When we first arrived in Nigeria, driving seemed like an unconquerable feat. My apprehensions about driving weren’t eased any, either, when the well-intentioned Nigerian husband of someone we know compared driving in the States with driving in Nigeria: “Driving in the States is boring compared to driving here. In the States, everyone follows the same rules. Here, everyone makes up their own rules – and then they don’t even follow those! It’s exciting.” I told him it wasn’t really fair to draw that conclusion about the U.S. based on driving in the Midwest, where his wife is from; of course it’s boring driving there, where the highways stretch for miles with no sight of anything but flat land and an occasional farm.
Still, his assessment of driving in Nigeria didn’t sound exciting to me; it sounded chaotic and terrifying. Being a passenger was bad enough, and I couldn’t imagine actually getting behind the wheel here.
I finally bravely attempted it, despite my sheer terror at the thought, and after many months of driving, I’ve concluded that there are, in fact, some unspoken Road Rules that, if recognized, can ease one’s fears – and hopefully decrease the chances of getting in an accident (an all too common occurrence here)!
1. Lanes are discretionary, and surely one more car can fit – even if yours is going the opposite direction. After all, every Nigerian driver knows to expect traffic from any direction at any given time. If there happen to be lines in the road, feel free to disregard them to turn, avoid potholes or get to your destination sooner.
2. Speed limits, when actually posted, should be considered mere suggestions.
3. Use the horn liberally to let other drivers that you’re there (since people don’t seem to look otherwise), that you’re passing or that you’re being passed. The horn is also used when coming up a hill, down a hill, around a corner, turning, approaching an intersection, upon seeing someone you know, and if others are honking. Expect to be violently honked at if you take more than 3 milliseconds to accelerate when a light turns green or if you don’t burst through that 5 centimeter opening that the person behind you vehemently believes you should take advantage of.
4. Pass as needed, regardless of oncoming traffic, curves in the road or other traditional cautions.
5. Be prepared to brake or swerve at any moment, since A) every spot is a potential pick-up or drop-off spot for taxis B) a herd of cows or stray goat could suddenly wander into the road C) large potholes the approximate size of swimming pools are strategically placed throughout the nation to test your driving skills and your car’s shocks AND D) a driver who clearly believes he’s immortal will likely come barreling behind you at extreme velocities (But hey, he honked, so you were warned! (See Rule #4.))
Note: This is not the time to communicate to said delusional driver that he’s not immortal. Just move.
6. Those guys in orange vests are traffic cops, not actors or dancers tactically stationed at major intersections (despite their animated antics), and you are supposed to obey their hand signals – if you can figure out what they are, since one man’s “stop” is another man’s “go”… and actually one man’s “stop” is also often his “go.”
7. Bigger vehicles have the right of way (mainly because the bigger the vehicle, the less inclined the driver is to adhere to the few rules that do exist). Beware of semi-trucks that disregard oncoming traffic and blow through intersections, often because of size or faulty brakes. Beware also of motorcycles and taxis, which think they have the right of way and dodge in and out of traffic, regardless of how little space there is for them to fit. Motorcycle drivers also regularly drive in your blind spots, surround your vehicle at any stopping point (bearing much resemblance to roaches congregating around food), and pass on both the left and the right in tight spaces, never mind that turn signal you have on. Not coincidentally, there is an entire hospital wing dedicated to motorcycle accidents.
8. Yield to pedestrians? What? Cars are WAY bigger than pedestrians! (See Rule #7.)
9. The number of seats in a vehicle is not indicative of how many people can actually sit in it (or on it). Incidentally, don’t feel limited to transporting just humans: Cattle, sheep and tonight’s (live-but-not-for-long) chicken dinner have to get there, too. (And the other taxi passengers don’t even seem to mind.) Remember that if you can balance it, you can transport it. Mattresses, animals, plywood and long metal poles, even on motorcycles, are no exception.
Note: Cattle horns make great balancing tools, especially when precariously sitting on top of an oversized truck.
10. Rules are subject to personal interpretation and desire to follow.
…And this is why we pray for safety before driving! 🙂 (And why we shouldn’t have posted these driving rules until AFTER Chris’s parents came to visit us!!)
Navigating the roads,
Christie (hoping Chris’s parents still come)
Chris (hoping my parents don’t make us take them back to the airport after an hour in the car)
Judah (“Ooh, another sheep!”)
p.s. By the way, if you’re into digital scrapbooking (like my secretly scrapbooking best friend 😉 — ha!) and want to know the credits for the page, most of the kit is from Road Work by The Scrappy Kat; road and one way sign from Robin Pali Designs, Road Trip; cars (some recolored), truck and keys from Everyday Mom Ideas Design, Road Trip; doodle line from Little Dreamer Designs, Journal Highlights; title font Schilderwald; road sign font Roadgeek.