ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE
I was driving when I saw the flash of a traffic camera. I figured that my picture had been taken for exceeding the limit even though I knew that I was not speeding. Just to be sure, I went around the block and passed the same spot, driving even more slowly, but again the camera flashed. Now I began to think that this was quite funny, so I drove even slower as I passed the area once more, but the traffic camera again flashed.
I tried a fourth and fifth time with the same results and was now laughing as the camera flashed while I rolled past at a snail’s pace. Two weeks later, I got five ticket in the mail for driving without a seat belt. You know, you just cannot fix stupid.
Before you assume that the, ‘I’ in this piece refers to me, please kindly dismiss the thought as I was not the one driving. Someone sent or shared this with me, and I must confess I found it strange, foolish and the height of irresponsibility. For those who were privileged to be born when God brought me to this beautiful country, it is a proper opening script for the popular BBC sitcom written by Raymond Allen and starring Michael Crawford as Spencer and Michele Dotrice as Betty Spencer in, ‘Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em’,(Some Mothers Do Have Them). The popular series was the delight of television viewers some years back. It was the story of Frank Spencer, a well- meaning yet accident-prone chap. Some of our drivers will floor Spencer in the choices they make while driving. I hope you do not drive like Frank Spencer?.
Although the above scene did not happen in our clime where we are yet to install the appropriate infrastructure to capture bad driving and promote safer roads, the incidence cited partly captures and reflects some of the increasing bad and irresponsible driving behaviour that we see daily across the land; in Abuja, the seat of Government and in Lagos the centre of commerce. The story is not different in other parts of the country. The behaviour has no respect for class or sex as both the privileged and underprivileged compete to outdo each other in increasing risk driving behaviour in our land. Both male and female drivers rank among potential culprits while some colleagues in uniform do not fare better
If you read my series on ‘How to nail killer drivers and the follow up piece, ‘Time to nail killer drivers’, as well as ‘Death penalty for killer drivers’ , you will understand the point I am driving at. Between when I published the two materials which focused on bad and irresponsible driving and the need to tame killer drivers, several road traffic crashes have occurred after the July crash in Lagos. The crash caused by an unlatched container killed a young lady and others. The bereaved mother of the young lady mother, you will recall, joined others to call for the prosecution of killer drivers.
There were others in Akaeze in Ebonyi State, the one in Enugu as well as the one in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, among others. I am sure you are aware of the recent crash in Lagos which claimed the life of Senator Victor Ndoma Egba’s wife and another occupant. The trip by air, I read was smooth but not so was the trip by road to Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Just when I was reminiscing on her death, my wife drew my attention to the fact that the deceased was among the helpers God brought our way when my son had a challenge with his health which God in His divine mercies has perfected to His own glory. I must confess that I do not have the courage to recount the circumstance because it is one crash too many caused by driver irresponsibility and poor mechanical state of vehicles which ply our roads.
I am however comforted by the fact that as I was reflecting on these crashes, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation ,Boss Mustapha and the leadership of the Federal Road Safety Corps convoked another meeting with stakeholders to address the menace of petroleum tanker crashes. Several recommendations such as provision of soft loans for truck renewal and the enforcement of maximum load capacity of 45,000 litres of petroleum products by trucks operating from the Tank Farms were forwarded to the government.
As you read this piece, this week makes it three. Three weeks of procrastination. Procrastination over this topic and another topic that has become the vogue. A vogue among drivers, commercial motorcyclists popularly called okada riders as well as tricycle riders. Even pedestrians who are more vulnerable are not left out. I am talking about the truth about the use of phone while driving and its inherent risk which some road users would rather stand on its head. Weekly, I foot drag on writing again on the virus called use of phone while driving, myths and truth as well as excessive speeding. Yet again, I intend to push only the topic on the use of phone to the cooler again. Instead, I have chosen to focus on excessive speed or even inappropriate speed which is the number one killer globally.
The opening to this piece which you might have mistaken to be me was one of the reasons for my decision. The crash in Lagos was another. Yet again, a video sent to my old boys’ platform was the third. I do not know when it happened. I however do know where. Like the opening to this piece, I also found it strange and tragic. The video shows a pedestrian bridge at Ladipo bus stop in Lagos. It also shows a car that lost control and drove into the pedestrian bridge. According to the commentator in the video, the driver of the vehicle died while two other passengers; a lady and a boy were critically injured.
All the incidents cited including my introduction as well as the Ladipo incident brought to my memory the relevance of the ongoing enforcement on speed limiter by FRSC which has been my focus on this page several times. The enforcement involves both commercial and private vehicles although ongoing enforcement focuses on commercial vehicles who presently account for a significant percentage of crashes and fatalities? If you are a fleet operator or planning to be one, you should pay particular attention to this new enforcement to curb the increasing incidence of speed related crashes which over the last years has given the leadership of the Corps great concern.
