ROAD SAFETY BY Jonas Agwu
She was cute and beautiful. Young and promising. Her life was like a script made in heaven and delivered through mother earth. Lamide (not her real name) was her name. Call her lucky or favored and you would not be far from the truth about her life. Hers was not just about beauty without brains as she equally had good education where she dusted all in her class with a First class degree. Life seemed smooth and easy for her. Even after graduating and completing her compulsory National Youth Service Corps, destiny sorted her out among her peers as she didn’t have to wait for long to be engaged as a staff in a thriving and promising business outlet. Like every young girl her age, she met her dream man and got pregnant. Both agreed to live their dreams and fantasy. They met their families and set a wedding date to consummate her lifelong dream of becoming a mother and a wife.
Tragedy however struck barely few months to the set day. Lamide, whose beauty shone the more with the pregnancy, set out on a journey in a commercial vehicle. Everything about the vehicle was begging for attention; the tyres were worn out while the engine needed some push to start. Even the young man behind the wheels was a sight to behold as he had taken a bottle too many before the journey. Yet all the occupants kept saying that they are confident they will arrive safely; the story was the same for both the Christians and Muslims as well as the unbelievers. Before the journey, one of the occupants notice how the driver was multitasking with his phone and driving. His observations were rebuffed by others who assured that they were familiar with the driver’s competence having boarded his vehicle more than once. Unfortunately their assurance failed as barely an hour after leaving the park, a crash occurred. Strangely, only Lamide died in the crash and that of her unborn child, leaving behind a traumatized husband-to-be. As well as traumatied families.
Lamide was an only child whose parents had made sacrifices for, hoping for a better tomorrow. With her death, their dreams and aspirations died with her. Lamide’s story is one of the numerous tragedies on our roads. Daily, crashes occur, killing, maiming and leaving behind traumatized loved ones, families and sometimes children with no one to care for them. These crashes occur because of certain delusions such as the case cited where despite noticing the state of the tyres, all the occupants played dumb and insisted on the journey. The fact that the vehicle was not mechanically fit was not even a strong safety reason to persuade them to board another vehicle. The driver was an addict; the type who believes like the case with a handful of commercial and even private car driver that their driving is perfected when they drive under the influence of either alcohol beverages or illegal drugs.
For almost thirty-three years, the Federal Road Safety Corps as a knowledge-driven organization has broadened the scope of its awareness campaign strategies as a plank to raising the stakes on safety consciousness to address the scourge of road crashes which, according to the World Health Organization’s report, accounts for annual death of 1.35 million people across the globe. The WHO acknowledges the place of advocacies and training as effective interventions. That is why experts a trained driver as one of the most effective intervention device in curbing road traffic crashes. The driver who killed Lamide would probably have saved her and other occupants if only he or his employers had taken the pain to properly train him. Such a training would have taught im that a
brake applied on a speeding vehicle would result in a possible crash and loss of life
.It is therefore ironic that despite the huge amount people spend buying and showing off with the latest machine (car), very few also bother to properly train their drivers in the modern driving techniques such as defensive driving techniques. Except for multinational companies, rarely do establishments regard drivers as laborers who deserve continuous training and retraining. This is the highpoint of the driving school standardization programme introduced by the Corps as part of measures to change the face of driving in the country. The programme makes it compulsory for all fresh applicants for a driver’s license to undergo compulsory training in one of the certified driving schools in the country. To give credence to this novelty which was a departure from what obtained previously, driving schools were certified and are still being certified while instructors are properly tutored on modern techniques.
Amazingly, despite the huge risk involved in driving, which the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in the United Kingdom describes as one of the high risk vocations, fresh drivers often attempt the quick fix approach. In the words of the experts, increased awareness and compliance to safety rules remain the medicine for safer roads. Our individual role and responsibility lies in a changed driving habit that would ensure that the Lamides of this world can live and fulfil destinies even with increased motorization.
So if you are touched by the circumstances of her death, what would you say of the other cases? The first was another tragedy involving a twenty-nine year old Cynthia who died just a month before her wedding date. Cynthia, according to the report, was on her way to see family members on arrangements regarding the wedding when the tragedy struck.
This incident, according to my friend, involved a commuter bus and a trailer. There was yet another tragedy: the death of a retired officer. I never met Lamide, neither did I know Cynthia. However, I met the officer just once in the course of my career which has taken me across some parts of our beautiful country. I would prefer to refer to him as Emeka . Those who knew him testified that he was a dedicated officer.
Our meeting was incidental. I had just been posted to the Federal Capital Territory some years back as Sector Commander from Imo State where I was Sector Commander for barely eight months. Shortly, on assumption, I proceeded on courtesy visits to various offices. After the visit, I stopped over to see Emeka whose flowery praise of the Corps made me taller than I am. That brief meeting left me with great admiration for Emeka.
We never met again at close range until recently when the news of his death hit me. According to a report, Emeka was involved in a crash shortly after leaving the construction site where he had gone to inspect the construction of his personal property where he hoped to retire. The report quoted a source who said that ‘’He was driving home after checking some a structur being erected when a motorist veered off its track and headed straight for him ’. In an effort to avert a head-on collision, Emeka veered off the road and hit a pole.
During his funeral, accolades were poured on the tough but amiable and soft spoken officer. Some described him as hardworking and passionate .For others, he was a model of an officer Same accolodaes must have been poured on Lamide and Cynthia. Same for those not lucky to survive crashes caused by one irresponsible driver.
As I write, I am not aware of the fate of the driver responsible for Emeka’s crash and ultimate death. May be he died also or maybe he sustained injuries but survived the crash. Whatever his plight, Emeka is no more. His family has been left behind to mourn his loss and to suffer the trauma of losing a loved one; one who served his country and was neither felled by the enemy’s bullet nor of terrorists. He did not die travelling on a long distance journey or on a night trip. He died through a crash caused by a reckless and irresponsible driver.These attitudes form what we describe as delusion among a handful of drivers which is my focus for this week and hopefully next.
Contrast these crashes and other road traffic crashes with any airline crash. Unlike the airline crash victims which attract the whole world attention, drawing sympathy from experts on what may have triggered the crash, Emeka’s death, like those of Lamide and Cynthia, has since been swept underneath. Few analysis. Few concerns, except from close friends and families. Daily, crashes resulting in deaths, injuries and disabilities rarely attract the kind of attention that air crashes do. When there is an air crash, airlines Pilots all get the sledge hammer when there are crashes. Unfortunately, the reverse is the case when there is road crash. It is either swept underneath or the blame shifted to Government for its numerous failures. Nobody x-rays the spate of irresponsible driving which society has tacitly endorsed as cool. However, it must be stated that some of these deaths sometimes occur because of the absence of the necessary and appropriate response. It is unacceptable to have so many men, women and children dying unnecessarily from road crashes in our country. It is even more dismaying, because we all know road traffic crashes are preventable and if they do happen, death is not inevitable. According to the World Health Organization, road traffic injuries remain among the top ten causes of healthy years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death world-wide’’.