ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE BY JONAS AGWU
What really is the reason for this suicide driven travel pattern that addicts maintain is cozy, cheap and also fun. Before I dwell on the reasons adduced by night journey addicts, let me first state here that as I write and reflect on the figures I quoted last week including the recent crashes, my heart beats faster than ever. This is not death arising from terror attack nor militancy, not even from cult -gang clashes but from avoidable road traffic crashes. This is how one of the online media report captured it, ’’An auto accident on the Lagos-Ibadan highway caused the death of 30 people on Thursday night. The spokesperson of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Bisi Kazeem, confirmed the incident to the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday.
Mr Kazeem said the accident occurred at about 8 p.m. at Km 95 around the Elebolo Quary Area on the Ibadan axis of the road. According to him, 10 other persons were injured in the crash involving 40 persons and two Mazda buses. “The crash occurred at a construction site, and it resulted from route and speed violations. “This has further underscored the Corps Marshal, Dr Boboye Oyeyemi’s advice to motorists to avoid night journeys, be careful around construction sites and drive within approved speed limits,” he said. Mr. Kazeem said rescue operations by FRSC officials, who arrived at the scene minutes after the incident, ended at 2:42 a.m. on Friday. He disclosed that the corpses were deposited at Adeoyo Yemetu Hospital mortuary, Ibadan’’.
I have written several times on this death wish yet the apoltles of night travel keep canvassing reasons why they can never give up their free choice which cannot be restricted by law. This is because globally, there is no legislation anywhere in the world that prohibits night travel. However, the FRSC has a mounted a consistent campaign against night travel. While the Corps appreciates the right of individuals in a democracy, the Corps in keeeping with the perculiar Nigerian situation took its stand for several reasons, which in fact culminated in series of workshops held with stakeholders to raise awareness on the dangers involved. While acknowledging the emergence of night travel due to the collapse of rail systems, prohibitive cost of air travel and inadequate inland waterways, the Commission however, took cognizance of the inherent road crash dangers and the need for caution among travelers.
For instance ,the 2003 records shows that out of a report of 10,111 cases, 715 occured at night with about 945 fatal cases. Recall the celebrated case where 70 people lost their lives when two luxury buses collided in the night along Zuba – Gwagwalada road; ditto Ife and Aba crashes. Although few accidents occur at night heavier fatalities and casualty rate usually occur.
But why is FRSC concerned about night journey? One of the obvious reasons is the fact that rescue operation is minimal and most often non-existent in the night. Presently, except for the FCT and other cities in the country, the FRSC team rarely does night patrols along major highways simply because of the dangers involved.
Remember that the outcome of a road crash for the victim in terms of their chances of survival and long term prognosis is affected by the level of available medical care. Unfortunately, ambulance services is still epileptic and even rescue effort are even complicated by the absence of health centers or even the attitude at most hospitals. Consequently, because access to emergency services is poor, death before arrival at the hospital is usually high. In many cases their is no availability of ambulance, and road crash victims rely on passersby for help. Lack of any medical interventions and long dificult journeys to hospitals reduces the chances of survival
Visibilty is another problem. Globally, it is recomended that improving the visibility of road ussers is one of the specific intervention that can yield good results. Seeing and been seeing are fundamental prerequisites for the safety of all road users and their are several ways of enhancing visibilty. The use of extra reflectors on the vehicle or light reflective vests of the thin plastic material is also recommended by the United Nations and is contained the National Road Traffic Regulation, 2004. Illuminating crosswalks, including the flood lighting of pedestrian crossing and increased illumination at crosswalks are also recommended strategies.
Unfortunately, FERMA the lead Government agency charge with road maintenance, our road signs, and marking in terms of their shapes, colour and reflectivity do not meet international standards. The consequencies is that driving is made more difficult and hazardious because of the absence of the appropriate road furnity to guide motorist at night and bad or poor weather. The result is the recourse by fleet operators to violate the provision of the traffic regulation by fixing extra lights, which has led to avoidable crashes and death. This is why FERMA opined that if maximum reflectivity is maintained in our pavement markings, signs and delineators, their would be increase in night time sand poor weather safety on our roads and ultimately fewer crashes injuries and fatalities may be recorded. Retro-reflectivity is a critical element that has help the US Department of transport achieve its safety goals of reducing fatalitiy by 20 percent.
Inadequate visibility because of environmental factors, which makes it hard to detect vehicles and other road users and poor eye sight of road users, are all listed as factors influencing crash involvement. All these are prevalent among night time operators.
Another factor is the excessive speed at which night buses drive. The National Road Traffic Regulation, 2012 is explicit in the speed limit of 90km/hr for buses and taxis on expressways. How many of such buses truly drives at 90km/hr, and how many of us really worry about such speeds even when some of these drivers do so under the influence of alcohol and even illegal drugs? Yet we delude ourselves that we can never be victims.