The FRSC should intensify efforts to ensure the safety of road users
Following a recent fatal accident along the Kwali-Abaji expressway, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Corps Marshal, Dauda Ali Biu cautioned drivers against violating the prescribed speed limit. He also admonished against night trips while urging those on such duties to always observe a rest period of 30 minutes after every four-hour drive. The main cause of the crash which claimed no fewer than 17 lives was excessive speed, and fatigue. Speed limit violation, according to Biu, is a predominant challenge to collective efforts to stem the tide of avoidable crashes on Nigerian highways.
The issue of speed has been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of a crash as well as the severity of the injuries that result from crashes. In fact, WHO and the Global Road Safety Partnership, in their publication, “Speed Management: Road Safety Manual for Decision Makers and Practitioners,” recommended that speed limits be introduced in every country as part of the global strategy to cut down road fatalities. Nigeria is yet to come to terms with that prescription.
The relationship between speed and injury severity is particularly critical for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. For example, pedestrians have been shown to have a 90 percent chance of survival when struck by a car traveling at 30km/hr or below, but less than zero percent chance of surviving an impact at 45km/hr. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact of 80km/hr. What this means is that controlling vehicle speed can prevent crashes from happening and can reduce the impact when they do occur, lessening the severity of injuries sustained by the victims.
As the nation’s lead agency for road safety management and traffic administration, the FRSC has consistently canvassed the idea of installing speed-limiting devices in vehicles as a means of achieving safe driving on our roads. The argument is that by slowing down vehicles, the travel risk for all motorists may be lowered by reducing the number of collisions and mitigating the severity of those that do occur. In many countries, speed is estimated to be the main contributory factor in about 50 percent of all crashes. Excessive speeding decreases the driver’s response time in an emergency and may increase the risk of a crash. It equally reduces his ability to maneuver safely on the road and extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle. This is because the higher the speed of a vehicle, the shorter the time a driver must stop and avoid a crash.
Speed also contributes to the severity of the impact when a collision does occur. For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80km/hr, the likelihood of death is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30km/hr. For instance, the use of speed limiters in many countries, especially in Europe, dates to February 1992 when a Council directive 62/6/EEC required speed limiters to be fitted in certain categories of vehicles. By November 2002, the European Parliament and the Council Directive 2002/85/EC extended the range of vehicles to be fitted, while in January 2007, it was extended to more categories of vehicles. Within Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya followed suit in 2003, while Uganda in 2004, Zambia in 2006, and Ontario and Quebec took their turns in 2009.
While the debate about the introduction of speed limiters to address some of the challenges posed by speed-induced road traffic crashes in the country continues, we urge the FRSC authorities to intensify their efforts to ensure safety for Nigerian road users.