The Global Status Report in 2015 on road safety globally and as it affects Nigeria shows that a lot needs to be done to protect road users on the Nigerian roads, writes KANAYO OFFIONG
StakeholderS in road safety sector have expressed concern about the Global Status Report in 2015 that the total number of road traffic deaths worldwide has risen to 1.25 million annually. They observe that although there has been progress towards improving road safety legislation and making highways safer, the pace of reducing road accidents is slow. They also solicit urgent action to achieve the target for road safety as indicated in the newly adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But traffic regulatory authorities have insisted that in spite of growing concerns over the non-compliance with traffic rules and regulations by motorists in Nigeria, they have adopted measures aimed at stemming the trend. Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi, the head of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), noted that in spite of the measures, road crashes occurred due to non-compliance with traffic laws by road users. “Non- compliance with traffic laws is as a result of lawlessness by some road users which is rampant in the urban areas,” he observed. According to him, use of cell phones and jumping traffic light form aspects of lawlessness among motorists that result in road accidents in some cases.
Oyeyemi explained that the traffic law enforcement agencies were given the responsibility of restoring discipline by apprehending violators and applying sanctions. He said there were 10 mobile courts in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, alongside other conventional courts where those arrested were prosecuted, observing that the commission would soon increase the number of its mobile courts nationwide. Oyeyemi emphasised that speed among motorists had been a contentious issue in ensuring safety globally. “Enforcement of Speed Limiting Device policy is supported by the act that sets up FRSC and for us to attain reduction in road crashes; we need to move on with the enforcement of the policy. “Speed accounts for over 65 per cent of road crashes in the country through which lives and property are lost on daily basis; in Nigeria, speed accounts for 50 per cent of road crashes,” he said. He further said that the FRSC Act was being amended to include community service so that people that had contravened the laws could serve the community as punishment instead of pay fines. He observed that this measure would deter violators because during work hours when they were supposed to be busy making a living, they would be forced to clean the motor parks or sweep public places. “FRSC is also working in collaboration with the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) on the use of breathalyzers to check the alcohol level in the blood system of drivers. “Breathalyzer is for all drivers. We go to the motor parks to conduct this because that is where we have the deviants more. For private drivers, we believe they are more reasonable. However, once in a while, we conduct some random checks on them,” he said.
He acknowledged the effort of traffic law enforcement agencies in restoring discipline by ensuring that the sale of alcohol was banned at motor parks. Supporting the use of breathalyzers, Mr Udeme Eshiet, FCT Sector Head of FRSC Operations unit, said it was useful in detecting the level of alcohol in the blood system of drivers. “When the instrument is used and the level of alcohol is above 0.5 milligramme, it shows that such a driver is not fit to drive,” he noted. Eshiet said that drivers were expected to show a print-out of the test at the beginning of their journey normally in the morning to indicate that they were alcohol free. He added that the weekly rally being done by the road safety headquarters in collaboration with FCT was aimed at enlightening the public on traffic regulations. “This enlightenment rally is a wakeup call for members of the public to resist some evil acts and to make them aware that the giver and taker of a bribe are culpable,” he said. All these measures notwithstanding, Mr Okon Akpan, a driver, attributed violation of traffic rules to lack of training in driving, stress and incomplete vehicle documentation. “I do not violate traffic laws because I am a trained driver. Drivers can violate traffic laws sometimes when they are under stress or when they suspect that law enforcement agents are pursuing them. “They can violate by beating the traffic light while they are speeding to evade the law enforcement agents because their vehicle particulars are not complete,” he observed. He, however, called on road safety personnel to help educate road users when approaching traffic lights and, most importantly, on lanes to use when approaching a bend. Stakeholders also advise that road users should always adopt the necessary defensive driving attitude for safety. “Defensive driving requires drivers to keep in mind the existence of road hazards and get prepared to take safety measure. “They should make allowances for other road users to adjust to the situation, be on the look-out for traffic signs and pedestrian actions that may cause traffic hazards. Aside this, motorists should minimise the chances of accidents from mechanical failure by proper maintenance of vehicles. They must be able to quickly adapt to road conditions while maintaining proper control of their vehicles, Mr Oladunjoye Ige, a motorist and civil servant, said. By and large, the FRSC advised the public to call the emergency toll-free number 122 in the event of accident, emergency or removal of broken down vehicles. NAN