Safe Driving With Jonas Agwu Last week I promised to look into the details of some of the initiatives embarked upon not just by the Federal Road Safety Corps but also within the West African Sub Region. My first focus is on the Accra Declaration of February 2007 which I mentioned in passing in the piece, "My 2014 Agenda". This was the fallout of the African Ministers of Transport and Health meeting in Ghana where they adopted the 'Accra Declaration' which fully endorsed the main recommendations of the "Make Road Safe" report of the Commission for Global Road Safety. The Declaration also called on the G8 summit in Germany to "recognize the urgent need to improve road safety in Africa, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa; systematically include road safety in the work of the Africa Infrastructure Consortium; the Sub Saharan Africa Transport Policy Programme; and in the development of assistance programmes of the G8 nations to ensure that new and improved roads in Africa do not increase road traffic death and injuries"
The Accra Declaration was adopted at the 4th UN African Road Safety Congress which was held in the Ghanaian capital on February 6-8 on the theme 'Road Safety and the Millennium Development Goals: Reducing the Rate of Accident Fatality by Half by 2015'. It was attended by over 200 delegates and 25 Ministers from across the continent and the Congress was jointly organised by the Economic Commission from Africa (ECA) and the WHO with support from the FIA Foundation, SIDA (the Swedish Development Agency) and the UK's Department for International Development.
According to the ECA, road crashes in Africa are commonly the second highest cause of death for the 5 to 44 age groups and the economic cost is estimated at $10 billion or 2% of GNP. In some African countries, the road traffic fatality rate is 100 deaths per 10,000 vehicles (compared with a rate in Sweden of just 1.3 per 10,000). On current trends, the fatality rate is expected to increase by 80% by 2020.
In a keynote address, Ghana's Deputy Minister of Transportation, Hon Magnus Opare-Asamoah stressed the importance of the target set by African Ministers of Transport in 2005 to reduce the rate of accident fatalities by 2015. The Minister also described the major efforts now being made in Ghana to meet this goal. The country's National Road Safety Action Plan has started to achieve results with a 19% reduction in fatalities between 2004 and 2005.He noted that there is no family in Ghana or Africa which has not been affected by road traffic accidents, insisting that the forecast 80% increase in traffic fatalities in Africa "must not be a reality".
The major focus of the ACCRA DECLARATION include; Encouraging the member States to use the WHO/World Bank World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention as a framework for road safety and implement its recommendations to substantially reduce the causes and risk factors associated with road accidents, namely the non-use of safety belts and child restraints, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the non-use of helmets, inappropriate and excessive speed, the lack of safe infrastructure and the use of mobile phones among others.
The following recommendations were made at the Conference thus; That Member States should establish lead agency that has proper legal backing, and is empowered and supported by adequate financial resources to ensure that it is well equipped and staffed with appropriately trained personnel; improve the collection, management and use of data on road deaths and injuries so as to formulate evidence-based policies. In this regard, efforts would be made to address the non-reporting of accidents, and to harmonize data that originate from different sources; make the necessary effort to improve road safety management on the continent. In this regard, good practices and examples from within the continent should be recognized, widely disseminated and emulated;Harmonize national actions plans at sub-regional level (databases, regulations, infrastructure and equipment standards)
Other recommendations included encouraging African countries to enforce road safety legislation, particularly those related to speed control, use of helmet, and enhancing visibility; Strengthen partnership and collaboration at sub-regional, regional and global level in advancing the road safety agenda; Mainstream road safety in national transport policies, with particular attention to rural transport safety ;Commit to educating the general public on road safety matters and Set and achieve measurable targets to contribute to achieving the goal of reducing accident fatalities by half by 2015
With about a year to the timeline set by the Conference, the Federal Road Safety initiatives have been tailored in addressing this concern. Worried by the increasing spate of speed related road traffic crashes, the Corps last year introduced speed limiting device for commercial vehicles with sustained nationwide advocacy preceding full enforcement which will commence in 2014; Initiated a nationwide campaign and enforcement on the use of safety helmet by motor cycle operators in 2009; Mainstreaming road safety in the national transport policy through the development of a National Road Safety Strategy(NRSS) which seeks to draw to a common platform, all levels of government to improve involvement in road safety matters.
This has led to relevant committees inaugurated by the Federal Executive Council to study and make relevant recommendations for implementation of the NRSS.; Strengthening partnership and collaboration at sub-regional and global level through the midwiving and establishment of a National Road Safety Partnership to ensure funding of road safety projects in Nigeria; Taking the Lead agency role through proper co-ordination of road safety matters in Nigeria. As a result, the Corps received commendation at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia as the only nation to assume and adopt the Lead agency status and model in Africa.
Other initiatives include strengthening pre-hospital and emergency services in order to provide timely and appropriate care for road crash victims through the establishment of a Call Centre in 2008 with Over 1,500 CUG phone lines distributed among hospitals across the country, strengthened by the creation of a toll-free emergency line 122 to improve interface with the motoring public and to enhance rescue, in addition to over 345 V-sat established for real time and on-line connectivity and establishment of 14 Zebra emergency centers along strategic routes to complement road side clinics; Committing to educating road users on proper use of the highways through robust public enlightenment programmes/projects, creation of a Web site with Facebook, twitter, U-tube and other social media platform to increase the mileage on public advocacy. Introduction of safety education in school curricular.
The Corps also initiated numerous projects to further strengthen capacity for road safety management in Nigeria through: Road Transport Safety Standardization Scheme, New number plate and driver's license, and the Mandatory medical re-certification of commercial drivers The Corps ended 2013 with improving the collection and management of data arising from road crashes through the adoption of evidence-based and intelligence-driven approach for deployment of personnel and equipment