It’s exactly two weeks since the Ember Months started. I don’t know what your experience has been like. I don’t know if you have been following my write ups in the last month. I don’t also know if you read my piece on the Road hazards to avoid. If you didn’t, I kindly suggest you do so because I have chosen to treat some of the issues differently today with a heading that I borrowed from my Editor hoping that the choice will trigger you to read and hopefully take corrections. Last year the Ember month recorded avoidable crashes and deaths. There were deaths last year and there will be deaths this year.
So would there be injuries with some maimed for life unless we do something drastically different- just like we did with Covid 19. These would be the scenarios in spite of the numerous initiatives introduced by FRSC for 2023 especially as we strive to cut down road traffic crashes by 5percent in keeping with the United Nations target. Already data available paints a fairly stable picture resulting from the various strategies deployed to tackle this menace. Despite this stability, caution must remain the watchword as we navigate this season.. The theme, ‘Road Safety is a Shared Responsibility.
This is why I have chosen to remind you that within this period, there would be all kinds of vehicles: rickety and sound; all kinds of drivers, licensed, un-licensed, learners, drunk, sane and insane. Vehicular and human traffic would increase as motorists respond to the urge to team up with families to savour the Joy of the season. Road violation or better put, bad driving habit would be on the increase leading to avoidable crashes. All this would happen because in every road crash, the predominant factor is human behavior.
Human behavior makes a direct contribution to crash risk, through the knowledge and skill and the relationship between risk and factors such as speed choice and alcohol consumptions. The road, the weather and the vehicle will no doubt play their roles too.
To some, the Ember months are jinxed as too many road traffic crashes occur, resulting in too many deaths and too many injuries. This group believes there is a demon responsible for all the road crashes that would occur within this period, including others that occurred previously. They don’t believe that motorists should be blamed. Rather the demon that delights in sucking blood, the same demon that holds sway over the highways will as usually ensure deaths occurred. As a safety practitioner, I have seen a lot to know that the devil does not need too much to cause a crash. All he needs to do is sit down and watch us drive the same way we have always driven despite repeated warnings.
To others, however, the reason is normal except for the above which demands extra caution. Without sounding the death knell, crashes will occur because of the wrong driving choices that we make; a choice of death, not life through these actions. These are actions that have formed their driving habits over time. Road crashes are avoidable even though a good number of people prefer buck passing. The remedy is simple obedience to traffic rules which would be appropriate. I don’t know if you share my view that there is nothing like a demon. A review of driving habits would reveal these as being responsible for road traffic crashes. My view would however be on a selected few.
Tyre blowouts are among the major causes of road crashes that have claimed the lives of some prominent Nigerians. Incidentally, motorists exhibit a high level of ignorance which explains why you will see people travelling with their families with fairly used tyres or tyres not properly cared for. What really causes tire blowout? The major cause of tyre blowout is incorrect tyre inflation especially under-inflation. Tyres are the most vital part of a car. That is why tyre manufacturers specify the correct tyre gauge and the expiry date, both of which are usually stamped on the side of the tyre. It is very easy to find out the expiry date . Just check the side and you will find a 4-digit number stamped on it.
This number indicates the week and year of manufacture and expiry date will be four years after. Manufacturers also indicate the maximum allowable inflating pressures for specific tyres. Different tyres are designed for different pressures. Unfortunately, most of us are careless about this vital information and have become victims of quacks marauding as vulcanizers. Under inflation causes two things that ultimately lead to blowouts. First, it causes undue flexing of the tyres as the vehicle speeds along the undulating surface of the road. This causes a separation between the internal materials used in making the tyres and the rubber flesh that holds the materials. This separation weakens the tyre. Secondly, it causes an increase in what is known as rolling resistance as the vehicle moves.The increased rolling resistance generates a tremendous amount of heat which together with the separation of the internal materials leads to an explosion.
Incorrect tyre inflation could also cause crashes in other ways. When a tyre is incorrectly inflated, it makes a partial contact with the road surface and so does not have a firm grip on the surface. With over-inflation, the edges of the contact patch (the part of the tyre that should be in contact with the road surface ) does not touch the ground. In the case of under-inflation, the crown (the middle portion of the tyre) of the contact patch does not touch the ground. Either way, you have an impartial contact of the tyre on the road surface and so less grip. The impartial contact could cause crash thus; since the tyres don’t have a firm grip on the road surface, it increases the stopping distance when the brakes are applied in an emergency and this could make the vehicle crash into the object the driver wanted to avoid. It could also lead to loss of control of the vehicle when speeding. This is more with over-inflated tyres. High vehicles like trailers could lose their balance when they hit a bump, pot hole or while descending a sharp bend. The situation can be likened to someone with one leg shorter than the other.
Shockingly, the tyre problem is compounded by the grim picture painted by vulcanizers as they use the worst type of tyre pressure gauge-the pencil gauge that malfunctions easily when subjected to heavy usage. Besides, they use the same gauge for all tyre pressures and this is a big blunder. This is why we advise that motorists own a personal gauge and get conversant with the pressure for their vehicle’s tyres.