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Making Roads Safer In Nigeria

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Just a year and only a couple of days ago, at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) conference, held in London (4th of July, 2008) in which participants were Nigeria principal marshals from the FRSC, Osita Chidoka made an observation in his opening address that "There are estimated to be 161 deaths in every 10000 vehicles in an accident on the roads of Nigeria ..." As of this point, the number continues to rise despite all efforts of the corps, and not due to human causes and the poor condition of roads, particularly due to inattention and maintenance culture. Many of the roads in the federal and state government are thought of as dangerous to life because they lack safety infrastructures. As per FIA Foundation Organisation, "Every six seconds, someone dies or is injured on the streets of the world". Most of these deaths, approximately 70 percent, are in the developing world. The mortality rate for road traffic injuries prevalence in Africa stands at 28.3 per 100,000 people. Numerous people are injured or crippled each day on Nigerian roads. The number of deaths keeps exceeding our imaginations with an increasing number of Nigerians being killed each day, and consequently suffering the trauma of their families. Road accidents and deaths are violent, sudden traumatizing circumstances that need to be treated with care by everyone and everyone.

One of the biggest dangers for travelers in Nigeria is the safety of the road. Recently. I made a call to the former chief executive officer of a prominent publishing house located in Ibadan, (the publisher of my first book) to inform him and discuss my latest Fwd Test road safety initiatives. It was just as I was about to end my conversation with him when he shared with me the story of a terrible motor accident that took place on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway less than an hour earlier on his return to Ibadan. He told me that a lot of deaths were attributed to the lack of emergency medical personnel or even traffic police who are supposed to be present every minute on highways. They have no other duties other than to protect lives while driving. This tragic news reminds me of what transpired in November of 2007 on one of my frequent trips to Nigeria. A few hours after arriving I set out to drive myself from the Ikeja region to Ibadan. The steering wheel that I was using along the highway was a huge battle, with no talk of large pot-holes that were gaping or black spots, and debris that was spotted on both sides of the road. I wondered what government officials or representatives are on these same roads. In the end, they were elected to represent us, and help us be safe to live and work. Just forty minutes on the road, I was witness to two horrendous road accidents in only a few kilometers of the hour-long journey on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The most shocking aspect of the tragic scene was that I didn't even spot a single traffic policeman nor an emergency ambulance, or a doctor or nurse attending to victims who were groaning with pain, for over 20 minutes. However, I did count eight checkpoints for police ("road-block") placed in the area between Lagos and Ibadan expressway that very same day. What is their purpose? These checkpoints at the police ought to be converted into SOS emergency centers that have paraded traffic police officers, and standby ambulances with nurses and doctors.

Every Nigerian is entitled to live and work in peace. Every Nigerian is entitled to walk, bike, and drive on safe roadways that are safe and secure. This generation must not be lost in the midst of increasing traffic accidents. In less than 15 weeks, Nigeria will be celebrating its 50th anniversary as a nation. (Golden anniversary, as it will be referred to). (Golden anniversary as it will be called). Nigeria is required to come out with a fresh National Safety Action Plan or Road Safety Improvement Action Plan that will run for 10 years (2010-2010). This plan should consist of a comprehensive, unified strategy that includes the federal road safety police force, all federal and states ministries of transport and road education, health road engineers as well as policymakers insurers, auto businesses, motoring associations, industrial representatives, psychologists and researchers in road safety and driver training (driving school) mass media as well as youth organizations, community leaders and other stakeholders with an interest for road safety. The purpose of the Road Safety Improvement Action Plan committee is to meet, debate and formulate a blue-print recommendation to improve safety measures which will form the basis of the road safety plan over the coming 10 years (2010-2020) or within the coming five years as determined by the authority. The goal of this highly-rated strategic road safety program should be focused on what is known as the "4Es" in safety which comprises the contribution to Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Emergency Medical Services. This is a further explanation of how to create an efficient roads-network, create and sustain the mindset of road safety and ensure that road safety becomes everyone's responsibility. The committee will focus on the most important issues related to road safety including children's road safety education, and road accident issues with solutions. Other issues include roadside environments and infrastructures, driver education as well as testing and licensing all-encompassing ambulance services (SOS) rehabilitation of victims of accidents in the aftermath of a crash, crash data and research roads safety information systems, up-to-date equipment, programs for public awareness traffic laws enforcement and sanctions, the role of non-governmental groups (NGO) as well as standards for the safety of vehicles, inspection and design road fund for the safety plan, regulation of public transport and conformity. Another area in which the committee needs to take a holistic approach is looking at the human factors that account for most road accidents in Nigeria. This includes drivers of all ages pedestrians, motorcyclists, the safety of the occupant, and countermeasures to behavioral issues such as speed, seat belts drunk drivers, and impaired drivers.

The same type of road safety program has proven to be an enormous success in other countries, such as Malaysia and Malaysia with Road Safety of Malaysia (2006-2010), National Road Safety Plan in Kenya (2005-2010), South Africa, and more recently road construction projects. In the UK, the United Kingdom government has recently unveiled a decade-long action to make roads safer. The plan will be in place between 2010 and 2020.

Road security is an issue that is shared by and is a concern of all. Road traffic systems are among the most complicated problems that people must face every day. We must all work to ensure the successful use of this safety strategy which will outline the steps needed to address Nigeria's most significant traffic safety concerns. Road users' education awareness, awareness, positive attitude, and defensive driving methods must be developed to prevent accidental accidents. We could save more lives, and remain safe and accountable road users when they can help to ensure road safety by observing traffic rules and laws and road signs, speed limits, and never driving or riding while under the effects of alcohol or banned substances.

Road Safety Improvement Action Plan is regarded as very important and admirable to Nigeria at this point in its development. It will provide the basis of information against which better resource allocation and policy decisions can be taken in order to maximize the effective use of our plentiful human and natural resources. This needs to be addressed immediately. The government should invest in road safety improvements and think of road safety spending as an investment, not as an expense. The development and improvement of road safety can be a benefit to all citizens.



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