Every day, precious lives and property are lost on Nigerian roads through accidents. The frequency of occurrence of these fatal crashes makes the relentless war to restore sanity on the country’s roads appear herculean. Though reports by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) point to a drastic reduction in road accidents in Nigeria last year, the frequency of crashes, the lives and property lost in such disasters since this year seem to be erasing the gains made in 2018.
Data released by the FRSC and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in September last year on road accidents, painted a very grim picture when they asserted that a minimum of two lives are lost on Nigerian roads in every four hours. The data also showed that every year, about 20,000 of the 11.654 million vehicles in the country are involved in accidents.
The NBS and FRSC gave the number of lives lost in road traffic accidents between January 2013 and June 2018 as follows: 2013 (5,539), 2014 (4,430), 2015 (5,400); FRSC – 2016 (5,053), 2017 (5,049), January to June 2018 (2,623). In July and September 7, 2018, 126 lives were also lost in road crashes.
The summation of these show that 28,195 lives were lost in 68 months, an equivalent of 415 lives per month, 14 persons per day, and two lives every four hours during the period. In fact, the FRSC says that Nigeria has 33.7 deaths per 100,000 people every year.
Consequently, Nigeria is rated as one of the countries with the highest road fatalities in the world, coming behind Zimbabwe in Africa, which has the worst road accidents in the world with 74.5 deaths per 100,000 citizens. The world average is 17.4; Africa has 26.6. The International Transport Forum (ITF) Road Safety Annual Report for 2018 showed that the fatality rate for South Africa is 21 while Norway has the least with two deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
For Nigeria, these figures are alarming, intolerable and no longer acceptable. Unless drastic steps are taken now, Nigeria may, again, be on the wrong side of global events as the nation with the highest rate of road accidents and deaths.
It is the opinion of this newspaper that it is time the authorities began addressing the major causes of road accidents which the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified as over speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, non-use of helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints, distracted driving, poor road infrastructure, derelict vehicles, inadequate post-crash care, and poor enforcement of traffic laws.
In Nigeria, the major causes of auto crashes are bad roads, rickety vehicles, illiteracy especially among commercial vehicle drivers, who can hardly read road signs when available, over speeding, bad tyres, abandonment of broken down or accident vehicles on the highways and indiscriminate parking.
Others are poor enforcement of the traffic laws by authorised agencies, poor welfare package for road safety personnel, which makes them look the other way, inadequate manpower and casualisation of personnel as well as undue focus on revenue generation at the expense of the state and safety of vehicles.
There is also the fatigue factor, which is one of the major causes of road accidents in Nigeria. It is observed that for economic consideration and pressure from transport owners, most Nigerian drivers, especially the long haul truck drivers, hardly rest. It is important for drivers and vehicle owners to know that their lives and those of their passengers are more precious than the immediate economic gains.
To curb excessive speed, in our opinion, the FRSC should be encouraged to redouble its efforts at ensuring total compliance with speed limiters in vehicles. Any driver found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs should instantly lose his or her licence and be banned from driving for at least three years.
The judiciary should also assist the FRSC with more mobile courts and personnel to promptly prosecute all traffic offenders while the federal government should boost the logistics of the agency to enhance prompt response to accidents and evacuation of victims.
The government should, as a matter of urgency, motivate FRSC personnel with better pay and conditions of service to prevent them from falling prey to inducement by motorists. The ambulance system and mobile clinics should be introduced on the highways to offer first aid services and the evacuation of the injured to hospitals.
The process of acquiring roadworthiness, especially for tankers and articulated trucks or trailers, should be made stricter. The government should stop the casualisation of Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) personnel. The recruitment process should be reviewed to check touting.
The federal and state government should equally give priority to the upgrade of roads across the country with massive road signs and billboards in various Nigerian languages to educate drivers on the presence of bridges, narrow roads, bends, and contours.
In our opinion, if these measures are fully enforced, the carnage on the highways would be drastically reduced. And the time to begin is now.
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