EFULA ABBAH( General Editor, Motoring World International.)
[dropcap]R[/dropcap]oad accidents have remained a re-occurring phenomenon in Nigeria, and have continued to constitute a menace to lives and property. Although both the developed and developing nations of the world have suffered from varying degrees of road accidents, developing countries clearly dominate, with Nigeria having second highest rate of road accidents among 193 ranked countries of the world. Deaths from reckless driving are the third leading causes of death in Nigeria.
In 2012, at least 473 persons died from a total of 1,115 vehicular accidents nationwide.
April 2013 may be said to be the worst month in terms of road accidents according to reported cases. It was on that fateful month that a luxury bus and another smaller bus crashed along the Abuja-Lokoja Road, killing 18 people.
April 5, 2013 precisely, there was another case of a petrol tanker which set a luxury bus and another vehicle ablaze on the Ore-Benin Expressway, wasting the lives of more than 80 people who burnt beyond recognition. Also on April 6, 2013, at Dazigan, 11 kilometers from Potiskum, Yobe State, 20 people reportedly died in an accident.
The 11th of April 2013 witnessed another gory accident, where lives of over 10 Nigerians were dashed along the Damaturu-Gashua Road also in Yobe State. On 14th April 2013, seven passengers also wasted on deadly Abuja-Lokoja Road, when a car ran into an onrushing vehicle from opposite direction.
Five people also met their untimely death on April 15, 2013 along the Asaba-Onitsha Expressway.
As if that month was out to reduce the population of Nigeria, another terrible accident also happened, mid-April, claiming 142 people.
According to reports, 30% of the 473 deaths recorded in 2012 were covered in only 15 days of 2013, all in that dark month of April.
Apart from that, there was a case along the Igando-Iba road, where an SUV carrying a pregnant woman was said to have failed break and somersaulted, killing everybody on board, including mother and child, as well as two innocent passers-by.
There were probably other unreported cases, depending on available statistics of other accident victims, who must have died from sustained injuries.
However, the data of catastrophic road mishaps in the country, according to the FRSC release for the first half of 2016, does not suggest an end in sight for untimely deaths on Nigerian roads.
Details released by FRSC in August this year, comprise road accident data in the country from January to June 2016 as well as statistical figure of deaths and injuries that were duly recorded and authenticated in their data base.
Going by the release, a total of 2,658 deaths were recorded in 4,809 crashes in the first half of 2016 with cases which involved 31,701 people, occurring in different parts of the country. A total of 266,929 traffic offenders were arrested and 296,126 traffic offences committed between January and June 2016.
A breakdown of the incidents show that, in January alone 886 crashes were recorded, involving 6,191 people, killing 529 people and injuring 2,999; and in February, 738 crashes occurred, involving 4,894 people, with 496 deaths and 2,475 injuries.
March recorded 883 crashes involving 5,620 people with 513 deaths recorded and 2,584 injuries; April 2016, though unlike the dark April of 2013, saw off 739 road crashes of 4,805 people, recording 363 deaths and 2,227 injuries.
May witnessed 805 crashes involving 5,471 people, with 367 deaths and 2,621 injuries; while June recorded 758 crashes affecting 4,720 people, 385 deaths and 2,092 injuries.
Even though the report shows a decline in road accidents, when compared to the previous, the menace was still not looking any better despites measures adopted by FRSC to curb the ugly incidents.
However, about 3, 3756 traffic offenders were arrested in January, while 37,440 offences were committed; and in February, 40,175 traffic offenders were also arrested with 44,798 offences being committed.
In March as much as 50,798 traffic offenders were arrested, following 56,300 traffic offences committed.
April saw 38,714 traffic offenders being arrested and 42,764 offences committed; while May recorded 51,520 traffic offenders, who were arrested by FRSC and 57134 offences committed; just as in June 51, 966 traffic offenders were arrested with 57,690 offences committed.
During the periods mentioned, FRSC data has it that no fewer than 50,660,065 passengers traveled within the country, while 4,992,027 numbers of vehicles traveled and 25,782 luxury buses traveled across the country.
However, taking into consideration the growth rate of transport system around the world, it will not be an understatement to deduce that Automobile safety in Nigeria is still far from expectation, but with the level of enlightenment and social campaigns from the FRSC and relative bodies, there are reasons for hope.
It is also significant to overview the major causes of some of the countless misadventures on Nigerian roads.
Cracks and pot holes on Nigerian road pavements, either at the edges or along the drive way have often constituted the first major hazards.
These cracks and potholes disfigure the original shapes of the roads, thereby forcing unnecessary vehicular irregularities and diversions, which have led to plenty of collision. In most cases, these collisions have been very fatal. During the day, gridlocks might prevent collision, but at nights, most drivers are always in a hurry to overcome so many areas for the fear of being attacked. Most drivers want to capitalize on this excuse to over speed and have ended up in unfortunate situations through that.
Mechanical factors and carelessness in the form of oversight to check and maintain vehicles at the appropriate time by drivers and vehicle owners have also caused many of the road mishaps in Nigeria.
Around the world, vehicular maintenance is not only a routine, but a culture and legal requirement, which both drivers and vehicle owners do not compromise. But it’s not so in Nigeria. Most vehicle drivers have remained adamant to maintenance culture, especially when it concerns their vehicles. Most of them are always in the habit of managing, even faults in their vehicles, disregarding the danger of such an overlook on other road users.
This can also be termed driver or human error, and has been immensely considerable in most road accidents.
A recent study on road traffic accident clearly shows that the attitude of Nigerian drivers to driving code and etiquette is a major contributing factor in most road accident cases, because during such times, the driving mentality of the driver is of paramount importance.
