ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE
The Federal Road Safety Corps notice of offence sheet usually issued to traffic offenders by operatives of the Corps made pursuant to section 10(4), 28(2) of the FRSC(EST) ACT, 2007 and Regulations 220 of the National Road Traffic Regulations(NRTR), 2012 list 38 offences, their codes, penalty points and penalty or fines. Dangerous driving violation which is our focus for this week is incidentally one of the traffic infraction listed on the offence sheet. It is also one of the traffic offences listed for reference for mental evaluation. It carries 10penalty points and a fine of N50, 000.This offence is defined as â€˜â€™driving in a manner that is reckless and poses threats to the lives of the driver and other road users, e.g, forcing other vehicles or other road users off the road or engaging in acts that could easily result in crashes or driving at high speed in places of high pedestrian trafficâ€™â€™.
According to Collins dictionary, dangerous driving is the act of driving a motor vehicle in a manner that falls far below that expected of a competent and careful driver and hence puts the life of the driver and the lives of other road users at risk.The FRSC (Establishment) Act in its interpretation section (ie section 30), defines dangerous driving as â€œdriving in a manner that is risky hazardous, perilous, careless, reckless, negligent, and unsafe in any circumstances of the caseâ€.
Based on the above definition, it follows that there is a level of carefulness expected of a competent driver. Who then is a competent driver or what are the qualities of a competent driver? A competent driver is one who is able to drive with care and has the knowledge, skills and attitude to deal with hazards safely following his training in an approved driving school.
Â How do you determine a driverâ€™s competence?Once it is established that a person is legally entitled to drive (i.e having satisfied all the requirement to drive) the next step is determining if the person has the driving skills, attitude and behavior that are right for a particular place and understands the hazards that may be encountered, how to avoid and control them. To ascertain the competence of a driver, the followings are important: Driver Assessments: The best way to evaluate driving skills and attitude is by direct observation. To achieve this, there must be an on staff trainer, a supervisor or an experienced driver that demonstrate the competenciesÂ required by a particular organization, having regard to the type of vehicle or vehicles involved.
Â The second is Re-Assessment of Driver: Driving skills are perishable – lessons learned quickly fade away if not Â Â Â Â applied, hence the need to re-assess drivers to confirm they continue to perform asÂ Â Â expected .The third is Working with Driving Science: Psychometric tools provide valuable insights and help to understand an individualâ€™s driving attitude. Such tools typically use a standardized questionnaire to determine personality trait, propensity to take risks, irritability, distractibility etc. that may translate to undesirable driving behavior. The fourth is to Confirm Driverâ€™s Fitness: This is an essential part of determining if a driver is â€œqualifiedâ€ or fit to drive. Medical conditions and health issues such as sleep apnea heart disease, diabetes, back strains and declining vision increasingly cause or contribute to road crashes, hence the need to encourage drivers to make healthy life style choices.
Â The last has to do with Applying Evaluation Results: engaging employees in exercises that evaluate driving performance yields positive outcome. Every driver should come away with ideas and methods that help them learn skills or maneuver that improve their driving. Most assessment should identify areas that deserve improvement.
Â Having defined dangerous driving, and how to determine a driverâ€™s competence. It is pertinent to enunciate the statutory provisions or penalties for dangerous driving. According to Section 20 of the FRSC (Establishment) Act 2007; A person who causes the death of another by the driving of a motor vehicle Â Â on a highway dangerously or recklessly shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years. Section 21 (1) of the same Act provides that; A person who drives a motor vehicle on a highway dangerously or recklessly shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of fifty thousand naira or imprisonment or a term not exceeding two years or both such Â Â Â Â fine and imprisonment.Â
Before delving into explanations of the two provisions of the FRSC (Establishment) Act above, it is necessary to define or explain certain terminologies in the Section which may be misconstrued such as â€highway.â€ Highways here refers to public roads which according to the interpretation sections of the (Establishment) Act, means any road, whether Federal or State road used by commuters for passage. This is further buttressed by Wikipediaâ€™s definition of highway, which means any public road or other public way on land.
Going by the provisions of Section 20 and 21 of the Act cited above, where death results from a dangerous driving and the driver is found guilty, the penalty is seven years imprisonment without an option of fine, while that from which no death is caused is a fine of fifty thousand naira or a term of two years imprisonment or to both such fine and imprisonment, respectively. It may appear harsh that no option of fine is given under Section 20 of the Act.
Â The reason behind this provision is simple-A lost life cannot be recovered, hence the need for a strict law to deter motorist from driving dangerously.
It is concluded that most road crashes are caused by careless and dangerous driving. Although Nigerian roads needs to be upgraded there is the need for road users Â to exercise all the necessary qualities and competence required of them.