There is no gainsaying the fact that our roads have become death traps. The roads which are supposed to allow us to move from one place to another with relative ease and safety have turned around to become the harbinger of pain, tears, sorrow and death due to their general state of disrepair as well as the recklessness of the road users themselves, particularly the commercial drivers. A World Health Organisation (WHO) report stated that of the 1.3 million people around the world who die yearly from road accidents, about 80 per cent are from developing economies, with Africa taking the bigger share of such deaths. And considering that Africa accounts for just 11 per cent of the world’s population, the scale of deaths on our roads therefore is unacceptable.
The WHO report further stated that “If nothing was done by countries around the world, especially those with very high death rates in Africa, to stem the tide, the rate of deaths and injuries would increase by 65 per cent between 2015 and 2020, making deaths by road a greater cause of death than malaria and tuberculosis.”
Today, our roads have increasingly become very dangerous for road users, and there is a high degree of uncertainty as to how any journey would end. Many factors lead to this ugly scenario, chief among them the poor state of the road network in the country. Many drivers have died, and killed their passengers, on the roads after losing control of their vehicles due to the numerous pot holes that dot the highways. Some vehicles crash into others while trying to avoid the pot holes, some as big as craters, resulting in multiple deaths. Bad roads also damage vehicles, making them prone to accidents. But as it is often argued, good roads do not in themselves guarantee accident-free journeys, but when they are in good shape, the rate of road mishaps will be minimized. As such governments should work hard to improve the roads in order to reduce the rate of deaths on our roads and make travels safe and more enjoyable.
Secondly, most of the vehicles on the roads, particularly the commercial vehicles plying our roads, are either not roadworthy, or not properly maintained, or both. For example, there are instances of brake failures, burst tyres and other mechanical faults leading to fatal road accidents. Although, new vehicles do have accidents, however, their chances of having one are lower than for the rickety ones.
Also, there is the problem of over-speeding. Experts agree that the greatest cause of accidents on our roads is over-speeding. Without doubt, speed, especially over-speeding, kills.
Above all, this is the question of poor policing of the roads by the authorities saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring sanity on the roads. The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), the Department of Road Traffic Services (DRTS) – also known as Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), Highway Patrol and others need to enunciate more effective and technologically driven strategies to whip into line the-devil-may-care sort of drivers – some of them under the influence of hard drugs – who imperil themselves and other road users by their recklessness behind the wheels. So, the country needs truly diligent, honest, committed and efficient agencies to remove such characters as well as rickety vehicles that daily ply our roads. The fear of being caught and punished would make many road users obey laws related to road usage.
In our opinion, the carnage on our roads is largely due to the non-enforcement of road usage laws to the letter. This breeds the impunity that results in road accidents. For despite the high rate of accidents in the country, not many of the culprits have been prosecuted and convicted for their roles in such calamities. Often the victims bear the brunt: some die, some are maimed for life while some lose property; most are hardly compensated. So there is a need to make laws that would ensure that those found guilty of causing road accidents are tried and convicted. Only then will road users be more responsible on the highways.
Above all, the authorities need to embark on aggressive enlightenment campaigns to sensitise drivers and other road users alike about the need to use the roads in a responsible manner in order arrive safely at their destinations. In our opinion, most road crashes are due to human error, and they are a huge waste of human and economic resources. The ways to curb them are attitudinal change and more effective enforcement of the laws regulating road usage.
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