Cars on the Expressway
Let me start today’s piece by expressing my most profound gratitude to the Almighty God for helping us cross over to 2013. I also wish to express gratitude to Him for His divine protection over me and all reading this piece all through 2012. For over ten days in December, 2012, I was on the road as part of the end of year team, monitoring traffic. Like I wrote last week, titled, ‘’Faces behind the 2012 crashes’’, and the follow- up, ‘’Still on crashes behind the 2012 crashes’’, deaths and various degress of injuries took their toll.
Osita Chidoka ,Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps, after his usual aerial surveillance of traffic, announced to Nigerians on Friday the 3rd of January, 2013, that for just the Christmas and new year period, between 19th Dec - 5th Jan 2013, 514 crashes occurred with a total of 286 people killed in various crashes. Compared to 2011, he said the report shows a slight improvement. He went further to say that in the last 10years;” FRSC has successfully brought down crashes and deaths resulting from road crashes”. A breakdown of the fatalities shows that 213 males were killed including 57 females and 16 children. A further breakdown shows that a total of 784 vehicles were involved while 1,663 persons sustained various degrees of injuries.
Although the Corps is convinced of its ability to do more with less in 2012, accolades have poured on the on the Corps. The ruling People Democratic Party, PDP has described FRSC as success story, commending the untiring efforts of the Corps in saving lives and asked other agencies to emulate the discipline and commitment of officers and men of the Corps. Said the party in a statement by the Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metu, the Party was proud of the agency which has maintained an inspiring record in driving the vision of the PDP led Federal Government in road safety administration. Furthermore, the agency has been exemplary in developing infrastructure and devices that enhance safety for road users.
“Beyond the brilliant ideas and innovations which the agency has introduced to bring our road safety measures at par with global practices, we wish to equally commend the stoic resolve of its officers and men who have been working round the clock to reduce the traffic gridlock and nightmare that were once the feature of road travels especially during festivities”, the statement said. The party also called on the Corps to organize compulsory training courses for all drivers on the convoys of government and non governmental institutions, as well as functionaries, as part of its educational programmes on proper road use and discipline on the high ways.
‘’It is auspicious at this end to draw the attention of the agency to the recklessness and indiscipline which most of the drivers in the convoys of VIP’s exhibit on our roads.
“We urge it therefore to institute compulsory training programmes for this category of drivers and stand firm in ensuring that traffic rules are not abused by them”, the party said.
Equally reacting, Imo Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha urged the FRSC to take drastic measures to ensure the law on speeding limit is enforced in the country. While assisting in the evacuation of accident victims at a crash scene along Orlu-Owerri road which was attributed to overspeeding, he said “The FRSC should be proactive and regulate speed limit in the country.” Even the media has joined the fray on the urgent need for the Corps to step up strategies to trend down crashes related to speed especially, executive recklessness.
There were other commendations from travelers across the country. Despite these accolades, the FRSC is not too excited with the trend of events in the country. Shortly after his return from monitoring traffic ,he expressed his reservations on the Kogi state Governor’s crash blaming the driver for failure to comply with the training. It will be recalled that the Corps commenced a convoy drivers training last year. The training was meant to instill safety consciousness amongst these drivers. Even before the crash involving the Governor, the FRSC boss had raised alarm over increasing cases of overspeeding. He noted that between Jan-Nov 2012, speed related crashes accounted for 35 percent. This worry prompted him to convene a stakeholders’ forum on speed limiting device. It also compelled him to seek the support of relevant stakeholders like FERMA on the need for speed calming devices to be installed along strategic corridors.
At the stakeholders’ forum which was put together in collaboration with Leon Du Plessis, an expert on vehicle speed limiting device from South Africa, the Corps Marshal recalled that the issue of speed has been on the front burner of WHO advocacy as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of a crash and the severity of the injuries that result from crashes.
Going forward, WHO and the Global Road Safety Partnership in a publication “Speed Management: a Road Safety Manual for Decision Makers and Practitioners”, has recommended that speed limits be introduced in every country as part of the global strategy to cut down road fatalities.
Interestingly, the Corps Marshal also stated that the forum was arranged because of the need to educate the public, drivers and fleet operators on the importance of speed limiting devices in vehicles as a means of achieving safer road use. With the crash trend last year and the improved road network, the Corps greatest challenge in 2013 will be on how to tackle excessive speeding.