Safe Roads Still a Mirage: Numbers of Road Crashes and Deaths Remain Steady

The consistency in the numbers of road traffic crashes (RTC) over the years, especially in developing countries, has been a constant source of worry for governments and citizens.
This issue of concern in Nigeria was raised recently when the Corps Marshal, FRSC, Boboye Akinyemi, announced at the 5th edition of the Babatunde Raji Fashola Gabfest that 2,233 Nigerians lost their lives in road crashes in the first four months of 2021.

Akinyemi said the death toll earlier mentioned, came from 4,459 accidents involving 28,826 persons. Even though modern transportation has liberated people and made them more mobile, it has also brought many fatalities on them and their activities.
According to figures by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), over 5,000 people die yearly in road accidents, while 50 percent of road crashes in Nigeria is due to over-speeding.
From the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the number of lives lost to road accidents from January 2013 to 2019 are as follows: 2013 – 5,539; 2014 – 4,430; 2015 – 5,400; 2016 – 5,053; 2017 – 5,049; 2018 –5,181; 2019 – 5,483.
“Between January and March 2020, there were 1,758 deaths; April to June 2020, 855 deaths; and July to September 2020, 1,076 deaths,” the NBS said.
In 2016, the NBS said there were 11,363 crashes with 5,053 deaths; and in 2017, 10,026 crashes and 5,049 deaths. Broken down further, the 5,049 deaths of 2017 occurred as follows: First quarter, 1,466; second quarter, 1,207; third quarter, 1,070, and fourth quarter, 1,306 deaths. In the first quarter of 2018, the NBS said that 1,292 people died in 2,482 road accidents in Nigeria.
Speed violation was reported as the major cause of road crashes in Q1 and it accounted for 50.81 percent of the total road crashes reported. Tyre burst and dangerous driving followed closely, accounting for 8.26 percent and 8.42 percent respectively of the total road crashes recorded.

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The second quarter of 2018 road transport data released by the NBS, showed that road traffic accidents killed 1,331 Nigerians in 2608 crashes. Also, speed violation is reported as the major cause of road crashes in the second quarter of 2018 and it accounted for 50.65 percent of the total road crashes reported. Tyre bursts and dangerous driving followed closely as they both accounted for 8.59 percent and 8.40 percent of the total road crashes recorded.
The full-year 2019 road transport data of the NBS reflected 11,072 road crashes. A total of 35,981 Nigerians got injured in the road traffic crashes recorded.
 The FRSC Corps Marshal, Boboye Oyeyemi, during the flag-off of the Global Road Safety Week at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Secretariat, Kaduna in May 2017, said that there were 33.7 deaths per 100,000 people in Nigeria every year, making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest number of fatalities in Africa. Zimbabwe has the worst road fatality in the world with 74.5 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
The world average is 17.4; Africa is 26.6; and, according to the International Transport Forum, (ITF), Road Safety Annual Report for 2018, the fatality rate for South Africa is 21 while Norway has the least road fatality with two deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
The NBS report Q3 2020 road transport data reflected that 3,066 road crashes occurred in Q3 2020. Speed violation is reported as the major cause of road crashes in Q3 2020 and it accounted for 57.26 percent of the total road crashes reported, among others.
Findings obtained from the data published between 2015 and 2020 by the FRSC quarterly publication, ‘Statistical Digest’, show that the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Kaduna state have consecutively topped Nigeria’s chart of road traffic crashes and deaths in the last six years. It shows that Bayelsa, Ekiti and Borno states have the lowest road traffic disasters in the country within the period.
Aggregate road crashes in Nigeria between 2015 and 2019 was 47,110, that is, 9,074 (2015) + 9,694 (2016) + of 9,383 (2017) + 9,741 (2018) + 9,218 (2019), while cumulative death within the five years was 25,039, that is, 5075 (2015) + 5053 (2016) + 5121 (2017) + 5181 (2018) + 4609 (2019).
The Corps’ Public Education Officer, Assistant Corps Marshal, Bisi Kazeem, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja said it recorded 2,656 road crashes and 1,076 deaths across the country in the third quarter of 2020.
He attributed most of the road crashes and deaths that occurred along various routes in the country within the period to overspeeding, wrongful overtaking, disobedience to traffic rules, and worn out, fake, and expired tyres. Many Nigerian roads are in very bad shape, yet plied by thousands of goods-moving articulated and other vehicles, and worsened by gridlocks occasioned by accidents and broken down vehicles.

Among the nightmares to road users across the country are pothole-ridden portions, dangerous bends, portions of road collapsed by erosion, roads enveloped with darkness at nights, among others.

Some commercial drivers and drivers of Very Important Personalities (VIPs) and government officials are usually overworked and hardly observe enough rest to refresh and gear up for the next journey. Sometimes, the results are crashes.

The FRSC also cited the use of phone while driving, mechanically-deficient vehicle, brake failure and overloading as causes of accidents in Nigeria. Others are dangerous overtaking, wrongful overtaking, dangerous driving, bad road, route violation, road obstruction and sleeping on steering.

The imperatives of global action on road safety became more obvious to the entire world with the declaration in May 2011 of the Decade of Action on Road Safety by the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
The FRSC spokesman said the Commission has intensified mass sensitisation campaigns through the establishment of a Radio Station called National Traffic Radio 107.1 FM for all-round sensitisation of mass categories of road users.
Kazeem said “one of the strategies the corps adopts in minimising road traffic crashes is increased visibility. This is because it has been noticed that drivers and other road users tend to comply with traffic laws whenever they see FRSC personnel on the road.”

He stressed that to tackle the rising cases of speed-related crashes, the corps introduced mandatory installation of the speed limiting device and other safety standards for all commercial vehicles. When road users refuse to heed to enlightenment campaigns, the corps adopts enforcement to compel them into compliance through a mobile court where offenders are prosecuted.
Since the establishment of the FRSC, studies have shown an overall decline in the magnitude of RTC, but the naton is still lagging behind in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in this sector. There is a need for sub-national information systems to effectively plan context-based interventions to drive actions to meet the SDG target in Nigeria.
Analysts have advocated the restructuring and re-tooling of the FRSC, declaration of traffic accidents as a national health problem, and institution of driver identity management system, among others, to improve safe motoring in Nigeria. They mooted that the government should rehabilitate a lot of roads in Nigeria, adding that though it will take a lot of time and money to improve the state of the roads, this will ultimately lower the number of road accidents exponentially.
They have also noted that partnering with the private sector to construct transit parks and truck terminals for long-distance drivers to rest will help to prevent exhaustion-induced crashes.
The sage will say ‘slow and steady wins the race’, but when people try to reach their destinations quickly by going over the limit, they might end up crashing, being late, or worse, not even reaching their destination.
Some people drive without realizing that their brakes are not working thereby endangering both their lives and those of their passengers, as well as everyone else on the road.
Therefore, vehicle owners should perform engine maintenance regularly, avoid sudden stalls or other vehicle failures by changing the oil regularly and keeping tyres properly inflated.
The long-haul truck drivers, especially petroleum tanker drivers should endeavour to get behind the wheel in their best condition as this will boost their driving skills and cognitive functions.
Moreover, drivers should jettison arrogant behaviours which sometimes lead to dire consequences; overconfidence in their skills as top notch drivers often result in a nasty car crash.
Most crashes are caused by the driver’s behaviour and not always as a result of bad roads. So the idea of “Safe Roads” in Nigeria should focus a lot more on changing the driving behaviours of Nigerians, important as the advocacy for good road infrastructure is.

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