Back Seat Danger



Deputy Corps Marshal Ojeme Erwrudjakpor, is in charge of operations at the national headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Corps. She is the first female Deputy Corps Marshal and also the first female officer to occupy this prestigious and tasking seat with the sole responsibility of path finding the Corps strategies to police our highways among other responsibilities. Before I commit flat footed blunders like the CSKA Moscow players whose arsenals were too weak to trouble my darling Gunners during the first leg of the Europa league quarter finals march played at the Emirates, or my favourite Barcelona who lost steam after a  slim victory against AS Roma in the first leg of the UEFA Champion league quarterfinals, I must halt and inform you that this is not a treatise on an  officer who has shown male officers that like Arsenal, she has  enough arsenal to deploy to stand out as an officer and a gentleman.

The Deputy Corps Marshal last week made my day when she shared with me a video clip which forms the core of this write up. The video came in the form of a news with the heading, ‘’news alert on back seat dangers’’, from where the title of this piece is taken. I have transcribed the news item for your consumption because I know seat belt usage will remain critical in our drive to cut down deaths and injuries arising from road traffic crashes. Please kindly read through and learn from this –‘’Now to a new report about the danger of not buckling up especially if you are in the back seat-a surprising number of adults do not do it. We tell the kids to buckle up no matter what but when it comes to us grownups, when we are right here in the back seat, not so much. If you think you do not have to buckle up, new research is now saying you better think again. When you slide at the back of an Uber or lift or even your own car, many adults are not doing one critical thing-buckling up.

The clip goes on to state the finding of a new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which says that adults riding at the back seat are far less likely to buckle up than when they are seating up front noting that ‘’we have been telling people for years that it is safer at the back seat and that we should put our children back there, but people have gotten a misunderstanding about the safety of the rear seat. It further reinforces expert warning to motorists to buckle up on every trip. It then demonstrates practically a crash involving a family not wearing seat belt-the father and the son at the back seat were violently thrown from their seat while the unbelted woman on the left went flying into the window. The other woman in the car was wearing her seat belt. When passengers at the back seat aren’t buckled up, they are putting themselves at risk but they are also putting other people in the vehicle at risk. Drivers are twice as likely to be killed in a crash when the left back seat passenger is not wearing a seat belt. It concluded with a crash test demonstration in which the unbelted dummy in the backseat slammed into the driver who hits the air bag and steering wheel at a 35miles per hour impact. 

The clips brought my memory back to a piece I did something in 2016 or thereabout titled the FRSC AND REAR SEAT BELT ENFORCEMENT. In that piece I recalled also my numerous press statements as head of media on the need to use seat belt including the rear and the kind of reactions which I got from the public. I received calls, text massages, tweets and other sundry contacts on the issue ranging from outright condemnation, passive inquiry, passionate outcry and a few commendations on the issue. Just like it was in 2003, when we commenced seat belt campaign, the reaction in 2014 was the same; mixed feelings with most of these based on pure ignorance. Even today there are still people who hold on such views.

Here are some of the reactions; Yahaya Usman says, “I rather sell my car than to go for seat belt construction. Sir make una fear God oh and know the kind of policy you are giving us! He continues, “if you want to save lives, u know where to go. But if you want to inflict pain on us its not a new thing. We are used to many pains! Tall (Tallyjena007) say FRSC did not finish with number pleat (sic) issue, now is back sit (sic) belt, they should think before making this policies while Akin Raphael Akinsipe maintains that the intention is money making, since having lived in the UK for over ten years, he knows that wearing seat belt for back seat passenger is only compulsory for a child less than seven years. Bassey Unaowo says FRSC with its Corps Marshal is out to exploit Nigerians again, bla bla la. And so many other such indicting comments, too numerous to mention here.

 I did receive quite some responses that support the initiative. Iffiok Akpanim wrote to say that God used it to save his life in 2010 when he ran into a deep ditch, was thrown up and rolled sideways. He came out unscratched. Eye@cike864 sounded quite irritated in his outburst. “For God’s sake seat belts are affordable … and are available in all motor spare parts! HABA NAA! I commend FRSC” wish there was enough space to show all the comments, as they make for interesting reading on people’s perception of the implication of the use of seatbelt.  I have chosen to run this piece because it is vital that we stay on the path of caution by doing what is right in line with the traffic law. We must avoid unnecessary platitudes but choose to learn  to avoid the kind of regret  the man who in my piece titled, How I killed my unbelted daughter, regretted that the death of his 10 year old daughter could have been averted if only he had insisted that she buckles up at the rear .

Truth is that seat belts save lives. It can’t be put simpler than that. Seat belts have been adjudged to be the most effective traffic safety device for the prevention of death and injury in the event of crash. Wearing a seat belt can reduce risk of crash injuries by fifty percent according to the Global National Safety Council. For those who insist that the use of seat belt is not an issue  it is hoped that the deaths arising from non use will compel us to do the right thing. Remember that it is over 15years since the Corps launched a decisive enforcement on the use of front occupant seat belt nationwide. One could say without fear of contradiction that the launch was extremely successful with about 90% compliance level recorded all over the country. For the last five years or so we have been mounting advocacies on the need for all to buckle up as a strategy to minimize crash causative factors inherent in these.

Nigeria, like most other African countries is witnessing population explosion with its attendant vehicular increase and activity on the roads. Juxtaposed against this with the skyrocketing technology advancements…… High-tech vehicles, high tech gadgets (with high-tech distractions),. While the FRSC is totally focused on battling to ensure that the reduction of crashes to the barest minimum is achieved even in the face of the distraction, it nevertheless must put in place machinery to ensure that in the event of a crash, minimum level of injuries and fatalities are recorded. That is the all-encompassing mandate. The Federal Road Safety Commission Establishment Act 2007, part 2, section 10 (4) (ee) mandates members of the Corps to arrest and prosecute persons reasonably suspected of having committed any traffic offence including driving a vehicle not fitted with seat belt or where fitted, not wearing same while the vehicle is in motion. The National Road Transport Regulation 2012, part XII 126(1) stipulates that every vehicle shall have fitted in the front and REAR SEAT, seat belt and child safety seat which shall be securely won by the driver and THE OTHER OCCUPANTS of the vehicle while the vehicle is in motion.