Road traffic accidents taking a high toll


THE death of 4,387 persons in road accidents in Nigeria between January and June 2023 draws fresh attention to the shabby state of roads nationwide, the flouting of safety regulations and the failure of law enforcement agencies to impose order on the highways. The Federal Road Safety Corps stated that apart from those killed, 14,108 others were injured in road traffic crashes within the period countrywide. Measures should be stepped up to stop the carnage and make the roads safe for travel and haulage.

Comparatively, the African Centre for Governance, Media and Peace building stated that 1,152 lives were lost to terrorists, while 1,333 deaths occurred due to activities of gunmen, cultism and kidnapping, sea robbery, Fulani herdsmen massacre, election-killed violence, and other terrorism-related activities January to June 2023.

Nigerians are traumatised by risky road travel. According to the FRSC’s Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, factors that contribute to RTCs include night trips, fatigue, route violation, dangerous overtaking, the use of worn-out tyres, and over-speeding.

He left out bad roads. But the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Agency said only 60,000 kilometres of the country’s total road network of 195,000km are paved. Many are death traps. A 2021 research published in the Asian Journal of Advanced Research and Report found that “Nigerian roads are characterised by potholes, gallops, slippery bumps, untarred roads, bushes, mud, stones and gravel which cause road accidents.” It concludes that Nigeria’s roads “are nothing but highways leading to death.”

The Nigeria Highway Code states that human, mechanical, and environmental factors may cause road crashes. Lack of concentration, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, poor condition of vehicles, and indiscriminate parking are listed as human factors. Mechanical factors include poor steering mechanism, brake failure, defective lighting system, and overloading. Improperly placed or absence of road signs, bad roads, and slippery surface are the environmental factors.

With poor enforcement of traffic laws and regulations, headlined by extortion and bribe-taking, many vehicles plying Nigerian roads are accident-prone.

The WHO said RTCs also cause a significant number of deaths among children and young adults. Approximately 1.3 million people die and 50 million sustain injuries every year from RTCs worldwide. While 93 per cent of road fatalities occur in low-and-middle-income countries, most countries like Nigeria lose up to 3.0 per cent of their GDP to RTCs.

From a total of 65,053 accidents, 32,617 persons died 2016 to 2021, said the FRSC. The National Bureau of Statistics disclosed that 1,834 persons died in 3,345 RTCs between January and March 2022.

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Reckless driving is another major contributor. Over-speeding, driving against traffic and daredevil over-taking by irresponsible drivers, some high on alcohol and drugs, also cause accidents. Increasingly, drivers engaging in phone conversations while driving have caused accidents and fatalities.

Law enforcement has been ineffective. Road traffic agencies often prioritise revenue generation, extortion and bribery over safety and compliance.

Government agencies should step up public enlightenment programmes for commercial and private vehicle owners and drivers on road safety.

Despite vehicle worthiness checks by the states’ Vehicle Inspection Offices, accidents due to ruptured and poor or second-hand tyres, brake failure, and abrupt breakdown show that the VIOs and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria need to be more effective.

Other jurisdictions are tough on road traffic laws. Violations attract strict punishment in Bulgaria, France, the United Kingdom, and other European Union countries. In the UK, reckless driving captured on CCTV cameras could earn drivers penalty points that could lead to an outright ban. The British police also use breathalysers to check drunk driving.

The federal, states, and local governments should ensure they maintain their roads and invest in expanding the networks.

Many roads lack road signs, streetlights, parking areas, and standby road ambulances, this sabotages quick response to accidents, unforeseen mechanical failures, and peculiar navigational instructions, causing road crashes. The statute mandating compulsory insurance for vehicles should be enforced. Insurers say that 10 million of the over 13 million vehicles plying Nigerian roads have no cover.

State governments should intensify roadworthiness compliance and checks and enforce all other safety regulations free of extortion and corruption. ,

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