The experience of drivers can help rescue unpalatable situations on the roads and most doomed lives due to vehicle clashes, off the road swerving into ditches, vehicle burnt and explosions could have been saved. It is believed that drivers should be absolutely in control of their vehicles, be conscious of unusual sound and attitude of their vehicles; be conversant with roads, knowing disaster areas, especially since they ply such areas regularly. It is also important to say that experience should teach every driver to be more careful, particularly on roads they are not too conversant with.
An experienced driver should be able to avert some kind of danger on the roads, based on the fact that not all emergency situations lead to a traffic accident. It is simply a human function to be able to overcome difficulties, irrespective of the emergency.
Speed and indiscriminate use of Sirens can also be part of those human errors coming from drivers.
Average speed of a vehicle, especially at nights, even during the day, directly determine both the crash and to the severity of the crash. So, travelling too fast in prevailing conditions or above the speed limit often contributes to road traffic accidents. The risk of fatality increases exponentially with vehicle on higher speed much fatal than with vehicles travelling on average speed.
Indiscriminate use of sirens has always caused undue haste, diversion and loss of concentration, even to the user of the siren. The police and other security operatives are mostly guilty of this abnormality. Not only that sirens in the ordinary can cause unnecessary panic on the road, it can also lead to brain rupture, whereby drivers, irrespective of the divide, temporarily stop thinking properly, and it is always at this break that something devious happens. Distracted driving is always the factor here.
Other visible factors responsible for most road accidents in Nigeria are: Drunk–driving and use of drugs as enhancement among drivers; inexperience and unqualified drivers with little or no driving skill; vehicle design and overloading, vehicle Brake System, Vehicle Body and Tyres; Vehicle Lights, especially trafficator and clear vision at night journeys.
Load specification designed for a vehicle goes a long way to determine its stability on the road surface and if vehicles overloaded, it becomes unbalanced to cope with the rigors of the Nigerian roads.
Vehicle engine and other environmental causes are also factors that have been largely attributed to many gory road accidents in Nigeria. Drivers, government and nature are accountable for these two factors.
More importantly, urban mobility menace, gridlocks, security breakdown and criminal activities in relation to road traffic accidents in Nigeria are also undeniable facts.
Measures to Improve Road Safety
However, to improve safety on Nigerian roads, it is significant to advance the followings:
Institutionalization of driving throughout the country and making it a basic subject in schools; installation of security electronic devices on major highways in Nigeria; psychiatric testing and certification all road users; improved road network accessibility, standards and frequent maintenance in order to assure that the roads do not deteriorate to the point of becoming death traps for Nigerian road users.
There is also the significance of location and maintaining standard well-equipped emergency hospitals along major highways in Nigeria with specially designated crisis doctors on hand.
This is significant especially considering the fact that the lives of majority of accident victims could have been saved had they receive quick medical attention.
Government also needs to device effective measures, including design of safer infrastructure and incorporating road safety features into land-use and transport planning and improving the safety features of vehicles.
It is not entirely the deplorable condition of Nigerian roads that causes incessant road traffic accidents but, to a very large extent, carelessness and negligence of on the part of road users, which can be regulated with strengthening of road traffic laws and regulations, with stiffer penalties for any form of violation.
Guarding against the causes of road traffic accident in Nigeria is a collective affair, as it affects everyone directly or indirectly.
Hence, government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria should, as a matter of good essence, outlaw, through the constitution, all forms of secret societies and cult related activities as well as their rituals, because one may not rule out the possibility that most overflowed blood on the highways in Nigeria are as result of fetish ritual paganism from bloodthirsty secret societies people and cultists.
Furthermore, sanitation of motor parks from alcohol sales and consumption; establishment of sobriety checkpoints to help checkmate drivers who are addicted to drunk driving; routine maintenance and rehabilitation of road pavements and comprehensive vehicle maintenance and repair programme and certification; curbing the over flogged menace of tankers and articulated vehicles and the carnage as well as indiscriminate parking of these tankers and articulated vehicles. Another major alternative is to provide varieties of spacious parking spaces.
Government should also totally prohibit the use of mobile phones while driving. This exuberance is gradually graduating to a higher stake, and if not completely annihilated from the mentality of Nigerian drivers now, is most likely to build a nest of rust in them.
There is the urgent need for nationwide enforcement of law prohibiting the use of mobile phones, while driving and launching of regular public awareness campaigns to address this problem with a view of presenting before the general public the grave dangers of driving and using the mobile phone.
Hence, FRSC needs to enhance the training and retraining of drivers as a formidable means of effectively dealing with the incurable attitude problems of most of them different from subjecting them to psychiatric rehabilitation.
Suffice it to say also that FRSC and other road safety surrogates need to intensify efforts in public enlightenment programmes in order to further educate drivers and other road users alike about road safety measures. In fact, government can also introduce road safety into school curriculum along with driving.
Government should also ensure that FRSC, VIOs and other transport regulatory agencies carry out their jobs effectively and thoroughly; checking the conditions of vehicles that ply Nigerian roads, without extorting money or collecting bribes from drivers, especially concerning used and smoking vehicles.
The FRSC and others can also redefine penalties against disobedience of traffic signs, rules and regulations; and be firm and holistic with speed limiting regulations. Aside fire service ambulances and police pursuing criminals, the use of sirens should be completely outlawed in Nigeria.
Effective and efficient usage of safety devices; Ensuring proper vehicular morning parades;
Developing and utilizing other means of land transportation and regulating maximum travel time of commercial drivers per day are other very important panacea to road safety problems in Nigeria.
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