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Driving safely into 2016

The Ember months September to December are traditionally the most dangerous for road users in Nigeria, recording as they usually do the highest number of…

The Ember months September to December are traditionally the most dangerous for road users in Nigeria, recording as they usually do the highest number of accidents and recorded fatalities. This is basically because of the heavy traffic on the North-South route as many families travel home for the Christmas and end of year season. To its credit, the Federal Road Safety Corps [FRSC] spares no effort whenever this period of the year approaches. This year too, FRSC’s Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi has been going round the states on a tour to raise public awareness on road safety dangers during the ember months.
Opeyemi has visited FRSC’s Oyo, Delta and Anambra State Sector Commands to assess their level of preparedness for the ember months. During his official visit to Rivers State, Oyeyemi said, “This year’s ember months campaign has been flagged off and every staff must prepare to work hard to make the roads safer and obstruction-free for all road travelers during the yuletide period.” As the Federal agency responsible for road safety, FRSC must play its role in reducing the carnage on our roads during the festive and all other periods. However the responsibility of being safety conscious on roads is not only for road safety officials but for all road users.
No one should need road marshals to remind him to obey traffic rules. However, since many motorists will only obey the rules when there is a chance that they will be apprehended, road marshals must flood the highways as much as they can in order to deter these habitual criminals. The problem is compounded by the fact some road users do not even know what the rules are, since many people in this country could get a driver’s license without ever undergoing a driving test or even an eye test.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently said in a report that 1.25 million people are killed in traffic accidents around the world each year, with Africa being the continent with the most dangerous roads. “Road traffic fatalities take an unacceptably high toll, particularly on poor people in poor countries,” WHO chief Margaret Chan said. The report however found that road safety has improved significantly in countries with laws regulating five high risk factors. These are speed, drunk driving and the use of helmets, seatbelts and child seats. Right now the enforcement of these rules is not as strict as it should be, since many road traffic officials would rather dwell on checking ‘car particulars.’
During these ember months, road safety officials, including Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO) should intensify campaign and enforce traffic rules due to the unprecedented movement of vehicles. The craze of going home for the festive season is such that some people with little experience of long distance driving would pack their entire families into a small car and embark on a journey of 1,000 kilometers. They put themselves and other road users at considerable risk.
The huge traffic on the roads during this season as well as impatience of motorists and travelers combine together to increase the risk of accidents. Even though a lot of the travelers are civil servants and others on regular employment, they must be reminded that they need not wait until the last moment to embark on this journey home. If only more and more people will space out their travelling schedules, it would ease the heavy traffic congestion that is often witnessed on Christmas Eve. People who embark on the journey on time would also be less impatient and should be able to observe normal speed limits and other traffic rules.
The state of Nigerian roads is another contributory factor to road accidents. Too many highways are narrow; potholes adorn most of them; bridges often have no railings. Add to these sharp corners, fallen road traffic signs, broken down vehicles, especially overloaded articulated trucks and tankers, plus big stones left overnight after an operation by armed robbers and you begin to get a sense of the condition that motorists face. Still, all hands must be on deck to realize FRSC’s catchy slogan for the year, which is Driving Safely Into 2016.

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