in the world”. You may be an experienced car driver in other parts of the world, but driving in Lagos is a whole new ball game. Most people who took their driving lessons outside of Nigeria need to experience driving in Lagos before they can be certified good drivers.
Driving in Lagos can be a very a mentally exhausting experience, here are 10 tips for driving in Lagos Naijauto thinks you need to know before you start.
1. Not all Lagos drivers are sane
When you have finally decided you want to drive in Lagos, just know that most people driving on Lagos road with you are not sane. Don't ever assume people will try to drive properly.
Prevent yourself from getting in the way of other road drivers because most of them don’t care much about damaging your car or theirs, they are not thinking of being careful with your life, and even more sad, theirs. Driving in Lagos is more about who can overtake faster, who is right or wrong in taking a certain turn; everyone is rushing to their destination especially when the road is free and wants to avoid any traffic build up.
The key here is to be the sane one and exercise a lot of patience, that way you are able to make better decisions.
2. Danfo drivers have nothing to lose
Danfo is the yellow bus public transportation in Lagos that can contain 12 to 20 people depending on the size (in theory).
The driver’s hardly obey driving and traffic laws, most of the time they drive recklessly without any consideration for other road users and passengers. Most Danfo buses are made of metal or are usually very old and rusty with a lot car functions not working. They know they have nothing to lose if their bus is been bashed and deliberately bully other well maintained car owners knowing they will not want their vehicle damaged.
The irony of this is when a Danfo bus driver hits your car, they never opt to fix it, and they result to pleading with you or causing a scene that you eventually let them go. You have to be extremely persistent with a Danfo driver to fix the damage they caused you, but usually they get away free.
Danfo buses in Lagos run like that's the last day they're alive
3. Beware of Lagos motorbike rider empire! - "Okada" forever!
Let's put it this way, if Danfo drivers are the president of reckless driving in Lagos, Okada riders are the vice president. They break all the laws, don’t even bother trying to correct them because they are never wrong, be assured of insults thrown back to you when you do.
When driving in Lagos, you have to be at alert because you are not just worried about other road car drivers, expect okadas taking one way even on express roads, jumping out of streets suddenly, and overtaking while you are driving. Keke maruwa has also joined their league.
>>> Want to know more about these guys? See 7 most common mistakes by Okada riders in Nigeria
Okada riders tend to overtake moving cars on Lagos roads, you have to be at alert always
4. Lagos specialty - Crazy traffic
Lagos traffic is special. If you have never driven in Lagos before, this is truly an area you have to mentally prepare your mind for. Most of the time, you have to know when to leave whatever location you are and know when to just stay put. The smart Lagos drivers always check for traffic updates or Google maps before driving.
Though this can be helpful, that does not mean traffic is totally avoided. A location is termed traffic free one minute ago and before you know it, the whole street is blocked and you end up getting stuck. The strange thing about Lagos traffic is there is no visible reason why you were stuck in it for that long, it is usually because drivers are not following traffic laws and people result to taking one way, creating short cuts just because they could not exercise a little patience.
See how foreigners react to our traffic jam!
>>> In case you get caught in a 4-hour traffic jam in Lagos: Fun ways to deal with Lagos traffic
5. Leave home early, leave work late
If you live on the mainland and work on the island or vice versa, one of the best ways to save yourself from spending hours on the road stuck in horrible traffic is you leave home very early hours of the morning when the road is still very free, and leave work very late at night when the road has been cleared of all traffic situations.
This way you are saving money by not burning all your fuel in traffic and most importantly, you are saving precious time. People that work on the island and live on the mainland prefer to leave home around 4 a.m in the morning when the road is still free, get to work early and sleep in the car till when it is few minutes to resume work. Once work is over, they stay in the office to finish up other work activities or simply just hang around till 10.30pm at night where most traffic gridlock will have cleared out before heading home. Some even go as far as squatting with a friend or family member during the week and only go home when it’s Friday for the weekend. It can be that bad!
6. Don’t expect your damaged car gets fixed
The only time some people end up paying for damaging your car is if they broke your side mirror or any of the lamps of your car. That is if you are lucky, but for scratch or a bump, they don’t pay. So just do yourself a favor when you see any car coming too close in the bid to overtake or maneuver their way to you lane, let them through.
Most car owners in Lagos don’t have car insurance. In most cases, you are left with the driver that scratched your car pleading, fighting you by claiming you’re the faulty one, while some just go as far as speeding of the regular "hit and run" style. So if you don’t want to keep fixing bumps and scratches caused by other road drivers, you have to accept them intimidation you on the road, it is actually the smart thing to do rather than always trying to make a point.
>>> Let's learn how to fix it yourself: How to remove a car dent at home with hot water
Avoid other Lagos road drivers from scratching your car, they will not fix it
7. Give way for trucks & trailers
When you see those big trailers and trucks on the road, constantly honking their horn for you to make way, do not be stubborn, just make way! Think about it, those trucks on the road are in very bad shape should not be on the road in the first place. They know they have nothing to lose if their car is being damaged, so they use this to their advantage by deciding to be inconsiderate with other road users.
In some cases, most of those truck drivers are partially drunk, high from substance abuse and are not driving with a clear mind. The best thing is just to avoid them and let them have their way, of what use will it be putting your life in serious danger.
>>> Mind your driving when being around trailers or trucks in Lagos: How to drive around trucks in Nigeria
Make way when big trailers and trucks honk their horn, they have nothing to lose
8. Drive your fine car out only on weekends
Weekdays in Lagos are so hectic. Everyone is always in a hurry to get where they need to go fast. So there is usually a lot of tension during the week due to the hustle and bustle, people tend to be very impatient and that always leads to cars hitting each other.
So if you have two cars, it is advisable that you drive the rugged car during the week and the sleek one on weekends because over the weekends, things are a bit more laidback and activities on the road are less due to the fact that most people are not going to work and are either attending parties or family gathering which puts the car drivers in a more lively and positive mode, so everyone is calmer to a certain extent. Regardless, we still advise that you are alert when driving over the weekends in your sleek car.
Keep your sleek cars at home during the weekdays, bring them out on weekends
9. Getting road directions can be tricky
When driving in Lagos and you do not know where you are going, it is strongly advisable that you ask at least 3 people as you go along because most people feel like they have the map of Lagos in their head. Do not be surprised if three people give you different directions which would leave you even more confused. Although, they might not be totally wrong because they are different routes to a particular location, but that does not solve the problem.
It is best you download the Google map app on your phone, just so that you are not left to keep going round in circles. This would save your time bearing in mind that Google is not 100% accurate either.
10. Be humble, never argue with a road official
Lastly, if you get caught breaking any traffic law on any occasion, PLEASE never allow any police, LASTMA, FRSC, KAI, LAMATA, traffic warden to enter your vehicle. If they eventually get in, do not follow them to any station, in fact, do not move from that area and do not let them take out your car keys from the ignition.
Do not be proud, be very humble and start pleading even when you think you are right. By the time the officials are calm, they would ask for a form of “settlement” from you, this is where your negotiating power comes in to play, but do not be too greedy because if they take you to the station, you might end up paying ten times what they were asking for initially.
Also just a little advice, if you are from “the abroad” and you have some kind of accent, we strongly advice you ditch it. Officials think that people that have accents have money, basically you have an accent means they have hit the jackpot.
>>> If you're not satisfied with their decisions, see Powers of LASTMA and how to file complaint against a LASTMA official
They say the fear of LASTMA officials is the beginning of wisdom, avoid getting into trouble with them
Driving in Lagos can be very daunting, but we hope the advice stated above will guide and help you get mentally prepared for the experience.