ROAD SAFETY By Jonas Agwu
amnipr, mcipr,mprsa,arpa Assistant Corps Marshal
Zonal Commanding Officer Federal Road Safety Corps.
Today, I wish to draw the curtains on my focus on RAIDS, an acronym for ROAD ACCIDENT IMMUNE DELUSION SYNDROME. I do not know if you read the first part published last week. If you did, I do not know if you were touched by the circumstances of Lamide’s death. If you were, then I believe you will equally be worried by the circumstances of the other cases that will be cited in the concluding part
I am sure you still remember the lone fatal crash which occurred on 8th December, 2020 at the Rigachikun bridge along Zaria – Kaduna road. It involved a Toyota commercial bus which left seventeen passengers dead as a result of speed violation and tyre burst. There was also the head-on collision involving a white Sienna Bus and a Sharon Bus which resulted to an inferno that burnt seventeen passengers beyond recognition along the Akwanga –Keffi road on 9th January, 2021.
Last year, there were worst scenarios involving articulated and heavy duty vehicles operators who convey livestock and perishable goods across the country. It is common practice for drivers of these vehicles to overload their trucks with goods while passengers “perch” on the trucks for long distant trips of more than 800km, thus exposing the passengers to obvious traffic hazards. I hope to focus on this category of irresponsible driving and the havoc they create as well as current government effort to redress this next week.
For today, please allow me to re-paint with the same brush two other tragedies .The first one involved 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 structure 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 accolades 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 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.
An x-ray of these crashes will reveal one prevailing factor which is RAIDS. RAIDS is therefore an attitudinal challenge among road users that often leads to avoidable crashes. Although these crashes could also be attributed to mechanical and environmental factors, majority of them are linked to human factor (attitude): brake failure, loss of control, speed violation, fatigue, poor vehicle maintenance culture, drunk driving, distracted driving and other related factors
These attitudes form what we describe as delusion among a handful of drivers which has been my focus since last week. The crashes and deaths cited occurred because of what we call immunity delusion-“delusion is an idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder”. RAIDS therefore, refer to a delusional situation under which motorists operate as if immuned from road traffic crashes. This has remained a recurring trend over the years and no doubt, pose a major threat to the Federal Road Safety Corps renewed drive to change the narrative on road traffic crashes in Nigeria.
What this means is that the typical road user is unfazed by the numerous arguments put together by the Federal Road Safety Corps to tilt irresponsible driving. There are those who brag about their faith in God Almighty. This category will be quick to reject death through road traffic crash yet they will indulge in night travel despite the inherent risk involved.
There is another category whose boast is on the kind of car they drive-American speck which multiple airbags for their safety .This category forget that airbags and seatbelt are effective in a crash situation where the necessary safety rules were complied with. I recall a case where some young travelers after taking a bottle too many, crashed onto a stationary articulated vehicle. The six occupants all died in that single crash. Although the airbag came on, yet the combined seat belt and airbag couldn’t save simple because certain safety rules such as speed and driving under the influence had been broken. These were compounded by the impact of the crash on the occupants
Contrast these crashes and other road traffic crashes with any airline crash. In the case of road crashes, driver and passenger delusion are prevalent. In air crashes, it is often about Pilot error just as we just learnt in the case of the crash involving American professional basketball player, Kobe Bryant. Meanwhile, 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’’.