Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Towards safety on Nigerian roads

Did you know that nearly 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads each year? That up to 50 million people are injured, and many remain disabled for life? That 90 per cent of casualties from road deaths occur in developing countries? That the annual road traffic deaths are forecast to rise to 1.9 million people by 2020; and that road traffic injuries are the number one cause of death for young people worldwide?
The United Nations projected that this year alone, road traffic injuries will be the leading health burden for children over the age of five years in developing countries like Nigeria and that the economic cost to developing countries is at least $100bn a year. Road traffic injuries place an immense burden on hospitals and health systems generally. Road crashes are preventable and a global action plan includes practical measures which, if implemented, could save millions of lives. These 10 aforementioned nuggets prompted the United Nations General Assembly to proclaim the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 in a landmark resolution that was co-sponsored by 100 countries.
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Officially launched on 11 May 2011, the Decade of Action has the official goal of “stabilising and then reducing” global road traffic fatalities by 2020. Nigeria is a signatory to this UN Decade of Action and the implementing agency is the Federal Road Safety Corps. As a means of keying into the DoA, the FRSC launched the Safe Road in Nigeria. The mission is to reduce road crash deaths and injuries by 50 per cent by 2020. In drawing attention to the SR project, the agency came up with seven facts. They are: Road crashes kill more than HIV/AIDS and Malaria; there’s someone you know who has been killed or injured in a crash; people are killed or injured in road crashes every day; all road crashes can be prevented; most crashes are caused by the driver’s reckless behaviour and not always as a result of bad roads; the idea of a “Safe Road” in Nigeria is more of changing our driving behaviour than advocating good road infrastructure and lastly, we can reduce deaths and injuries due to crashes by 50 per cent if we make a commitment to: not drink and drive, not drive speedily, wear seat belts and crash helmets, not use phone or eat while driving, obey traffic rules and tell people about the Safe Road Nigeria initiative.
It is important for all drivers and commuters to join in this crusade for safe road in the country. As stated in fact two above, “there is someone you know who has been killed or injured in a crash.” The official half year statistics for 2015 gleaned from the website of the FRSC show that the number of road traffic crashes stands at 4,421; the number of persons killed is 2,418; the number of persons injured is 14,315; the number of persons involved is 29,446 while the number of vehicles involved is 7,467. Though these statistics show high number of cases but compared to previous years, there is a minor reduction.
However, it is still intolerable that over two thousands lives have been lost to preventable road accidents as of June 2015.
It is remarkable that the FRSC is not folding its arms. It has been doing a lot to reduce road traffic crashes through its four cardinal programmes, namely, education, enlightenment, subtle force and full enforcement. Just last week, precisely on Monday, July 26, the Corps Marshal of the FRSC, Boboye Oyeyemi, inaugurated the “Operation Scorpion” in Lagos. This is a major operation against the menace of truck and tanker operations aimed at ensuring that operators of the vehicles abide by traffic rules and regulations.
According to the Zonal Commanding Officer of the FRSC Zone 2 Lagos, Assistant Corps Marshal Nseobong Charles Akpabio, “Operation Scorpion involves checking vehicles, especially trailers to determine their level of compliance with laid down safety standards on brake system, latching of trucks, worn out or expired tyres, broken or lack of headlamp and trafficators, non-possession of driving licence and valid documents as well as general mechanical status of vehicles and health conditions of the drivers.” In fact, the Corps said from September 1, the special operation on petroleum tankers, as jointly agreed to by the stakeholders will commence. This is commendable.
The agency has also designed what it called penalty points. “These are points allotted to traffic offences accumulated in the driver’s record. If a driver receives a statutorily maximum number of points, the driver shall be warned and or have his or herlicence suspended or withdrawn.” These penalty points are also accompanied by payment of fines.
It is important for the motoring public to know that “Warning is notification issued to a traffic offender who has accumulated 10 – 14 penalty points. Suspension is the temporal 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 Nigeria roads, having accumulated 21 and above penalty points.”
There are over 40 traffic offences that a driver may commit. The notable ones are as follows: Dangerous driving is a Category 1 offence with a N50,000 fine and 10 penalty points. Failure to cover securely unstable materials such as gravel, sand, refuse, etc which are capable of spilling on the highway thereby constituting hazards is another Category 1 offence with a N5,000 fine and five penalty points. It is worthy of note that this has been a great nuisance that many motorists and commuters face on the roads.
A driver who is involved in a crash or sees a crash, but fails to report it to the FRSC and/or other appropriate authorities shall be held liable for an offence of failure to report road crash. It is a Category 1 offence that carries N20,000 fine and 10 penalty points. It will be recalled that the agency has come up with a toll-free line 122 with which the attention of the Corps Marshals can be called to any emergency.   The failure of a road construction company to provide adequate warning and/or directional/diversion signs at road repairs or road construction sites is another Category 1 offence with fine of N50,000. Lastly, the refusal of any hospital or medical personnel to accept and administer treatment on road crash survivors or accept corpse(s) of victim(s) is also a Category 1 offence which carries a fine of N50, 000.
It is important that we all support these initiatives by obeying traffic rules at all times. However, much as most of the road crashes are traceable to human errors, it is equally important for government at all levels to ensure that our roads are in good condition. There is no gainsaying the fact that bad roads contribute in no small measure to the carnage on roads. In addition to fixing the roads, we also need to revive the railways to divert most of the haulage business to the rail lines. Many of the cargoes that move through articulated vehicles are best shipped or transported via rail. As we approach the “ember” months, I enjoin all road transport unions to collaborate with the FRSC by sensitising their members on safe driving. They should ensure that their members install speed limiters in their vehicles and that they do not drink and drive nor overload their vehicles with passengers. Likewise, the Police Road Traffic Wardens as well as Vehicle Inspection Officers should collaborate with corps marshals to ensure safety on our roads. Road safety is everyone’s business!
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