MANAGING SPEED

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ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

Since the debut of this column, my focus has revolved around prevalent driving behavioral pattern such as excessive speed, impaired driving- driving under the influence of alcohol, driving and phoning, fatigue/rage driving, non use of seat belt/child restraints, overloading, dangerous overtaking, indulgence in night travels, use of substandard tyres-worn out tyres, over/under inflated tyres, mechanical deficient vehicles, under aged driving among others.

 Tyre was my focus for about three weeks but today, I wish to again focus on excessive speed with the above caption which incidentally was the theme for the 4th United Nations Global Road Safety Week which commenced from the 8th of May to the 14th of the same month. The activities included press briefings, advocacies, executive walk with the grand finale which was a Jumat prayer for Muslim faithful on 12th may and thanksgiving service on Sunday for Christians. No doubt the events were well attended by stakeholders across the country .Its focus on speed underscores the FRSC ongoing efforts with the enforcement of speed limiter commencing with commercial vehicles which is no doubt a bold commentary in keeping with the global trend to curtail speed.

 I know  some of the issues I wish to focus on may   not  be within the purview of the Corps but it is crucial we thinker on these posers thrown to me some years back in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory by a female applicant for drivers license who after being drilled on the various traffic signs as part procedure for procuring a drivers license, she turned to me and asked, “Jonas please why are you guys wasting my time with questions on  road signs we only see in the highway code but are obviously absent on our roads”. Although I explained all she needed to know, her worries were no doubt my focus in the piece titled, NAKED ROAD.

 In that piece, I lamented on the absence of appropriate road furniture and the danger such portends in our drive to promote safety. Traffic signs are no doubt contained in The Nigeria Highway Code which describes traffic signs as signs erected at the side of or above roads to inform or give instructions to road users .These signs according to the Highway Code, vary in shapes and colors. One such sign is the regulatory signs. The speed limit sign falls within this category. On page 73 of the Highway Code, speed limit is listed for different types of vehicles. They range from 50 to the maximum speed limit of 100km/ph. As we reflect on the just concluded events, one crucial intervention needed on our highways is ensuring appropriate road furniture especially the signs on speed which are rarely posted on our major highways decorate our roads and make driving pleasurable.

Although other signs are equally important, excessive speed is at the core of the traffic injury problem.  It is the major determinant of the extent of injury .It influences both crash risk and crash consequences. The physical layout of the road and its surrounding can both encourage and discourage speed. However, crash risk increases as speed increases especially at junctions and while overtaking. The effect of impact speed on the risk of death for pedestrians is colossal, but for vehicle occupants also, injury severity increases with impact speed. The higher the speed of a vehicle, the shorter time the driver has to stop and avoid a crash. This is why the possibility of fatal injury increases from close to zero to almost 100% as the change in impact speed increases from 20km/h to 100km/h.

 A car travelling at 50km/h will typically require 1.3metres to stop while a car travelling at 40km/h will stop in less than 8.5metres.An average increase speed of 1km/h is associated with a 3% higher risk of a crash involving an injury. Travelling at 5km/h above a road speed limit of 65km/h results in an increase in the relative risk of being involved in a casualty crash that is comparable with having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05g/dl. For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80km/h, the likelihood of deaths is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30km/h. It is because of the grave risk involved that a maximum speed limit of 100km/h for private cars and 90km/h for taxis and buses is set on the expressway while at built up areas such as commercial and residential areas; 50km/h is the speed limit although like I pointed out earlier these are rarely posted to guide travelers.

 Excessive speeding is an irresponsible driving habit that requires immediate change. However, each  time I worry over this behavior, I  remember the major theories of behavior change such as the social cognitive theory which proposes that people are driven not by inner forces, but by external factors. This model suggests that human functioning can be explained by a triadic interaction of behavior, personal and environmental factors often known as reciprocal determinism. Environmental factors represent situational influences and environment in which behavior is preformed while personal factors include instincts, drives, traits, and other individual motivational forces. To change irresponsible driving we therefore need to change the environmental structure which includes erecting the appropriate road furniture.

We must remember that driving hurts physically. It also affects your mental and psychological health. According to Leon James, co-author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare, people are not aware of the negative emotions that surge through them while driving. “Driving,” he points out, “is an activity in which you are surrounded by hundreds of people having negative emotions, and the whole system is based on whether it’s cooperative or antagonistic.”The warfare on the highway exposes us to the health hazards known as road rage which refers to an extreme state of anger that often precipitates aggressive behavior. It also refers to words and gestures or to assault and battery.