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Curbing road accidents, fatalities

Road accidents are fast becoming the highest single cause of death on the roads. Critical stakeholders have raised the alarm for the need to check the phenomenon before it spirals out of control, writes CHINAKA OKORO

WITH the world population now at 7.8 billion, demographers expect the 8 billion milestones in 2023, with global projected expected to hit 9 billion by 2037 and 10 billion by 2056.

However, as world population grows, global death rates have also continued to gallop.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one of the major causes of death the world over is road accident. It further said there are over one billion cars on our roads across the world and almost 3,400 people are killed daily as a result of road traffic accidents, with millions more injured or permanently disabled annually. In 2019, global death rate was 7.6 per 1,000 people.

WHO also noted that there are approximately eight deaths per 1,000 people every day, and road accident is one of world’s sources of death.

“Tragically, as many as 1.3 million deaths are a result of road accidents every year,” it said.

However, the WHO reports that 91 per cent of road deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. In Africa alone, 700 people are killed as a result of road accidents every single day.

The WHO predicts that if no progress is made in tackling the causes of road deaths, the global annual death toll will reach 1.9 million by this year.

Global statistics showed that though Africa two percent of the world’s cars, it accounts for 16 per cent of the world’s road deaths.

In Nigeria, injuries and deaths resulting from road traffic accidents are on the rise and are Nigeria’s third-leading cause of overall deaths, the leading cause of trauma-related deaths and the most common cause of disability.

The situation is especially problematic in Nigeria because of poor traffic infrastructure, poor road design, poor enforcement of traffic rules and regulations, a rapidly growing population, and subsequent number of people driving cars.

Experts maintain that accidents have physical, social, emotional, and economic implications. Fatalities, physical disability, and morbidity from road accidents predominantly affect the young and the economically-productive age groups. Survivors often endure a diminished quality of life from deformities and disabilities, post-traumatic stress and lost personal income, in a country not well known for exceptional rehabilitation services.

The rest of the populace lives in perpetual and pervasive fear of traveling occasioned by not feeling safe on the roads. The overall effects of these injuries constitute social, economic and psychological losses of great magnitudes.

In Nigeria, about N80 billion is lost to road accidents annually. This economic cost includes those of property and public amenity damaged the cost of medical treatment, and the cost of productivity loss to accidents. This is a huge economic loss particularly for a country plagued with poverty.

Despite the statistics of road accidents in Nigeria, it has not received all the attention it deserves. There is need to view road accidents as an issue of urgent national importance that needs urgent attention aimed at reducing the health, social, and economic impact.

Policy makers at the various levels of government need to recognise this growing problem as a public health crisis and design appropriate policy responses that will back up with meticulous implementation.

It was as a result of this that the Federal Government established the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in 1988 by the administration of Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.

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Its first Chairman was Professor Wole Soyinka.

The Federal Road Safety Corps as a government agency was vested with the statutory responsibilities for road safety administration in Nigeria. The (FRSC) has its operations in all the states of the federation as well as the Federal Capital Territory. It also remains the leading agency in Nigeria on road safety administration and management.

Accident is a sudden unwanted occurrence which could result to loss of life and properties.

Statistics reveal a frightening level of casualties from road crashes.

For instance, it was reported that every year, over 39,000 Nigerians die from road crashes. In the 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated road traffic fatalities in Nigeria at 39,802, while the estimated rate per 100,000 deaths stood at 21.4.

In all parts of the country, the FRSC has recorded 8,527 road traffic crashes from January to date

The Corps Public Education Officer, Bisi Kazeem, said 4,163 people were killed in crashes during the period.

In order words, an average of about 12 people died daily, since the start of the year.

The official said that 59,724 people were involved in the road crashes in which 14,425 vehicles were involved.

He said that 4,163 people died, while 27,408 were injured in the accidents while 27,523 escaped without injuries.

Mr Kazeem added that 621,776 offences were recorded during the period and 555,991 motorists were apprehended and penalised for various road traffic offences.

“A total of 108,759 apprehended offenders were cautioned and enlightened on basic safety tips and were allowed to go without any fine,” he said.

Mr Kazeem, who frowned at the negative attitude of some road users, warned that the FRSC would intensify enforcement and public enlightenment on safety.

“FRSC adopts a multi-dimensional and holistic approach when it comes to achieving safer motoring environment.

“Every year, the corps does a general assessment and analysis of its strategies so as to strengthen areas where we made progress and work on areas that we could not achieve much in preparation for the next year.

“It is this inbuilt consistency and dynamism that has helped us achieve this much in crash reduction and the Corps has already swung into action,” he said.

Mr Kazeem said the FRSC had constituted an aggressive engagement of stakeholders and major fleet operators other than enlightenment to reduce statistics of road crashes.

“Key road safety issues that will drastically bring down crashes associated with the fleet have been agreed upon.

“Aside that, in the event of any breakdown, strategies have been put in place to ensure prompt removal of all broken down trucks and others on the road,” he said.

In Niger alone, accidents have claimed six lives.

The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Niger says four had been burnt to ashes in a fresh accident in Kutigi Town of Lavun Local Government Area of the state.

Reports have it that the FRSC confirmed the death of six people in a road traffic crash that occurred on Monday on Kutigi – Mokwa Road in Mokwa Local Government Area of the state.

The FRSC Sector Commander in the state, Mr Joel Dagwa said in Minna that the accident occurred at 8:45 p.m.

