15 December 2012

Nigeria: Speed Limiting Device as Road Safety Tool

Between January and November, 2012, excessive speed, according to reports from the Federal Road Safety Corps, accounted for about 35 per cent of crashes recorded in the country. The report also indicates that loss of control, which is directly linked to excessive speeding, accounted for 17 per cent of crashes recorded within the same period. Summed together, excessive speeding and loss of control, amounting to 52 per cent, was responsible for crashes recorded thus far.

To redress this trend, the Corps, Last Tuesday in Abuja, held a one day stakeholders' forum on speed limiting devices, with Leon Du Plessis, an expert on vehicle speed limiting device from South Africa, as guest speaker. Frank Nneji, Chief Executive Officer of ABC Transport, known for his strict adherence to safety regulations in his fleet management business, was also on hand to lend his views, so too were other stakeholders.

The issue of speed has been identified by WHO as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of a crash as well as the severity of the injuries that result from crashes. In fact, WHO and the Global Road Safety Partnership, in its publication, Speed Management: a Road Safety Manual for Decision Makers and Practitioners recommended that speed limits be introduced in every country as part of the global strategy to cut down road fatalities. Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps,Osita Chidoka, in his opening address, said the Corps convened the meeting because of the need to intimate the public, drivers and fleet operators on the importance of speed limiting device in vehicles as a means of achieving safe driving on our roads. He noted that by slowing down vehicles, the travel risk for all motorists may be lowered by reducing the number of collisions and mitigating the severity of those that do occur.

He equally referred to the provisions of the National Road Traffic Regulations, 2004, which specifies the speed limit allowed on our roads, citing developed countries such as Canada, United States and Great Britain as countries that have since adopted the compulsory use of speed limiter/governor as a means of eliminating speed related road crashes on their roads.

What then is the relationship between speed and crash? Before I continue with this, please allow me share this joke by the guest speaker which underscores the need for all to buy into this campaign.. According to him, speeding is so terrible that at even the Almighty God, His Angels and the devil dread excessive speed. As a result, at a speed of 120km/hr., God himself quietly alights out of the vehicle, at over 120km/hr His angels follow suit while at about 160km/hr., even the devil jumps out of the vehicle! The pointlessness of speed was equally underscored by Frank Nneji, who noted that, increase in speed gives you no advantage over your arrival but rather increases the risk of not arriving at all.

What is excessive speed?Excessive speed is defined as exceeding the speed limit, while inappropriate speed is defined as driving at a speed unsuitable for the prevailing road and traffic conditions. Excessive and inappropriate speeds are responsible for a high proportion of the mortality and morbidity that result from road crashes.

In some low and middle income countries, speed is estimated to be the main contributory factor in about 50 per cent of all crashes. Excessive speeding decreases driver's response time in an emergency and may increase the risk of a crash. It equally reduces his ability to manoeuvre safely on the road, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle. This is because, the higher the speed of a vehicle, the shorter the time a driver has to stop and avoid a crash. For example, a car travelling at 50km/hr will typically require 1 meter in which to stop, while a car travelling at 40km/hr will stop in less than 8.5 metres. An increase in average speed of 1km/hr typically results in a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4 to 5 per cent increase for crashes that result in fatalities. Speed also contributes to the severity of the impact when a collision does occur. For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80km/hr, the likelihood of death is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30km/hr.

The relationship between speed and injury severity is particularly critical for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. For example, pedestrians have been shown to have a 90 per cent chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30km/hr or below, but less than zero per cent chance of surviving an impact at 45km/hr. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact of 80km/hr.

What this means is that controlling vehicle speed can prevent crashes from happening and can reduce the impact when they do occur, lessening the severity of injuries sustained by the victims.

This is the thrust of the one day forum. In effect, excessive speed increases risk of crash, higher fuel consumption, increases wear on suspension, increases wear on brakes and tyres and shortens mechanical life of the vehicle.

The use of speed limiters in Europe and Great Britain dates back to February, 1992 when a Council directive 62/6/EEC required speed limiters to be fitted in certain categories of vehicles. By November, 2002, the European Parliament and the Council Directive 2002/85/EC extended the range of vehicles to be fitted, while in January 2007, it was extended to more categories of vehicles. Within Africa, Tanzania and Kenya followed suit in 2003, while Uganda in 2004, Zambia in 2006 and Ontario and Quebec took their turns in 2009.

Are there really scientific proofs on the usefulness of speed limiters? According to the Canadian Department of Transport, there are environmental, safety and cost benefits. For example, lower fuel consumption reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves money on fuel consumption. A study on Ontario Canada showed that fixing speed limiters to all heavy duty trucks would save about 100 million litres of fuel a year (the equivalent of 280,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions). The study further shows that the risk of collision is reduced when driving at lower speeds while safety of road users is assured. Driving at higher speed induces major stress that results in driver fatigue and loss of concentration. Installing speed limiters will reduce the operating costs of many transporters by reducing fuel consumption and increasing vehicle energy efficiency.

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