ROAD SAFETY ARTICLES

SPEED MANAGEMENT 2018

The message,’’ speed thrills but kills’’, and ‘’don’t kill the child ,kill your speed’’ are two of my favorite   messages crafted by the Federal Road Safety Corps  to re-enforce its  awareness strategies as a critical plank to checkmate excessive speed which ranks tops among causative factors responsible for road traffic crashes in the country. While the first was crafted before I was deployed to the media unit some years back as spokesman for the Corps, the second message was coined by a team under my watch to drive home the child safety campaign which I initiated in collaboration with some Non-Governmental Organizations’ such as Safety Beyond Borders and Arrive Alive just to mention a few.

Based on road users’ feedback, these messages are on point in driving home the urgent need for motorists to detour from the killer habit of driving above the stipulated speed limits with its inherent risks. There are however some deviants who think differently. One of such deviants is my friend and classmate Toye, who thinks that such messages are mere time wasting. At almost 60years of age, Toye nicknamed by some classmates as’ the speed freak’ is a weird driver who believes that driving is no fun without the accompanying risks of excessive speeding which to him is the hallmark of a competent driver .During our days   at the prestigious University of Lagos, Akoka, I was always the first to opt out of a journey once I confirm that Toye would be the man behind the wheels. I was always called a   coward, although few colleagues were too timid to opt out of such trips for fear of being tagged, cowards too.

Despite Toye’s so called bravery, I recall vividly that on two occasions, he had near misses while driving from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital to Lagos after attending a weekend birthday party of a classmate. Yet, Toye remained unrepentant in his adventurous driving style.

My friend Toye is not a loner in this business of excessive speeding. Besides educated drivers like him, there are lots of drivers who believe that the hallmark of good driving is excess speeding. For some, speed and dangerous maneuvering are all the ingredients that make for good driving. In fact, among male drivers, the best way to show off their driving skills is to over speed. The story is not different for young and novice drivers.I recall a case when a caller on a road safety awareness programme on television advised that the maximum should speed be increased from 100km/ph to 180 or 200km/ph if we are serious about checkmating excessive speeding. The caller argued that the reason people exceed the speed limit is because the current speed of 100km/ph is meant for retired and old drivers

Globally, drivers like Toye are giving safety professionals plenty worry on how to curtail the spate of excessive speeding and the attendant consequences. One of such road safety practitioners is a leading road policing officer in the United Kingdom who recently expressed his support for punishing drivers caught speeding by even 1km/ph. Chief constable Anthony Bangham, a Police Chief in England, came under hammer after he suggested that drivers exceeding the speed limit by a fraction as little as   1km/ph should be prosecuted. He maintained that the existing leeway gives out the wrong signal and could be contributing to increasing injuries on the roads. According to him the present guidance   leads drivers to think ‘it is okay to speed’. The Police chief therefore warned his colleagues that there is the need to change road safety messages by ensuring the deployment of   greater consistency of approach when dealing with those who exceed the speed limit.Mr. Bangham observed that fatalities increased by 4% in 2016 after years of decline, and admitted the police approach ‘appears to be failing’.

He wondered why there was partiality in the treatment for drivers. According to him where there is widespread public support for action against drink-drivers, those who use mobile phones at the wheel and those who do not wear seatbelts, crackdowns on speeders are ‘actively resisted’ despite the fact that speeding was a factor in 15% of fatal crashes in 2015.Under current policing guidelines, motorists are not stopped if they are driving at up to 10% over the limit – and they are often given an extra 2km/ph allowance on top of that. This he noted, means that a motorist could go up above the speed limit at built up areas without facing punishment. Like I said earlier, some think his views deserves consideration  as they observe  that under the existing existing speed enforcement guidance, the 10 percent  plus two rule in England, gives drivers the impression that travelling above the speed limit is acceptable . There are however those who think differently, although current speed enforcement guidelines for police set in 2011 are being looked at. The findings of the review will be considered by all chief constables before any action is taken

I am constrained by Constable Anthony’s bold comments which I must confess I share, to focus again on excessive speeding; a prevalent driving behavioral pattern. I had focused on other behavioral tendencies such as 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 you will recall has always been my major focus but today, I wish to again focus on excessive speed which was once selected as the theme for the 4th United Nations Global Road Safety Week which held between 8th-14th May, 2017 to address the risk factor for road traffic deaths and injuries. The focus underscored the FRSC ongoing efforts with the enforcement of speed 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 although the Ministry of Works and Housing is currently addressing these issues especially with the partnership with the Corps Signage plant. 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.