The rate of accidents on Nigeria’s highways is alarming and unacceptable. The carnage can be prevented or reduced to the barest minimum. In Abuja, for instance, countless reasons can be adduced for the incessant auto crashes in the capital city.
Impatience and lack of tolerance have been identified as some of the traits of road users. These days people are frustrated and in a ready-to-fight mood, maneuvering from one lane to the other. And this causes a lot of distractions. Added to this poor traffic behaviour is the tendency for most road users not to obey traffic rules.
Another dangerous cause of road mishap is the preponderance of drivers under the influence of substances such as alcohol and illicit drugs. Those in that state of mind are not only risking their own lives but also the lives of others. Adding to the misery of these traffic mishaps is the poor state of the roads. With the roads literarily a flurry of bumps and potholes, they become accidents waiting to happen especially when the drivers are careless and reckless.
The rise of social media and platforms has also been fingered as one of the reasons for deaths on the highways. Many road users have developed the habit of chatting while driving, thereby endangering their lives and others’ in a bid to feel good.
According to a National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report, the number of lives lost to road traffic accidents from January 2013 to 2019 are as follows: 2013 – 5,539; 2014 – 4,430; 2015 – 5,400; (FRSC): 2016 – 5,053; 2017 – 5,049; 2018 –5, 181; 2019 – 5,483. Between January and March 2020, there were 1,758 deaths; April to June 2020, 855 deaths; and July to September 2020, 1,076 deaths.
In a similar report by NBS, 41,257 deaths were recorded on Nigerian highways in 97 months. This, in the opinion of this newspaper, is disheartening and needless. We recall that the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) had disclosed in a report that there are 33.7 deaths per 100,000 people in Nigeria every year, making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest number of road fatalities in Africa.
Zimbabwe is reported to have the worst road fatality in the world with 74.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. The world average is 17.4; Africa is 26.6; and, according to the International Transport Forum, ITF, Road Safety Annual Report for 2018, the fatality rate for South Africa is 21 while Norway has the least road fatality with two deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
These statistics as they affect Nigeria give real cause for concern. And this is in spite of the sustained public enlightenment campaigns and the presence of traffic officers on the high ways. We almost forgot to add that a major cause of road accidents is the indiscretion of official drivers, that is to say, government drivers and drivers of politicians who move around in convoys. For this set of Nigerians, traffic rules are not for them. They give the impression that they are the only ones in need of time and must get to their destinations as soon as insanely possible.
We recall the tragedy that claimed almost a whole family of a serving minister from Kogi State. It was later proved that, in the first place, his driver had no valid driver’s licence which meant that he was not even qualified to drive at all. Yet, he was assigned to drive a high-profile government official. To add to the misfortune, it was confirmed that he was over-speeding at the time of the accident. Unfortunately, both the driver and the family of the minister were not wearing their seat belts. Such are the kinds of behaviour on the part of government officials that inundate road accident statistics.
As a Newspaper, we urge the government at all levels to begin to take this ugly malaise seriously. The nation’s roads should be fixed and maintained regularly. Similarly, using technology for road management should be the focus. We also call for stiff punishment for drunk driving, over-speeding and other factors that cause most carnages on the roads.
Sadly, most traffic officials are more concerned about arresting road users for vehicle papers or licence plates offences instead of maintaining sanity on the roads. They have turned themselves into a revenue-generating agency and abandoned their statutory duties. We also urge the government to set standards for officials as regards traffic rules and install cameras on our roads, as well as emergency units.