Attitude: The Change We Need to Reduce Road Crashes (II)
Santos Uduak Idris (not real name) is a Nigerian based in Europe. Shortly after graduation from the University at the age of 21; he left the shores of Nigerian to pursue his dreams. Like most people his age, he had dreams. He also had plans to someday, return home a fulfilled man. Two years ago, Santos, now 58, set sail on one of such plans to come home and put up a befitting structure where he would relocate with his beautiful wife and lovely kids. Before the visit, he shipped a vehicle and delegated a family friend to clear the vehicle to ease movement while in the country.
Santos flew for six hours and arrived the country safely. Twenty four hours after his arrival; he set out on a long journey by road to his village. On the day of the journey, everything looked set: bright weather and lots of jokes among family members. As early as 6am, the journey which began at the early hours from Calabar was smooth. After about an hour and a half drive, Santos realised that the driver was not too comfortable with his foreign vehicle. He took over the steering convinced that he was better suited to drive the vehicle. Thirty minutes later, there was a crash.
Santos and every other occupant of the vehicle lost their lives, dashing hopes of dependants, his dreams. Santos; I was informed, was advised before his arrival not to drive having been out of the country for a long while. Santos may have been a good driver compared to the other but having been out of the country for long, he was obviously not familiar with the driving topography unlike the other driver. The tragic story of Santos and his family is like that of one of my favourite Igbo artistes, Mc Loph who according to media reports, was advised by his mechanic not to drive the vehicle because it was mechanically faulty.
Even his Pastor, we equally learnt, advised him against travelling with the vehicle or by road. He ignored both advice and crashed along Lagos-Benin expressway with his wife-to be and the only sister The two stories are common especially with chauffer driver bosses who are easily provoked to order their driver out of the vehicle for them to driver long distance on route they are not even familiar with.
This is why the UN DECADE OF ACTION list public education as the 4th Pillar. Public education has remained the strength of FRSC in our efforts to change driving habits some of which I listed briefly last week. My focus is on the attitude of the average motorists which is central in our collective drive to make our roads safer. As a safety practitioner, attitude is predominantly our bane. But if you ask the average motorists, he would prefer to blame all the crashes, the number of deaths recorded on our roads and the injuries sustained on ignorance. Most would rather push the blame to government and its agencies.The parent who allows his son of sixteen to drive would hold government responsible for not clamping down on underage driving. The licenced driver who indulges in excessive speed would blame the Ministry of Works or FERMA for the crash and not his penchant for speeding which is a violation of the law and which is critical in the event of a crash.
What exactly do you think is wrong with the average motorists ? What do you think is responsible for the avoidable crashes and deaths on our roads? Bad road, bad vehicles or bad usage of the vehicles and the road? Why would we lose about 1936 lives through 2717road crashes in just six months in 2012 compared to 2235crashes in 2011 which killed 2218people?Why does the average motorists indulge in violating laid down traffic rules? Why do convoy drivers believe they are above the law that governs speed, overtaking and decent driving? Why would such convoy drivers with VIP and armed uniform personnel whose arms are bought with the tax payers, money jump traffic lights and assault motorists for daring to question them while the government official or very important dignitaries keep mute?
The same dignitary whose life is as fragile as yours and mine? Why would a mother or a husband and his lively son jump into their car bought for over two million naira strap themselves with a seat belt, yet dump their lovely child at the back seat of the car without any protection even when all efforts are made to educate this same parents on the danger of their action? Why would this same parent hear of the death of a child because the child was not strapped in a car seat and yet hide under some spirituality by declaring that ‘’God forbid, it is not my portion? Why would a learner driver like the one I saw recently in the Federal Capital Territory carry children when the law prohibits a learner from carrying anybody except the licensed instructor. This same learner was equally phoning with her children in the car.
Why do we dare God by our actions on the wheel? God says obedience is better than sacrifice. That same God commands that none should kill. He never listed the instruments which means that if you kill anyone through your reckless driving, you certainly run foul of God’s commandments. Why do we forget that of all the laws or commandment of God ,love your neighbour is the greatest of all. Yet in our usage of the road, rarely do we have consideration for the other motorists.
Is it Ignorance or just sheer attitude?, Everyday critics bombard us with how little effort we(the Federal Road Safety Corps) have put in educating motorists. A good number blame the okada madness on ignorance. They also blame the bad driving on same ignorance. Even some Non-Governmental Organisations feel same as they keep blaming the Federal Road Safety Corps for the level of ignorance pervading among drivers and responsible for the increase in road crashes. Some are modest enough to describe our various strategies as pure waste and directionless.
Other observers are always quick to scream crucify the Corps for what they often would describe as not doing enough to raise the bar of awareness of motorists, almost 25 years after the establishment of the Corps. One of the statutory mandate of the Corps as contained in the Federal Road Safety Commission Establishment Act,2007 among others is to educate the motoring public on the proper use of the road.
The mandate explains why the Corps published and revised the Highway Code, which like what is obtainable in other societies, is the bible for safe driving. It explains why we embarked on last week’s awareness campaign without enforcement. Having interacted with road users of all shades, I can bet my life that our problem is not the roads. Neither is it the vehicles but attitude.