Naked Roads

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ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

This is the second part of my piece on Naked roads which I started last week.If you read the piece,you will recall that I concluded with an introductory focus on the history of road signs to guide our understanding of my focus on the need for appropriate road furnitures to promote safety on our roads.Let me again state clearly that a brief history of emergency road signs will be helpful in appreciating its importance. The earliest road signs were milestones, giving distance or directions. For example, the Romans erected stone columns throughout their empire,giving the distance to Rome. In the middle ages, multi-directional signs at intersections became common, giving directions to cities and towns.

Traffic signs became more important with the development of automobiles. The basic patterns of most traffic signs were set at the 1908 International Road Congress in Rome . Since then, there has been considerable change. Today,they are almost all metal rather than wood and are coated with reflective sheeting of various types of nighttime and low light visibility. Road marking was introduced into the United Kingdom in the 1920’s. The United Nations harmonized and introduced international traffic signs after the second world war. That is why from South Africa in Africa to London in Europe, including the United States of America , their signs all look alike.

In 1995, the United Kingdom had 2, 500, 000 signs and signals, 850, 000 road markings and 700, 000 road studs within roads in England alone. In Nigeria , adequate records of signs are yet to be derived but available records of clustered billboards, which have little possible effect on highways safety, are about 50, 000 from 109 registered outdoor advertising companies.

Road signs are highway pictures provided to assist pedestrians and road users in the safe usage of the highway. They are basically placed at the roadside to impart information to road users on traffic regulations, special hazards and other road conditions. You should not only be familiar with the individual signs, you should recognize the special shapes and colours because the signs are classified and coded according to functions and retro-reflectivity. What then is retro-reflectivity? It is the return of light incident to the source in the direction it came. Retro-reflectivity is the basic quality requirement of highway appurtenances. Retro-reflectivity increases road safety. If some minimum reflectivity is not maintained, the signs, delinators or markings will not accomplish the job it was intended to perform. Our signs, according to FERMA publications, are yet to be of international standard. Except for roads in some parts of Abuja, Lagos, and now Akwa ibom, our highways are yearning for United Nations international standard signs and markings both in shape, colors and above all in retro-reflectivity.

The manual on uniform traffic control devices requires that signs and pavement markings should be reflectionised or illuminated. The concern for retro-reflectivity of pavement markings and signs caused the United States Congress to pass a law in 1993 that requires the federal highways administration to establish minimum maintained levels of retro-reflectivity of sAs 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.