With a scowl on his face, Elendu Uche, a businessman, shook his head slowly, letting out a deep sigh. Sitting behind the wheel of his Honda Camry, he was soaked to the skin with sweat as the afternoon sun bared its fangs ferociously.
His frustration was palpable and he was not making an attempt to hide it.
He had been stuck in a gruelling traffic jam for over four hours at Mile 2, while returning home from Oshodi.
Like him, other passengers remained trapped in scores of vehicles in the gridlock that stretched for a few kilometres.
“What type of life is this? I am tired of the situation in this country,” the businessman muttered. “I have been in traffic all day. I left Oshodi since 3pm, and now, by 7pm, I’m still stuck in traffic in Mile 2, while I am still going to my house in Badagry. At a point, the traffic started crawling sluggishly and I thought we would be out of here in no time but it later ground to a halt. With all these, how could one live long in this country?”
Another exasperated Lagos resident, Mrs. Eucharia Ahamefula, described the traffic situation as distressing, totally unbearable and worrisome. She noted that going to work every day in Ikeja had turned a nightmare. She said she always dreaded the idea of getting stuck for hours on her way home.
The laboratory technician, who lives in Satellite Town, Ojo, noted that she had been subjected to all manner of danger and ill health due to long hours in traffic.
“I have lost two pregnancies within five months because of this terrible traffic situation. The insecurity that comes with this traffic is terrifying,” she said. “You don’t dare display your phone or laptop around certain areas, especially on the Lagos/Badagry Expressway in the evening. You would be sure that you would be attacked. Everyone is now afraid of being trapped in this daily nightmare.”
As it is now, Lagos, a coastal city that sits on the brink of the Atlantic, has long undoubtedly carved a niche for itself as a city of perennial gridlocks. Wherever you look on the city’s major roads, especially on all the routes that lead to Apapa, where major seaports are located, what you see is a long, line of vehicles stuck in traffic caused by articulated vehicles.
For months on end, debilitating traffic chaos has persistently locked Lagos down, leaving the populace frustrated and in perpetual agony.
And with the everyday chaotic gridlock, businesses in affected areas continue to suffer, while socio-economic activities and every aspect of life have been stagnated.
A major implication of the perennial traffic congestion in Lagos is its cost on the finances of the state and the residents. The more time residents spend in traffic, the more financial misfortunes the state suffers.
According to a research conducted by a Jerusalem-based firm, ROM Transportation Engineering, between 2007 and 2009, Lagos residents lose more than three billion hours to traffic congestion yearly.
More alarming is statistics by the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), which declared that the traffic congestion in Apapa alone costs the country over N5 billion daily. The association noted that traffic congestion in the Apapa area was killing business and spreading poverty in the land.
The business community in Lagos is also not spared the rebounding effects of the debilitating gridlocks on Lagos roads. Experts have asserted that the business community loses N11 billion monthly to the daily traffic congestion.
However, beyond the man-hour loss, traffic congestion in Lagos is doing much more damage to the health of residents frequently trapped in it.
Being stranded in stationary traffic has been noted to incite rage in the most timid of individuals, thereby bringing their blood to boiling point.
While it appears that motorists may feel instantly calmer the moment the road ahead becomes clear, researches have shown that their health could already have become irreparably scarred.
Based on a study by experts at the University of Surrey, UK, traffic congestion can drastically increase the chances of breathing in toxic fumes by as much as 76 per cent, thus making people more prone to violence, fracture social relationships and other diverse health havocs.
Corroborating this research, the World Health Organisation (WHO), described outdoor air pollution, especially toxic fumes from vehicles, as a “major environmental risk to health” linking it to 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012.
In 2013, the organisation also classified toxic pollutants as being carcinogenic to humans as smoking was in February 1985.
According to Chinaza Izu, a public health expert, during traffic congestion, there is
a clear exposure to all kinds of pollutants, some of which are irritants to the lungs and not good for the cardiovascular system because they are carcinogenic.
She also noted that researches have linked long hours in traffic to stroke and sudden death.
“Researches have shown that people, or should I say many Nigerians, are liable to end up with stroke as a result of the long hours they spend in traffic. It can also lead to higher rates of obesity, diabetes and poor air quality. With what is going on in the Apapa axis, we might be sitting on a gunpowder keg.”
According to David Mowat, a Canadian expert and medical officer of health for Peel Region in Southern Ontario, Canada, emissions are worse when a vehicle is idling, making stop-and-go traffic more harmful to the lungs.
He further explained that people with long commute times are less inclined to engage in social activities, be socially connected and be civically engaged.
Besides the long-term health problems associated with traffic jams, there are many physiological and psychological effects on those perpetually stuck in gridlocks.
Also, in another research by David Wiesenthal, a psychology professor at York University, a specialist in the study of the effects of stress on drivers, gridlock aids aggressive human behaviours, which might never have been apparent.
“As your car slows to a crawl, your heart rate picks up, your breathing intensifies and your blood pressure shoots up. Drivers become more irritable and have a higher tendency to behave aggressively, increasing the odds of rude behaviour, shouting obscenities and cutting other cars off,” he said.
Yet another research linked traffic to negative mental health outcomes, including stress and aggression and an increase in domestic violence.
According to research by Scientific American, an online journal, most people stuck in traffic might not be induced to commit crime but they bear a psychological burden from traffic.