Statistics available to the Corps indicates that excessive speed ranks as the highest causative factor, accounting for over 38.87percent of crashes on our roads. Dangerous driving is the second highest. This is despite the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations which spells out the speed limits for various categories of vehicles on our roads. While the law specifies 100km/h for private cars for private cars on the expressway, the same law specifies a speed limit of 90km/h for taxis and buses. Trailers and Tankers have a maximum speed of 60km/h and 45km/h for towing vehicles while in a build-up area, the speed limit could be between 20-30km/h to 50km/h.
Despite this prohibition on speed, excessive speeding remains on the increase even though research findings indicate that at a speed of a 1000km/h, your vehicle does 28metres per hour. This development prompted the Corps to midwife the installation of speed limiters in vehicles. It held nationwide stakeholders’ fora on speed limiting devices and called on relevant stakeholders such as the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) on the need for speed calming devices to be installed along strategic corridors. Across the country, various stakeholders threw their weight behind the new initiatives, stressing the significance of speed limiters in the campaign to check excessive speeding in the country. They noted that the issue of speed had been on the front burner of the World Health Organization (WHO) advocacy as a key factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of crash and the severity of the injuries that result from crashes. They added that the WHO and Global Road Safety Partnership, in a publication, ‘’Speed Management on road safety Manual for decision makers and practitioners’’ recommends that speed limits be introduced in every country a part of the global strategy to cut down road fatalities.
So, what really is speed? Speed according to Adewale Akande, in a paper. ‘’Excessive Speed as a vital Human Factor in Road Traffic Accidents,’’ is defined as exceeding the posted limit or driving too fast under stipulated or normal conditions. Speeding is deemed to have occurred when an individual is travelling above the accepted legal speed limit on any road. Speed limit varies between roads as was cited earlier. For emphasis, the maximum speed limit is 100%km/h and 50km/h in built up areas. It is the obligation of the traffic law to signify any change in speed between routes. Speed limits are introduced to promote greater road safety and prevent environmental pollution such as noise and smoke.
In a safety research conducted by the centre for Automotive Safety Research at Adelaide University in South Australia a few years ago, it was found that for every 5 kilometer per hour, increase in vehicle speed over the limit in a 60km/h zone, the risk of crashing doubles. The research explains further that a driver travelling at 70km/h faces four times the risk of a driver traveling at the speed limit. Further research on excessive speed states that, when the stopping distance increases, other manoeuvres to avoid crashes become more difficult and complicated. It states that gravity or severity of an impact or crashes increases with high speed and the possibility for other road users to communicate and perceive the intentions of the road users in time to react appropriately decreases as does the ability to detect hazards.
Excessive speed has been critical in crashes recorded over the years. Speeding is often a deliberate and calculated behaviour where the drivers knows the risk but ignores the dangers that might be involved. The Corps’ major challenge has been the synergy to enforce this law on speed limiters and the relevant infrastructure to checkmate excessive speeding among other road users. Speed laws have penal codes in some countries, where a dangerous or reckless driver is either charged fines, get penalty points added to his driving license or is liable to many years in imprisonment if found guilty. It is gladdening that the FRSC has this point system in place.
Most importantly, to achieve the goal of tackling the speed factor through speed limiters, relevant government departments, public health, the judiciary, non-governmental organizations, security agencies, the media and motorists have roles to play. It is pertinent to note that this speed campaign was adopted by Tanzania in 2003, Kenya in the same 2003, Uganda in 2004 and Zambia in 2005. The examples from these Africans countries speak of success despite the initial hiccups.
For example, the Kenya government implemented compulsory speed limiters on all public services vehicles and heavy goods vehicles in 2003.Since November 2003, fatal injuries in public services vehicles reduced by approximately 70%. The result was an incredibly positive impact on the country’s national economy and gross domestic products. Insurance companies subsequently reduced insurance premiums as a result of reduced accidents claims while commuters enjoy safer travelling conditions. Hospitals were less crowded and could give better attention to other patients. Equally, there was reduced national health expenditures on road accident injuries, vehicles lasted longer with lower fuel consumptions due to reduced speed and there was a reduction in harmful emissions.
I believe strongly that the time to frontally confront the menace of crashes caused by excessive speeding is now. Like I pointed out in the opening, it is imperative to approve and deploy the appropriate and relevant infrastructure and technologies needed to improve safer roads in the country. Road safety is a capital-intensive venture that thrives on the deployment of the appropriate technologies.