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Penalty point system: A must read for drivers

It is about 46 days before the curtain closes on 2015. Unlike previous years, there is something different about this year, something unusual about 2015. It is the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has taken the shine off the end of year frenzy. Without being a soothsayer, I foresee 2015 falling short of the usual craze of the previous years and the usual mannerisms such as our penchant for travelling with all sorts of vehicles in the name of enjoying the end of year with our families with less attention given to safety. The other mannerisms include the last minute rush to buy all sorts of things, including dead vehicles, to show off our new-found wealth in our communities back home, house warming and even taking new wives.
Let me start with the definition of what the terms are. The penalty point refers to points allotted to traffic offences accumulated in the driver’s record. If a driver receives a statutorily maximum number of points, the driver would be warned and or have his license suspended or withdrawn.
Fine on the other hand is payment of a sum of money made to satisfy a claim of an offence committed as penalty while warning is notification issued to a traffic offender who has accumulated 10-4 penalty points. Suspension is the temporary removal or interruption of authority or right to drive a vehicle or ride a motorcycle/tricycle, as a punishment for a period of time, having accumulated 15 to 20 penalty points. Withdrawal is the act or condition of taking away the authority or the denial of the right to drive a motor vehicle or ride a motorcycle/tricycle on Nigerian roads, having accumulated 21 and above penalty points.
The second definition is on the use of notice of offence sheet – the notice of offence sheet is issued by a road marshal to a traffic offender who has violated any of the road traffic laws and regulations. It is a legal document and as such should be properly understood and filled, as it may be tendered in a law court for prosecution purposes.
Having defined these terms as a guide, let me now focus on the notice of offence which contains the specific traffic offences. These numbers are not restrictive as they can either increase or decrease depending on what the traffic regulations provide at a time. It is your responsibility to know and understand these offences and to daily strive not to run afoul of any of them. However, if you think my warning means nothing, please do remember that we are in a season of change and that even before this season took root, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) had begun updating its traffic offenders data record to aid and ease enforcement, especially as it affects recalcitrant offenders who think they are immune from prosecution.
In treating the offences, you will get to know the offences, their categories, definitions, penalties and penalty points. Since specific infractions have become the norm, I think it will be appropriate to first look at offences such as speeding, use of phone while driving, seat belt, driver’s license and vehicle paper offences, in addition to assaulting marshals on duty among others. The first is road marking violation which attracts five points and a fine of N5, 000. It refers to the failure to observe road markings, regulatory, prohibitory or mandatory road traffic signs. Details of these signs are contained in the Revised Highway Code.
The second is route violation which attracts five points and a penalty fine of N5, 000. It refers to the contravention of the provision of any traffic law or regulation relating to directions and routes to be followed by vehicles, e.g. facing on-coming vehicles or plying route prohibited for certain categories of vehicles.
I know that the National Road Traffic Regulations make it compulsory for all occupants of a vehicle to strap themselves. Even though a lot of progress has been made in this direction, some people are yet to come to terms with this. Seatbelt use violation attracts two points and a penalty of N2, 000. It refers to driving a vehicle without using seatbelt and/or without ensuring that other passengers in the vehicle use seatbelts. Excessive speeding remains our number one infraction responsible for over 56 percent of recorded road traffic crashes and deaths. Speed limit violation attracts three points and a fine of N3, 000 – it refers to driving a vehicle or riding a motorcycle/tricycle on the highway in excess of the prescribed speed limits for a category of vehicle or road. Maximum speed limits for different categories of motor vehicles are as follows: 100 km/ph for cars on the expressway, 90 km/ph for taxis and buses while in built-up areas, the limit is with 20-50km/ph.
The use of phone while driving attracts four points and a fine of N4, 000. It refers to driving or riding a vehicle while making use of a phone even in traffic hold-up. This also applies to use of hands free devices. The last for this week is dangerous driving which is one of the two traffic offences that carry the highest fines. The other is hospital rejection of accident victims. While we will focus on the first for today, the latter will be treated next week. Dangerous driving attracts 10 points and a fine of N50, 000 – it refers to driving in a manner that is reckless and poses threat to the lives of the driver and other road users; e.g. forcing other vehicles or other road users off the road or engaging in acts that could easily result in crashes or driving at high speed in places of high pedestrian traffic. 

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