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Road crash reduction through community policing

While this was true for most families, it was however not the same for Malam Nasir El-Rufai whose home was thrown into mourning following  the…

While this was true for most families, it was however not the same for Malam Nasir El-Rufai whose home was thrown into mourning following  the tragic death of his son in an auto crash that occurred in the early hours of the day in the Federal Capital Territory. The former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, who incidentally was my Minister when I was Sector Commander in the FCT, while announcing the sad news on his Facebook page, stated that: “From Allah we came and to Him we shall return. Please join our family in praying for the repose of the soul of my son Hamza El-Rufai who died this morning in a motor accident in Abuja. I equally join other Nigerians and friends to encourage the former Minister at such a trying time.
As at the time of writing this piece which is meant to raise our sensibilities and cause a rethink in our driving habits, the details of the cause of the crash are still hazy as investigations are yet to be concluded by our accident investigators. While not attempting to preempt the outcome of any such investigations, I wish to recall the views I expressed when on Radio when I first heard of this tragedy. My first worry was to know the speed at which he was driving before the crash. I am aware that speed or what you would refer to as excessive speed remains a major headache for the Federal Road Safety Corps. And this explains why the Corps is already fine-tuning modalities to enforce speed limiting devices in all vehicles in the country starting with commercial vehicles. Excessive speeding is more pronounced in the FCT especially because of the improved road conditions and this odd driving habit is more pronounced during weekends and public holidays. Those who are night crawlers can testify to this and if you really have doubts on this claim, please do me a favor and visit the Area 1 round about in the early hours of most Saturdays and you will be convinced as you are sure to see at least one or two crashed vehicles.
I equally said that if he was thrown out of the vehicle, what this simply means is that he did not have his seat belt on as at the time of the accident. If he had his seat belt on, chances are that even if he was driving inappropriately, he could have survived possibly with serious injuries though simply because wearing a seat-belt reduces the risk of being ejected from a vehicle and suffering serious or fatal injury by between 40and 65 per cent. But like I said, I do hope that investigations would reveal details and help the Corps fine-tune its advocacies and enforcement strategies aimed at achieving the 15 percent reduction in road crashes and 25 percent reduction in fatalities, in line with its strategic goals for 2014.
My worry is that this death is coming on the heels of the death of the brother of the Vice President which also occurred in the same FCT. These are not the only deaths recorded in either the FCT or the country. There were others and like I said in one of my piece, over 3,000 deaths have been recorded since January, 2014. Severally on this page, I have tried to stress that we have the potential for improving safety within our community-this is the concept of community involvement. An example of an effort in securing the involvement of different sectors of the local community in injury prevention is the Safe Community Movement started in Sweden at the end of the 1980s, following the first World Conference on Accident and Injury Prevention, held in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1989 which attracted more than 500 delegates from 50 countries. A major premise of the meeting was that community-level programmes for injury prevention are keys to reducing injuries. A safe community can be a municipality, a city, or a district of a city, working with safety promotion, and injury prevention. The programme can cover all age groups, gender and areas. The movement recognizes that it is the people who live and work in a community who have a good understanding of their community’s needs, problems, assets and capacities. Such involvement is important in identifying and mobilizing resources for effective, comprehensive and coordinated community-based action on injuries. To date, 83 communities have been designated as members. The Safe Community Movement has been developed by the WHO Collaborating Center on Community Safety Promotion at the Karolinski Institute in Sweden.
A couple of months ago, I wrote on Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), whose mission is to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent under-age drinking. It was founded as far back as 1080 in California, United States, by Candy Lightner after a drunk driver hit her 13 years old daughter, who happened to be a repeat offender. MADD is today one of the key road safety advocacy groups in the United States, as well as in other countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Similar examples abound in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and other African countries. In Ghana, a low cost road safety intervention has been adopted. The use of speed bumps, in the form of rumble strips and speed humps have been found to be effective on Ghanaian roads. For instance, rumble strips on the main Accra-Kumasi highway at the crash hot spot of Suhum junction reduced the number of traffic crashes by around 35 per cent. Fatalities fell by some 55 per cent and serious injuries by 76 per cent between January 2000 and April 2001.This speed reducing device which can be adopted in our localities, succeeded in reducing or even eliminating certain kinds of crashes, as well as improving the safety of pedestrians.
A wide range of materials-including vulcanized rubber, hot thermoplastic materials, bituminous mixes, concrete and bricks-have been used in the construction of the speed control areas. Rumble strips are cheap and easy to install. They can be seen at potentially dangerous places on the Cape Coast-Takoradi highway, the Bunso-Koforidua and the Tema-Akosombo highways. In contrast, speed humps have been laid to slow down vehicles and improve the safety of pedestrians in the towns of Ejisu and Besease on the Accra-Kumasi highway.
Although there are approved speed limits on our highways and built-up areas, one shocking thing is that a good number of schools, including private and public schools are situated along routes with heavy traffic, yet with very little done in calming traffic for the safety of these children. Almost all these people in the school going age or groups have to be on the roads at least twice a day, thus forcing them to use the road when they are not adequately equipped to do so. While some control can be exercised in licensing drivers of motor vehicles, almost no control is possible in selection of pedestrians and bicyclists, including children. We therefore should as communities, put in place such systems often referred to as” forgiving systems” to protect our children when they make mistakes as kids. But while we collectively put such systems, we must also take a cue from a group of mothers in Lagos who recently took the bull by the horn over the increasing cases of traffic disobedience and crashes within their localities by calling off the bluff of commercial motorcycle riders-okada, commercial drivers and private car owners who daily indulge in flouting traffic rules by driving against the flow of traffic. One among them daily aid children cross the road in the morning and afternoon due to the recklessness exhibited by motorists especially okada who daily run them down. She has been on this for several months since 2007.Other mothers were compelled to join forces with her after a motor cyclist ran into two children of the same parents couple of months ago. She was said to have assisted the two children cross the road that faithful morning. But as she turned to see if there were others to be assisted, she heard a loud sound. When she turned to look, she found those same kids on the floor, having been knocked down by a cyclist riding against the flow of traffic. This is what I believe all of us parents MUST DO.

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