A nation without road signs is going nowhere

“Where are we now?” I asked the driver. “I am not sure sir,” he replied. I have travelled regularly for several years through this Lagos-Ibadan expressway, yet I am unable to identify my whereabouts on the road. Suppose I have a breakdown, how will I describe my location on the phone to the would-be helper?

Once, I was travelling with a friend and his car just suddenly started slowing down and eventually stopped.

Luckily, it happened right in front of the main gate of the Redemption Camp so it was easy to describe our position to another friend who promptly came to our aid. “This isn’t good enough,” I tell myself.

“Today, you must stay alert and make a conscious effort to identify the various settlements on the expressway by watching out for the signposts.”

I have my eyes glued to the road, watching out for official signposts giving information such as the directions and distances to nearby towns and villages. There are none! “Okay, I’ll look out for private billboards typically found alongside busy roads presenting advertisements to passing pedestrians and drivers.

I can see a few but none contains any information about the towns and villages we are passing through. “This is terrible,” I tell myself. “Don’t give up yet!” I caution.

“Lookout for the small business adverts on the road, they may just have the information you want.” There are quite a number of them, but the relevant information is missing from the few that are readable.

Before long, we were in Ikeja. “Oga mi,” as I fondly call my driver, “we are going to Ikoyi through the Third Mainland Bridge.” “I don’t know my way sir,” he replied. “Just go straight on and watch out for the signposts giving directions,” I advised.

To be certain, we don’t end up in the wrong place or fall a victim of the Lagos road regulations, I decide to “drive along” with him. I can’t find any road sign directing us and announcing our location.

Wait a minute! Just now, I saw one, then another sign post. “Oga, slow down, there are a few signs posts here and there. We missed them because they did not fulfill the basic requirements of road signs.

Through good luck and intelligent guesses, we finally reached our destination. But I couldn’t help thinking what would have happened to the driver or a complete stranger!

Why are road signs necessary? They are necessary to provide information on direction, position, availability of facilities such as schools or hospitals, places of recreational and cultural interest, danger warnings, crossings, slippery road surfaces, construction or work zones and restrictions on entry and exit to mention just a few.

Lagos State is probably the best in placing road signs at strategic places on its roads. But they are few and far between. Most of them do not meet the minimal requirements.

What makes a good road sign? The fundamental attributes of a good road sign, whether words, pictures or symbols, are visibility, colour, shape, clarity, consistency and simplicity. These will ensure that the signs are seen at the recommended maximum speed and distance which must be sufficient to allow the driver to react appropriately to the information provided.

It is also important that the driver must have a good eyesight. There are minimum visual requirements to be met by drivers vary slightly from country to country. Most countries demand that a person must have a minimum corrected (with glasses) visual acuity of 20/50 (6/15) to qualify for a restricted licence.

Drivers with visual acuity of 20/60 (6/18) should be restricted to daytime driving only. There are too many people on our roads with poor eyesight. They are not only a danger to themselves, they put at risk the life of all road users.

You can’t have road signs without a roadmap. Talking about roadmap, something crossed my mind. All the countries that I have visited that are doing well, have excellent road signs providing directions to their citizens. I have therefore concluded that a nation with neither a roadmap nor road signs is definitely going nowhere.

It is an understatement that Technology is taking over the world. The 3D technology is going to revolutionise the world. In about 10 years from now, several jobs will be lost; many university programmes will become irrelevant; some professions will crumble and others will undergo tremendous transformations.

The World Economic Forum predicts, “Disruptive changes to business models will have a profound impact on the employment landscape over the coming years. Many of the major drivers of transformation currently affecting global industries are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps.

In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”

Nigeria, are you ready? To fail to plan is to plan to fail. We are in dire need of a technology roadmap that will help to forecast and evaluate developments in technology in anticipation and preparation for future skills requirements and mitigate undesirable outcomes.