Very Bloody Roads and Highways!
By Adeola Aderounmu
20 killed in Nigeria as Truck rams into a crowd!
9 feared dead in road accidents
81 persons died in road accidents Gombe in 2005
21 die in motor accidents in Umuahia
7 feared dead in Lagos, Ogun road accidents
Road accidents are not peculiar to Nigeria. An accident on the road is a worldwide phenomenon and there are possibilities that worse statistics exist in some other countries. However, this is an example of what we need to remind ourselves on the need for an improvement regarding safety on the roads. Those headlines above are really very scary and to imagine that it is a daily occurrence is disheartening. Can one day pass in Nigeria without a road accident? I am asking if we can really celebrate an accident free day in Nigeria.
Between 1988 and 2005, no fewer than 123, 933 lives were lost to road accidents in Nigeria. That means that for 17 consecutive years, an average of 7 290 lives were lost annually in Nigeria as a result of road accidents only.
The statistics that emerged afterwards left one in confusion. How can 4, 944 Nigerians died in road accidents in 2006whilst an estimated 400 lives are reported to be lost daily on Nigerian roads? It is therefore not clear to me if only 13 lives are lost daily on Nigerian roads in 2006 and then 146 000 Nigerians died in 2007!
Why do we have high rates of accident in Nigeria? Why do the accidents usually come with deadly consequences? Here are few examples of the reasons:
- human factors such as driver error, over loading, over speeding, lack of proper driving experience, non-adherence to road signs and regulations, traffic officials, non or improper use of vehicle lights, alcohol and impatience among others.
Source: Adrian Egonu, a road safety expert
Still there are more reasons why road accidents do occur.
- Broken down vehicles on the road that are not removed have caused serious accidents in daylight and more devastating accidents at night.
- Bad tyres have also caused serious accidents which bring the issue of vehicle control into serious credibility doubts.
- Lack of first aid knowledge which means that even when sympathizers arrive at the scene of an accident, the only thing they do is scream and shout. Here is a very painful personal experience of a Nigerian mother who lost her son probably due to lack of first aid in an accident where 7 other people were reported dead.
- Very bad roads, very narrow roads and roads without road marks or lanes are also reasons why accidents do occur. There are several instances where drivers try to avoid pot holes (death traps) only to collide at high speed with oncoming vehicles.
- Darkness on the road made complicated by non-road worthy vehicles lacking driving lights could also be a factor. There was a story of an undergraduate student in Ilorin who was killed instantly when he mistook a car driving with one headlamp for an okada motorcycle!
How can we get out of this menace of road accidents and the subsequent calamities? Efforts of the Federal Road Safety Commission undoubtedly are inadequate. In a country where everything looks disorganized and where reliance on governance does not give an assurance for proper conducts, the resultants entanglements of which the menace of road accidents is a by-product will definitely take more than wishful thinking to elucidate.
Still, if we can identify a problem, we must also continue to proffer possible solutions. The approach will be multi-dimensional and directed as follows:
- To the drivers
Imagine how beautiful life would be if all the drivers on our roads were educated enough to attend the mandatory driving schools! Imagine if they could pass the basic driving tests in theory and practice. Imagine if they are made to do practical driving in a simulated rain condition! To a very appreciable extent, lack of education and non-attendance at a driving school are taking their tolls on human lives.
The human errors would have been limited also in the absence of drunk driving. Who can stop our molue and danfo drivers from drinking ogogoro and segbe or what do they call that intoxicating drink?
Driving on Nigerian roads has been reduced to speed racing! Generally, Nigerian drivers are reckless. It has reached a point where psychiatric test should be extended not only to the politicians but anyone who takes to the wheel as well. It is that serious!
- To the vehicles used on the roads
The age of a vehicle is not the issue here but the road-ability of the vehicle. In an extremely strict manner, vehicles that are not road worthy should be sent to the recyclers ASAP. No vehicle should be on the road without driving lights, working signals, driving mirrors and other basic things. If a vehicle cannot be started by using a car key, it has no business being on the road in the first place. It can break down at anytime and cause an obstruction and accidents subsequently. Summarily, any car that does not fit should be thrashed. It shouldn’t be a matter of life and death to have a car on the road.
- To the roads
Can we have local, state and federal governments that will use tax payers’ money to build good and durable roads? Can we have a system where such roads will then be maintained regularly? Canyons and gullies on our roads have helped to send our friends, families and acquaintances to early graves. Sunday Awoniyi, a Nigerian politician had an accident recently and eventually died in an hospital. Maybe he could have lived longer, just maybe! All over the world, the rich also cry you know.
