The anguish of travelling on our roads is better imagined. From the state of general disrepair to the recklessness often exhibited by the road users themselves, mostly the commercial drivers. Clearly, our roads are increasingly becoming death traps for travellers, and a high degree of uncertainty as to how any journey would end. That our roads are so bad and dangerous and not safe to the crowded users, no doubt is a statement of fact.
According to the World Health Organisation’s, Global status report on road safety 2015, no fewer than 1.25 million people die each year as a result of road traffic crashes despite improvement in road safety. WHO’s Director General, Margaret Chan, said that though road traffic fatalities take an unacceptable toll, but that in the last three years, 79 countries have seen a decrease in the number of fatalities, while 68 other countries witnessed an increase.
She stressed further that though the number of deaths from road accidents is stabilising even though the number of vehicles worldwide has increased rapidly as well as global population, but the countries that have had the lowest number of deaths achieved this by improving legislation, enforcement and making roads and vehicles safer.
Sadly, about 80 per cent of deaths by road accidents are in developing economies and Africa alone, which accounts for just 11 per cent of the world’s population, takes the lion share of such deaths. This worrisome statistics is unacceptable and preventable.
In Nigeria, no fewer than 500 people die monthly on our roads and the WHO report further adjudged Nigeria as the country with the most unsafe roads in Africa, meaning that the report shows that one in every four road accident deaths in Africa occurred in Nigeria. The report further stated, “If nothing is done by countries around the world, especially those with very high death rates in Africa, to stem the unpleasant tide, the rate of deaths and injuries would increase by 65 per cent between 2015 and 2020, making death by road the greater cause of death than malaria and tuberculosis.”
Though many reasons account for this, first is the poor state of our roads and which is a known fact that good roads does not in themselves guarantee accident-free journeys, but what can be done is to minimise the rate of these accidents. Thus, all governments should work hard to improve the roads in order to reduce the rate of deaths occasioned by road traffic fatalities and making travels safer and more enjoyable.
Secondly, most of the vehicles on the roads particularly, the commercial vehicles plying our roads are neither road worthy nor are they properly maintained and in some cases both. Hence, we witness rampant cases of brake failure, bust tyres among others, leading to fatal road accidents. Although, new vehicles do have accidents, but other factors being equal, the chances of such vehicles getting involved in accidents are lower than rickety and badly maintained ones. Also, is the problem of over speeding, experts agree that the greatest cause of accidents on our roads has to do with over speeding. Without doubt, speed especially over speeding kills.
Beyond this however is the question of poor policing of the roads by the authorities saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring sanity on the roads. Imagine what our roads will look like if the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, the Vehicle Inspection Office, VIO, Highway Patrol and others are not there. So, the country needs truly diligent, honest, committed and efficient agencies to check those rickety vehicles that daily ply our roads and the fear of being reprimanded or even arrested might force many road users to take to some corrective measures as well as obeying the laws related to road usage.
We therefore, urge the government to enforce the laws to the letter and let the bad eggs within the agencies saddled with guaranteeing safety on our roads be punished to serve as a deterrent to others. However, no corrective measure can be possible without funds. So, more funds should be voted for the road sector and other road related agencies and ensure that such funds are judiciously spent.
Above all, let the authorities embark on aggressive enlightenment campaigns to sensitise drivers and other road users alike on the need for safer roads. Indeed, maintaining and improving safety on the roads should be a collaborative efforts by all and sundry.
Therefore, safer roads remain an economic imperative, as they increase mobility and movement of people and goods as well as boosting socio-economic development. But more crucially, they save precious lives, which is why more should be done to make our roads safe at all times.