This is not my first piece on this subject. It is probably the third. Hopefully it won’t be the last. I once did a piece I titled, ‘’The Patient Dog’’. Shortly after the Dana Air crash, I did a similar piece which looked more like an abridged version of today’s piece. It was; ‘’Attitude-the change we need’’. In all of these, I tried to x-ray the average behaviour behind the wheels. This is because bad road usage and not bad roads account for our crash records. Or how else do you explain the crash record in a place like the Federal Capital Territory which boast of perhaps one of the best road networks and infrastructure in the Country yet has one of the worst crash records.
Today I am being compelled to do an extensive treatment for several reasons. The first is because at the commencement of 2012, the Federal Road Safety Corps said its corporate goal was to reduce road crashes by 30percent and fatalities by 20percent .Six months later, the Corps announced to Nigerians that crashes within the first six months of the year saw an increase of road crashes by 21.7percent with the occurrence of 2,717 crashes as against 2,235 in 2011.It however announced that there was a reduction in fatalities with the death of 1,936people compared to the 2011 trend with 2218deaths which amounts to a 12.6percent reduction.
The 12.6percent reduction in fatalities within the first half of 2012 is in tandem with the benchmark set by the United Nations Decade of Action goals which seeks to tilt deaths as a result of road crashes. This global call for action on the increasing devastation of road traffic crashes culminated in the 1st Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Moscow in November, 2009 and the consequent declaration by the United Nation General Assembly in 2010 of a Decade of Action on Road Safety 2011-2020 when Nations are expected to put in place dedicated activities/plans to reduce Road Traffic Crash (RTC) by 50% by 2020.This plans are contained in the five pillars of the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety.
They include the following ;Safer Road, Road safety Management, safer vehicles, road user behaviour and post crash care. All five pillars will be treated in details next week. But for this week, the first Pillar notes that unsafe roads are still being built with international aid money. This it warns must stop. The document further notes that Safe infrastructure design can save thousands of lives. The result is that The World Bank, regional development banks and leading donors have now committed to make road safety a priority in their multi-billion dollar lending portfolios. The Make Roads Safe campaign will keep up the pressure to ensure these words are followed by action.
A look at the Pillars will show that the Corps is involved majorly in the last two and has indeed put structures in place. Permit me to recall the word of the chairman Governing Board of FERMA.Engr Ezekiel Adeniji who summed up thus during a visit to the FRSC Management.’’FRSC is not in charge of the roads-FERMA is. Neither is FRSC in charge of vehicles. However the Corps is in charge of changing driver behaviours and providing rescue services.Therefeore both agencies can synergise for better results. These results,the,Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health maintains FRSC is providing especially through structures such as its ambulance services and newly released three digit toll free numbers.
Yet, the Corps maintains that much is still needed to achieve its set targets for the current year. This explains why Specific interventions such as improved patrols and continuous engagement with the motoring public on the dangers and risks of road traffic crashes have been stepped up. Staff capacity improvement has equally received a boost. In keeping with strategies to achieve the 5Pillars of the United Nations Decade of Action and FRSC strategic goal one of reducing fatalities by 20percent, increased the number of Emergency Ambulance points from 4to 12.This was complimented with the public launch of the first national toll free emergency number-122 to improve its response time to road crashes and other emergencies
However, on Friday 7, 2012, FRSC announced to Nigerians that effective from 10th September it would embark on a weeklong nationwide awareness campaign as part of strategies to tilt the road crash trend. The campaign focused majorly on reinforcing the message of safety through road shows, motor park rallies, in addition to extensive domesticating campaign strategies that involved visit to schools, corporate organisations among others. Within the period, enforcement of all traffic laws was suspended between 10th -14th September, 2011 a move described by one of the stakeholders as relieving. The piece for today is therefore taken from the theme of the campaign.
The question by keen observers was why suspend enforcement for a weeklong awareness campaign. What does the FRSC stand to get. What mileage? First, let me clearly state that one of the statutory mandate of the Corps is to raise awareness on responsible driving. This, the Corps has consistently done through various means. Besides the platform of motor park rallies and road shows, the Corps compulsorily compels all traffic offenders to attend public enlightenment campaign lectures as a prerequisite before they are released. Even applicants for drivers licence are equally compelled to attend free lectures in the course of processing drivers licence at least in some States. Despite these and many strategies, the Corps maintains the crash trend can improve better through improved responsible driving.
Responsible driving is therefore the crux of the weeklong campaign which observers have described as novel. But are there other reasons or justifications for this novelty? One of the justifications is the feeler from the publics of the Corps such as the national assembly, media and other stakeholders to step up its campaign drive. The second is the identification of public enlightenment as the 4th Pillar of the UN Decade of Action which upholds safety education as a vital component that must be harnessed extensively to achieve set objectives. There is also the increasing trend of crashes which are avoidable. So what exactly are some of this attitude that must change? They are legion. Excessive speed is one. Distracted driving is another. Under age driving and driving without the use of seat belt are two other bad or irresponsible driving behaviours. Driving under the influence is another. So too is what my friend calls executive recklessness