Still on the Folly of Pedestrian

I have never met Bianca Odumegwu-Ojukwu. I am not sure I ever would. Yet, I pray to meet her. But while I nurse meeting her, I must doff my hat for her bold sacrifice. I am also amazed at her blunt disgust for what we in the Federal Road Safety Corps battle daily at road traffic crash scenes where eye-witnesses are more interested in boosting their social media handles rather than giving a helping hand to road traffic crash victims. Such apathetic behaviour was lampooned by Bianca who vented her spleen on such callousness.

Bianca is a politician, not a road safety operative. She is also a diplomat, lawyer and businesswoman. Bianca is also a former beauty queen having won the Most Beautiful crown in Nigeria, Miss Africa as well as the first African to win Miss Intercontinental. Despite her royalty and accomplishments, Bianca caught my attention when she poured her venom on what she titled, ‘Highway to death’ captured on her Facebook page.

Excerpt of her disgust and pain read thus; “Yesterday 19th Nov 2022 on my way back from a wedding ceremony late afternoon I stumbled upon a horrific accident scene at the Ugwu Onyeama, Enugu Expressway. A tanker had just collided with a coaster bus carrying passengers who were on their way back from an event.

“Mangled bodies covered in blood were strewn everywhere, people had clustered around the scene and the sight was traumatic. I had to make a split second decision whether to move on or to stop. I noticed one of the victims was moving, and requested my drivers to stop…” She shared her pains at our emergency readiness which was absent on that day and did not spare the obvious absence of our operatives at the scene neither the “heartless souls” clicking their phones to capture the agony and dying groans of victims.

Without trying to outdo my learned sister on the floor of the court, it may please her to know that, the Corps since 2009 set in motion strategies at addressing the gap through the establishment of the Emergency Ambulance Service Scheme code named Zebra. Currently there are over 57 Zebra points meant to enhance post-crash response by the Corps in line with Pillar 5 of the United Nations Decade of Action on Road Safety.

The aim of the emergency ambulance service is to avoid preventable death and disability, limit severity of injury and the suffering caused by road traffic crashes in order to ensure the crash survivors best possible recovery and reintegration into society. This is because the level of care/attention that emergency victims receive determines their chances and the quality of survival.

Sadly however is the fact that the federal government’s effort in equipping these ambulance points nationwide is not complemented by state governments and the private sector except a few states such as Lagos. Currently, FRSC boasts of about 145 ambulances which is the highest number of Ambulance fleet in any government agency in keeping with its mandate even though more is needed to achieve a higher level of service delivery.

As we prepare for another celebration in about three weeks’ time, we need to read Bianca’s piece as well as ours and internalize the need for safety. Now to our discussion. Please remember the number one rule which demands that pedestrians and joggers must avoid backing traffic when walking or jogging.

Recently, I noticed a fresh oddity when on two different occasions; I stumbled on senior joggers who prefer biking to jogging. They were seen in dark clothes at the early hours of the day and were riding without appropriate helmets. Generally, the norm among a greater number is to wear dark clothes while jogging.

There are other pedestrians’ behaviour such as walking against a pedestrian walk signal, crossing a street where there is no crosswalk, crossing a street outside of a marked crosswalk where one is present, and walking on a street along with the traffic flow (ignoring designated pedestrian pathways).Because of their vulnerability, pedestrians or joggers while walking in the dark must wear or carry white, bright coloured or reflective clothing so that they can be easily seen because it is difficult for motorists to see a pedestrian dressed completely in dark clothes on the road.

Wearing a light-coloured jacket or trousers and if possible, an item of clothing with a reflective strip on it is also recommended. It is extremely important to ensure that while jogging, you jog on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic whether footpaths are provided or not.

Almost every jogger thinks it is a vogue to wear headphones while jogging. You must avoid wearing headphones as it is often possible to hear traffic before you can see it and if you are wearing headphones, the sound might drown the traffic noise and make you more vulnerable as a pedestrian.

There are other unsafe pedestrian behaviours which also increase the risk of injury or fatality and these behaviors are among the oddities that I observe daily as I jog. They include failure to yield, jogging/walking in the wrong direction which is common not just among joggers but a greater percentage of pedestrians including adults, and wearing dark dresses at night or even early in the morning.

Before I close my thoughts on this piece which is closing today, please permit me to share my near- miss experience with you as I was almost knocked down even though I complied with all of these safety rules. I am hoping that by sharing my experience with you, you will learn and adjust from any form of arrogance or show off while jogging.

As a personal rule of thumb, I comply with the rules for safety while driving or jogging. I am also careful to remember that there is the possibility of being knocked down by a crazy cab driver or even a private car owner even when all the rules have been complied with. I therefore do not joke with the sacred rule that says face oncoming traffic.

On this fateful day, I was doing my stuff, jogging and sweating and very conscious that I had done everything possible to stay safe such as ensuring I was very visible to traffic. I guess I had forgotten the Nigerian maxim that acknowledges the look left, look right rule but expands it by urging you to also look up, look front, and look back because you stand the risk of being run over from any direction within our clime.

I was very sure that I had looked at all the possible directions but I missed one of the greatest caution and that is that whenever you are approaching a fuel station, or even a possible T-junction or Y-junction, you must watch out for drivers who after buying fuel would rather choose to drive against traffic instead of using the legal route of driving. Such drivers usually exhibit their deviant driving behaviour using the hard shoulders or even the walkway. 

What saved me on that fateful day was that even though I was jogging and facing traffic, I also ensured that I jogged very far away from the hard shoulder. I would have been a dead meat if I had been jogging as if I had a right of way of the hard shoulder like most of us do.

My startled near miss experience immediately flashed my mind to how one of our foremost journalists, Dimgba Igwe lost his life while jogging. Although it is more than eight years since the September 6th 2014 incident, the memory is one we must always remember. The Media captured it thus: “Dimgba Igwe, is dead. Dimgba Igwe died on Saturday morning after being hit by a car while jogging on his street in the Okota area of Lagos and was immediately taken to the hospital where he underwent a surgical emergency. He did not survive the impact as he unfortunately died afterwards. The driver, I was told, never stopped to assist.

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