According to Dagwa, the accident involved three articulated vehicles, including a tanker laden with diesel from Lagos to the North, a truck conveying container laden with goods and suspected to be having over 200 passengers from the North going to Lagos and another trailer.

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He said that registration numbers of the vehicles were not visible as they were burnt beyond recognition.

He further explained that a petrol tanker collided with two other trucks loaded with grains and scores of passengers heading to Lagos and a container truck.

“The three articulated vehicles caught fire and combustible products ignited and spilled over and burnt the three trucks to ashes.

“The raging inferno engulfed several shops and houses in the neighbourhood, while passengers with various degrees of injuries were taken to the General Hospital Kutigi for treatment.

“All the four corpses have been deposited at Kutigi General Hospital’s morgue,” he said.

The sector commander attributed the accident to break failure, loss of control, speed violation and failed roads.

In a related development, 84 people lost their lives in Edo, Delta and Anambra road crashes within three months.

The 84 people died in road traffic crashes from October to December last year.

Mr Kehinde Adeleye, Zonal Commanding Officer of Zone Rs 5 of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) revealed this in Benin.

Zone Rs 5 of the FRSC comprises Edo, Delta and Anambra.

Adeleye said within the period, 150 road traffic crashes were recorded in the zone with 303 people sustaining various degrees of injuries.

Giving a breakdown of the crashes, he said 24 people died in 38 road crashes recorded in October, while 47 people were injured.

“In November, the zone recorded 18 deaths in 41 crashes with 75 people injured, while in December, 42 people were killed in 71 crashes with 181 injured.

“Specifically in Edo, we recorded 37 deaths in 59 crashes with 143 people injured between October and December.”

The commander said the trend showed that the ‘ember’ months recorded higher road traffic crashes with fatalities.

He noted, however, that “Operation Zero-Tolerance” embarked upon by the commission had helped greatly in reducing crashes during the `ember’ period.

Adeleye revealed that the major challenge faced by the FRSC in the zone was lack of tow trucks, saying that there were only four tow trucks in the zone.

“We have only four tow trucks – one big tow truck donated by the Delta State government and three other small ones.

“The Anambra State government has promised to buy one for us and we appeal to the Edo State government to do same because it’s a major challenge to us.

“With the availability of heavy-duty tow trucks, broken down vehicles on the roads would be evacuated speedily without them causing obstruction to vehicular movements and accidents.

The Zonal Commanding Officer warned travellers against embarking on night journeys, describing such trips as risky.

He noted that vehicles could break down at dangerous places without help and that crashes could occur without anyone to call for assistance.

Adeleye said motorists often drove at higher speed at night, explaining that these were some of the reasons why people were advised against night trips.

He said FRSC commands in the zone had been mandated to ensure that broken down vehicles on highways were removed within the shortest possible time.

Adeleye warned parents against allowing their under-aged children to drive, saying that such parents would be prosecuted.

The FRSC also revealed that 2,699 people were killed and 18,000 people were injured in road crashes.

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The Corps said the crashes occurred between January and June 2019, even as it stated that no less than 18,198 people were injured in the same period.

The FRSC stated that a total of 5,423 crashes were recorded during the period.

The Corps Marshal of Federal Road Safety Corps, Boboye Oyeyemi, represented by Deputy Corps Marshal, Julius Asom, revealed this at the 8th Annual Road Safety Conference and FRSC/KRSD Essay Competition Award organised by Kwapda’as Safety Demand in Keffi, Nasarawa State.

The World Health Organisation’s 2018 Global Status Report on road safety shows that one out of every four road crashes that occur in Africa are reported in Nigeria. This is quite uncomplimentary about a country that prides itself as the giant of the African Continent.

Any wonder the Corps has called for collective vigilance against accidents in 2020.

The Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps, Boboye Oyeyemi made the call in a statement by the Corps Public Education Officer, Mr Bisi Kazeem in Abuja. He added that joint efforts remained the panacea for dealing with the menace.

He commended stakeholders for supporting the Corps in creating safety consciousness among road users and making road safety a collective responsibility.

In assessing the performance of the Corps, experts maintain that it has done a lot of work on road safety campaigns and implementation of traffic safety regulations in Nigeria.

“Before its establishment, there was no concrete and sustained policy action to address the road safety question. Earlier attempts by some states and other government agencies were isolated and uncoordinated.

“However, with staff strength of about 18,000 men and officers, it would appear that the commission is currently overwhelmed with the task of keeping Nigerian roads safe. Poor funding, lack of motivation, and corruption are some of the challenges facing the commission. The public awareness and road safety campaigns must be robust and sustained all-round the year and not limited to only festive seasons as is currently the practice.

“The enforcement of the existing traffic safety laws must be pursued vigorously and offenders severely punished to serve as a deterrent to other road users.

In terms of legislative framework, many traffic safety laws exist in Nigeria, but their enforcement remains poor.

There is also drink-driving law which is hardly enforced. At present, there is no child restraint law in existence, but there is a national speed limit law for both urban and rural roads of 50 km/hour.

“A law on the use of motorcycle helmet for all passengers and applicable to all road types exists, but the level of enforcement is very low. There is a need for a child restraint law in Nigeria, and the law on seat belt must be reviewed to apply to all occupants.

“Above all, the enforcement of all these laws must not be compromised in order to achieve the desired results,” experts in the transportation sector say.

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