The months in the last quarter of the year, generally referred to as the ember months starting from September, are often known to generate anxieties as a result of a heightened hustle and bustle with many Nigerians hurrying to meet targets and deadlines. But it is not only in Nigeria. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as people are not reckless when using the highways and even other modes of transportation like rail and airways. Sadly, that is not always the case as confirmed by the rate of accidents that have given these months a bad name.
During those months, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) statistics indicate an upswing in the number accidents and this in spite of measures put in place by the relevant agencies to mitigate the lose of lives and properties as a result of the mishaps.
The recent ranking of Nigeria as one of the countries in the world with an average speed limit of 55 km/hour allowed for road vehicles has not helped to reduce accidents caused mainly by reckless driving and non-observance of highway code. Sadly, in our view, the preponderance of road mishaps even with the best efforts of government agencies and the media have become some sort of embarrassment to the federal government.
Speed limit violations account for 59.79 per cent of the 4,283 road accidents in Q1 2022, according to data obtainable from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and FRSC. Causes of these accidents have expressly nothing to do with the months. There is no mystery traceable to the months that could link them with the carnage that occur. It is, in our opinion, more of human error.
As more commercial vehicles and private car owners ply the roads at this time, there is usually chaos for one reason or the other. Commercial vehicles are wont to hurry to pick and drop passengers so that they can make more money. Private drivers are also trying to make ends meet by participating in activities of the ‘season’. Also, most people travel to their hometown for end of year festivities. In the frenzy that follows, brushes that can be fatal, though avoidable, become, in the bedlam, causes of wastage of lives and properties.
Other factors, in addition to indiscipline on the highways, which escalate the occurrence of accidents within this period, include poor condition of the roads, lack of adequate maintenance of vehicles, and most times, stress on the part of the drivers. Others are the use of mobile phones when driving as well as the influence of alcohol and other banned substances.
According to the NBS/FRSC data, a total of 16,337 road crashes recorded in the year left 6,205 dead and 38,073.00 others injured, while 9,009 accidents were caused by speed limit violations. The NBS released a report that a total of 1,834 Nigerians died from road accidents in the first three months of 2022. The report showed that speed violations with 2,561 cases; wrongful overtaking, 290 cases and sign light violations were main causes of road accidents.
The report also revealed that 24,192 people were involved in 5,316 road accidents during the period under review with 12,124 casualties recorded. Looking at the various zones in the country, North Central had the largest number of crashes in Q1 2022 with 1,095, followed by the South West with 887.
And in terms of casualties, the North Central recorded the highest with 3,582, followed by the North West with 2,713 and South East recorded the least with 711.
We commend FRSC for the good job it is doing in trying to educate the public on how to use the highways so as to reduce the carnage, especially in circumstances that are avoidable. It is important, also, that the government, at all levels, devote more resources to building new roads while ensuring that existing ones are well maintained.
Similarly, groups like the National Union of Road Transport Owners and Workers ought to take it upon themselves to educate their members on good conduct on the highways. Overall, it is imperative that all road users apply themselves well either as drivers or passengers. We make this appeal because, often, drivers over-speed so as to please passengers who claim to have ‘appointments’ they must meet within a given time and, in the process, accidents that could have been avoided occur making a nonsense of the haste to get to a destination fast enough. It is also necessary to remind everyone that the ember months, like the rising and setting of the sun, must come. We must all be conscious of the fact that only the living can possibly experience them.