Lagos Traffic Radio (96. 1 Fm), which was created about 6 years ago has, no doubt, become a household name among commuters and motorists who mostly depend on it for firsthand information on traffic situation across the metropolis.
Rising traffic congestion is an inescapable condition in large and growing metropolitan areas across the world, from Los Angeles to Tokyo, from Cairo to Sao Paolo. Peak-hour traffic congestion is an inherent result of the way modern societies operate. It stems from the widespread desires of people to pursue certain goals that inevitably overload existing roads and transit systems every day. Like every cosmopolitan city across the world, Lagos also experiences traffic gridlock.
Until the birth of Lagos Traffic Radio, nothing, not even years of living here adequately ever prepares motorists for a complete standstill in the middle of the roads. In the past, people could doze off and wake up 30 minutes later still on the same spot they previously were with no clue as to the cause of the gridlock.
Famous artistes such as Ebenezer Obey, Majek Fashek and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti have all sang about the Lagos traffic situation and how it feels to get stuck in it. That was when the population (of people and vehicles) and traffic situation weren’t as much as it is now. A life of struggle and survival of the fittest you would call it, yet economic opportunities continue to draw more and more people to Lagos.
Ordinarily, it could have been worse if not for the variety of strategies and approaches that have been deployed by successive administrations in the State to deal with the perennial gridlock. These include the issuance of ‘Odd’ and ‘Even’ numbers in the early 1980s which allowed motorists ply certain routes within specified periods. The success of this approach may not have been visible and adequate for the Lagos of today. Establishment of LASTMA, LAGBUS, LAMATA, BRT system etc are among strategies and policies devised toward ensuring free flow of traffic, road safety and social and economic development.
Today, one thing that is very clear is that Lagos Traffic Radio is optimally responding to the challenges of traffic management in the State by effectively communicating traffic information to the people. With the radio, commuters and motorists are empowered with the needed information on the situation of the roads within the different axis of Lagos at any point in time and don’t have to doze off and wake up minutes later again where there exist alternative routes.
Lagos Traffic Radio 96.1 FM predominantly reports Lagos Traffic to Lagos motorists, but because of the power of technology it has been able to reach even the core areas of the metropolis including places such as Agilete, Ogere and even up to the fringes of Ibadan.
Though Lagos has huge concentration of media houses, Traffic Radio 96.1 FM, which runs 24 hours services, has proven to be a well-thought out problem solving innovation and a critical enablers of democracy. It has continued to create platforms for citizens to participate in, and contribute to traffic management. It teaches Mass Communication students practical citizen journalism as motorists, commuters, passers-by, LASTMA officials call-in from time to time to file-in their report and at the same time respond to questions from the station’s anchors on duty. In other words, while officials of LASTMA could be referred to as Chief Correspondents, it makes all interested Lagosians news correspondents.
The station actually from inception work together with LASTMA, a synergy partner who collates the information about traffic information while the station use the power of radio to communicate to the public the Lagos Traffic situation.
Importantly, Traffic Radio has justified the argument that effectiveness and power of radio in the present digital age or ever can never diminished. Many radio listeners are pushed to listen to 96.1 FM majorly for traffic update to plan their movement and hence get expose to other items in the news budget of the station. Some people only listen to radio just because of traffic situation while others plan the routes to take, for instance maybe to take Old Carter Bridge, Eko Bridge or Third Mainland Bridge.
Although Traffic Radio, and indeed government, may never, for obvious reasons, be able to completely eliminate road congestion, it has provided platform for both road users and traffic management to interface on prevailing traffic issues. One is not also oblivious of instances where feedbacks gotten from callers have shaped planning by policy makers.
It will interest the discerning that since the advent of the Traffic Radio, it has continually assisted the law enforcement agencies in educating the citizenry on laws relating to roadways. As it is, only chronic cynics will not agree that the station has contributed substantially to mitigation of traffic snarl in the state or crash fatalities and fatalities related to speed.
Moreover, it make traffic management agency more active and alive to their duties in consciousness of avoiding any action that will indict them. In-spite of being a state-owned radio station, 96.1 FM is known as one discharging it duty professionally, independent of influence or interference from government quarters.
Equally, the station is an invaluable avenue for the education of the people on the best traffic and road practices and also form a feedback system for data and correspondence between the government and the populace in agreement with Daniel Lerner’s (Communication scholar) assertion that ‘Mass Media Networks are distinct index of mass mobilization-of the participant society (democracy).’
A seasoned communication scholar, John C. Merrill had aptly brought out the uniqueness of the mass media in the society when he said that’’… there is nothing in this world that I don’t doubt-a doubt requires a doubter- I doubt more when I am not communicated with- because I believe that communication is so central to human activities that denial of it is a betrayal of societal peace and stability.’’
The apt statement here is that with the many role of the traffic radio in the State all that matters in the transportation sector of the State is now at the tips of hands of the masses.
Meanwhile, as the Traffic Radio continues to engage traffic situation on the road, their searchlight should focus on the importance of regular vehicular maintenance and roads in sustaining traffic flow. Vehicles maintenance is for the individual owners while the State will be promptly privileged to damage and bad road to repair.
Finally, For us to accomplish our goal of ensuring free flow traffic in Lagos, we all have a role to play. We must obey all traffic regulations. We must comply with all traffic rules. LASTMA officials are our brothers and sisters; we must cooperate with them in order to keep Lagos moving.
Musbau is of Features Unit, Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.