Regulators could do more to save lives

To many Nigerians, death by Road Traffic Crashes (RTC) is no longer news. It becomes news only when a prominent citizen is involved or casualty figures in a specific incident are high. What is more painful is that many of the crashes are preventable. In the latest series of carnage that now define road travels in the country, no fewer than 20 persons died last weekend in a multiple accident along Bode-Saadu-Jebba highway in Moro local government of Kwara State.

One of the major causes of RTC, identified by Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), remains the behaviour of many road users. People will continue to violate traffic rules and drive with impunity when they know they can get away with it, which is more of what is happening today. The FRSC has to embark on awareness campaigns through seminars, road walks, rallies on the need for drivers to use their seat belts or wield the big stick. Certainly, seat belts are not mere ornaments. They are safety equipment which may not be 100 per cent reliable but they could save life when it matters.

Seat belts are standard safety equipment of every modern car to cushion the impact of a car crash on the occupants, particularly the driver and the passenger in the front seat. In studies carried out in many developed countries – from Sweden to the United States – it had been proved statistically that seat belt, if properly worn, greatly reduces the risk of death and injury in the majority of car crashes. In a study of 28,000 accidents in Sweden for instance, unbelted occupants sustained fatal injuries whereas the belted in most cases, walked away with minor injuries. Airbag, another safety device in many modern cars, increases the effectiveness of the seat belt but is not a replacement as it does not protect against side impacts. Indeed, many modern cars are equipped with intelligent seat belt reminders. Moreover, the belts are comfortable and can even be slackened.

But in many of the country’s cities and on the highways, the law is observed more in the breach. And this, in addition to reckless driving culture occasioned by making calls or texting on cell phones while on the wheel, drunk driving, poorly maintained vehicles and bad roads to boot have made Nigerian roads theatre of blood. As a way of addressing this challenge, the agency once promised to open a ‘Shame Register’ which would be a sort of black book for notorious traffic offenders regardless of their status in the society. Nothing has ever been heard about that.

The state of the roads is another major cause of accidents. Nigeria’s total highway length of 194,394 km is rated second worst in the world. It is therefore, axiomatic that the deplorable state of the roads accounts for the high rate of deaths. In the first quarter of last year, according to statistics from the FRSC, there were 3,947 road crashes, resulting in 1,758 deaths. “The 3,947 number of Road Traffic Crashes (RTC) recorded in the first quarter of 2020 involved 6,448 vehicles. Out of this number, 1,758 were killed and 11,250 were injured,” according to the Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem.

Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics and that of the FRSC place Nigeria as one of the countries with very high road fatalities in the world. This high turnover of victims on our roads is undesirable given that they are often people in the prime of their productive years, but who unfortunately can no longer play a part in the future of the country. The authorities must do something to contain the menace.