Still on The Naked Road


As I conclude today, let me remind you that a pavement marking that is not reflectorised or illuminated, according the Federal Road Maintenance Agency,( FERMA), is like a cosmetic application of white powder on a lady’s face that wears off with little perspiration. But a pavement marking is meant for safety and not for aesthetics. It is not meant to be like applied lipstick on a woman’s lips, which sticks to the drinking cup after few sips.

  Pavement marking is meant to be of a high luminous intensity and not to be picked (stuck to) up by vehicle tyres after few passes (sips).It is expected that if minimum retro-reflectivity is maintained in our pavement markings, signs and delineations, there will be increase in night-time and poor weather safety on our roads and ultimately fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities will be reported. 

 Retro-reflectivity is a critical element that has helped US Department of Transport achieve its safety goals of reducing fatalities by 20%. Your knowledege of the traffic rules and regulations is of crucial importance as it ensures good driving culture.  Remember the biblical injunction which says obedience is better than sacrifice.  Let it be your key phrase always.Learn the signs and obey them.The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Japan have made significant progress in redressing road crash. Underlying this progress is the consciousness on the part of motorists to do it right while realizing the need to adopt new approaches to road safety. One of these new approaches to road safety is the safe system approach which requires that the road system be designed to expect and accommodate human error, recognising that preventive efforts notwithstanding, road users remain fallible and crashes will invariably occur. It exploits synergies between measures that address infrastructure, vehicles and driver behavior when they are designed in concert. The basic strategy of a safe system approach is to ensure that in the event of a crash, the impact energies remain below the threshold likely to produce either death or serious injury. This threshold will vary depending upon the level of protection offered to the road users involved. For example, the chances of survival for an unprotected pedestrian hit by a vehicle diminish rapidly at speeds greater than 30km/h, whereas for a properly restrained motor vehicle occupant, the critical impact speed is 50km/h for side impact crashes and 70km/h for head-on crashes.

Le me  share this story to drive home the point:Samuel Ketusa lived at Aladimma Estate in Owerri, with his wife and two beautiful children.  He had everything, or almost, everything working for him: a well paid job, 3-bedroom apartment, and some savings in his account for the proverbial rainy day.  He also had been able to buy good cars for himself and his wife. His children were in one of the best private primary schools in Owerri.

 One day, on his way back from the office, his wife called him to help her buy corned beef for dinner. Parking his car on the opposite side of the supermarket, he began to cross the road. He never made it to the other side.  A Peugeot 307 seemed to race out of nowhere to ram into him, sending him flying into the air and landing some meters away on the other side of the road. He was dead before the horrified crowd could get to him.

 Bebe Ofuru used to sell food items in the market place. She was struggling to complement her husband’s income as a security man at a construction company in Apapa.  Most mornings, her selling endeavour commenced on the road, where she hawked pure water and puff-puff to motorists and their passengers, before proceeding to her corner in the market. One fateful morning, Bebe was just rounding up her road side hawking, when a motorbike broke free from the line-up of vehicles in the traffic hold-up, and in an attempt to beat the queue, crashed into her as she was finishing up a transaction with a vehicle occupant.  Nobody could explain what happened, but Bebe ended up paralysed from the waist down. 

Bebe and Samuel had one thing in common.  They were both pedestrians.  Pedestrians face the greatest danger on the road.   And they form the largest category of road users. They cut across all levels and all socio-economic strata of every society globally.  The need to avert the daily risks faced by these categories of road users forms the thrust of the 2013 United Nations Global Road Safety Week with the theme “Pedestrian Safety”. Slated from 6-12 April, 2013, the aim is to improve global road safety as part of UN resolution. According to the World Health Organisation, for too long, road safety has been viewed through the lens of motorists, ignoring the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.  The Global Road Safety Week will draw attention to the urgent need to better protect pedestrians worldwide, generate action on the measures needed to do so and contribute towards achieving the goal of the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011 -2020 to save 5million lives.

Some of the actions that can be taken by countries to improve pedestrian safety as recommended by the United Nations include:  raising awareness of existing traffic laws on speeding, drinking and driving; increasing enforcement of the above traffic laws; improving lighting around facilities used by pedestrians; removing objects from streets which block facilities used by pedestrians; improving the safety of routes to and from schools; encouraging the use of reflective materials by pedestrians.   

On a long term basis, the following should also be considered: installing and/or up-grading sidewalks, crosswalks, raised medians, road signs and signals; lowering vehicle speed limits and introducing speed calming devices; developing and enforcing new and existing traffic laws on speeding, driving under the influence, distracted driving and walking, and pedestrian right of way; restricting and diverting vehicles from pedestrian zones; establishing and ensuring vehicle safety standards which protect pedestrians; providing education and training to all road users and the public generally.

Most of these recommended interventions are lacking in most parts of the country. However, in the case of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the on-going construction of about 6 pedestrian bridges along strategic locations such as the airport road, Kubwa road and the Municipal under the auspices of the World Bank Safe Corridor project and similar initiatives in Lagos and few other states, are strong indicators that things are gradually looking up in this direction even though there is still more needed to be done.

Pedestrians constitute a major group at risk of death, injury and disability on the road. Perhaps it would be pertinent to pause here and first establish what we mean by that term “pedestrian”.According to the internet dictionary, Wikipedia, a pedestrian is a person going on foot on the road, whether walking or running.  Those using tiny wheels like roller skates, skate boards, wheel chairs, etc are also included as pedestrians.Plainly put, we are all pedestrians. On any given day, we choose to walk to and from our various destinations, or, at a minimum, we begin and end most trips on foot.

Thankfully, walking requires no fare, no fuel, no licence, and no registration!A pedestrian is also known as the exposed road user.  He has no box protection like the occupant of a vehicle. He is liable to direct contact with mishap of any kind.According to WHO, pedestrian deaths are highest in Africa.  As a matter of fact, more than 5,000 pedestrians are killed on the world’s roads each week. Quite frightening when you multiply this with the fifty weeks of the year!!  The group of pedestrians most involved in road traffic crashes are children, the elderly and adults under the influence of alcohol and drugs.