Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Sing While You Drive

In about fourteen days, the usual frenzy associated with the Christmas season will begin. While most Nigerians are looking forward to that date, Osita Chidoka, the FRSC boss, is worried about recent events preceding this increased motorized season.

His worry stems from the crash trend associated with excessive speeding. Last week, he paid a crucial visit to one of his strategic partners-Federal Road Maintenance Agency(FERMA)where he advocated the introduction of speed calming devices on some sections of the highways as part of measures to curb excessive speeding among drivers in the country.

Making a presentation, he observed that FRSC findings in week 45 indicate that speed violation was the predominant cause of 142 road crashes recorded across the country with 64 cases, followed by loss of control, tyre bursts, dangerous driving and wrongful overtaking.

According to Chidoka, the rise in road crashes in week 44 "showed that in comparison to similar period last year, road crashes have increased by 30.9% while fatality reduced to only 1.72%". He added that "in similar vein, comparing the 3rd quarter of 2012 to 3rd quarter of last year, there was an increase of 55% in road crashes and 13.3% increase in fatality".

The Corps Marshal also disclosed that sustained intervention by the FRSC during festive seasons such as the Easter, Sallah, Valentine Day, Christmas, Workers' Day and the New Year's eve has impacted positively on road crash reduction, indicating that adequate funding and sustained patrols, public enlightenment and enforcement of traffic rules and regulations will achieve a drastic reduction of road crashes throughout the year.

The FRSC boss implored the management of FERMA to strive towards improving rehabilitation of bad portions of the highways, in view of Ember months travels, providing rehabilitated roads with signs and road markings that meet with global standards, implementation of FRSC findings on audited roads in the country and to deliver on FERMA's promise of 6 heavy duty tow trucks to the Corps.

Globally, excessive speeding is identified as a major cause of crashes. This is the crux of my bosses worry; our attitude on the wheels especially excessive speeding which has the potential of exposing us to dangers or increasing the risk factor in the event of a crash. When an adult indulges in driving under the influence of excessive alcohol even when he knows that alcohol impairs- or when same adult indulges in driving and phoning, having been told that such a driver is worse than one who has taken alcohol above the approved limit, according to a research finding in the UK; when a father, travelling with the whole family, chooses not to strap his loved child for protection and refuses to use the seat belt which we have been told reduces the severity of injuries in the event of an accident; when he chooses to speed above the speed limit of 100km/ph for private cars on the same road that we all complain requires urgent repairs and on the same road we acknowledge lacks appropriate rescue facilities; when a driver even on built up roads, disregards safety of pedestrians, including children who are particularly at risk of road traffic injury.

According to Dr Paul Enenche of Dunamis Gospel Centre, more people have died through road traffic deaths than through any known disease, yet we daily indulge in these same habits as if we are immuned. More worrisome is our cold attitudes in saying no more and really becoming active.

Repeatedly, I have tried to stress that people's potential for improving their own situation is enormous-this is the concept of community involvement. An example of an effort in securing the involvement of different sectors of the local community in injury prevention is the safe community movement started in Sweden at the end of the 1980s,following the first world conference on accident and injury prevention, held in Stockholm, sweden, in 1989 which attracted more than 500delegates from 50 countries. A major premise of the meeting was that community-level programmes for injury prevention are key to reducing injuries. A safe community can be a municipality, a city, or a district of a city, working with safety promotion, and injury prevention. The programme can cover all age groups, gender and areas.

The movement recognizes that it is the people who live and work in a community who have a good understanding of their community's needs, problems, assets and capacities. Such involvement is important in identifying and mobilizing resources for effective, comprehensive and coordinated community-based action on injuries. To date, 83 communities have been designated as members. The safe community movement has been developed by the WHO collaborating center on community safety promotion at the Karolinski Institute in Sweden. The Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United kingdom, Denmark and Japan have made significant progress in redressing road crash.

Underlying this progress is the consciousness on the part of motorists to do it right while realizing the need to adopt new approach to road safety. One of this new approach to road safety is the safe system approach which requires that the road system be designed to expect and accommodate human error, recognising that prevention efforts notwithstanding, road users remain fallible and crashes will occur. It exploits synergies between measures that address infrastructure, vehicles and driver behavior when they are designed in concert.

The basic strategy of a safe system approach is to ensure that in the event of a crash, the impact energies remain below the threshold likely to produce either death or serious injury. This threshold will vary depending upon the level of protection offered to the road users involved.

For example, the chances of survival for an unprotected pedestrian hit by a vehicle diminish rapidly at speeds greater than 30km/h, whereas for a properly restrained motor vehicle occupant, the critical impact speed is 50km/h for side impact crashes and 70km/h for head-on crashes

Therefore, all that we require is a change in how we use the road by exercising patience which in the thesaurus, is described as "the capacity of enduring hardships or inconvenience without complaint, or tolerance. In the Make Roads Safe manual, what I find most instructive is the need for individual change.

Such a change should embrace the fact that a significant number of lives can be saved by improving how people manage just a few human behaviors, including use of seatbelt; wearing a crash helmet; tackling inappropriate speed and drinking and driving.

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