Do we have zebra crossings or safe zones on our roads? Would a normal Nigerian driver observe the zebra crossings? To my knowledge, I have not seen a Nigerian driver waiting to let people cross at this sign unless a uniform man flags him down.
Do we have adequate road signs? Entry sign? Exit sign? Parking /garage? Speed limits sign? Danger sign? I imagine that danger signs should be at every 20m of road stretch in Nigeria. Kids at play? Men on road work? Police station? Airport? Public toilets? Hotels? Residential area? Congested area? Shopping centres ? Industrial area? Water reserved area? Slopes? Sharp bent? Advanced lane signs? Merging lanes? Roundabouts? Distance to next gas station? City centre?
- To all road users
It is not only drivers mentioned above that are road users, even pedestrians walking along the road, passengers in the vehicle and anyone outside of his home is a road user. Hawkers on our roads endanger themselves through their trading activities. Some have shops on the roads or simply too close to the road. The notorious aspects reveal young men and women and several underage children of diverse nationalities running after vehicles with things to sell.
While drivers are being urged to be careful, the other road users should not constitute themselves into deliberate dangers.
- To road safety agencies
What is the Ministry of Transport doing to ensure safety on our roads? What measure have they enacted to make our roads motorable especially with tax payers’ money at their disposal? How can the Road Safety Commissioner (FRSC) be a better body? Is anyone looking into their operations with a view to promote their efficiency? Compare to state commissions like the bullying but now tired LASTMA, the FRSC appears to still enjoy better public support and confidence. It would therefore be in order to work for a better service.
What about highlighting the importance of the knowledge of First Aid to all and sundry so that we stop screaming at the scene of accidents and render help instead before the ambulance come?
- To the police
To discuss about the police may result in a rejoinder by their new PR man who seems to have all the venom for critics. But can the police do something drastic to change their image from a body that request 20naira as a proof of life to one that the public can trust? Where the drivers have failed, road safety as I have come to know in European countries, rest on the police. Imagine if I am overspeeding and I get caught by the police in Sweden. There are 2 possibilities. It is either I forfeit my license if I was overspeeding in a residential area or I get a heavy fine if it was in another location. On a very bad day, it could be both fine and lose of license at anywhere sef!
What do the Police do about stubborn drivers who don’t wear seat belts? Come to think of it, even okada bike racers are finding it difficult to comply with the directive to wear helmets and their passengers too don’t care! Who will cure who?
Do people lose their driver’s license in Nigeria? I’ve never heard of that even with many of my friends possessing Nigerian drivers license delivered to them at home (by proxy) at that time when we don’t even know what a gear was!
We have a complex situation on our hands and with the prevailing socio-economic reality in Nigeria, my essay may be as useless as I can imagine. Who is reading sef? I always ask myself; who have we been talking to/ writing to in Nigeria? Waste of keyboard punches!
- To the government specifically
How many ambulances have been budgeted for the 140 million people in Nigeria? Do we have 911 numbers working 24-7 and not all those 0805, 0802, 0802 ten digits numbers? Apart from crying on locations where we have bad roads, what other efforts is the new Minister of Transportation taking to improve our highways? Will new roads be constructed? Will the ones with gullies be repaired once and for all and maintained forever and forever? Will they put road signs and other road safety measures on our roads? Is it realistic to ensure that all drivers are educated one way or the other even if they cannot read and write?
In a manner of digression, for the past 10 years, Sweden is trying hard to achieve a zero-accident situation each year. But since accidents would always happen, they also have a parallel vision of no deaths in the case of accidents. This is based on the assumption that everyone would follow traffic regulations and that all road users will continue to show more considerations to one another. Hence, disappointments have been expressed again in 2007 because almost 500 people have died this year in road accidents in Sweden. Talk of human error or human nature…
But what measures are being taken by the government of Nigeria to ensure that 10 or 100 or 400 people do not die on the road tomorrow? Is anyone planning to avoid the deaths of 150 000 Nigerians on the roads and highways in 2008 only? Are there long term agenda or plans? Does a Nigerian life mean anything to the administrators of policies and politics in Nigeria or is it just a case of who cares about how many people die! Afterall, what difference does it make in a country already overpopulated with over 140 million people?
Reference: The Guardian Newspaper, Yahoo news, This Day Newspaper and Vanguard Nigeria.