The huge toll that traffic accidents exact in the country has attracted global concern, as Nigerian roads have been adjudged the most dangerous in Africa. A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on road traffic deaths in selected African countries says Nigeria accounts for the highest fatalities with 33.7 percent per 100,000 population every year.
According to the report entitled “Road Safety in the WHO African Region”, more than one in four traffic accident deaths in Africa occur on Nigerian roads. The report also claims that road accident is the third leading cause of death in Nigeria. This places Nigeria as having the second worst traffic fatalities in the world. South Africa closely trailed Nigeria. It came second with 31.9 percent per 100,000 population, followed by DR Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In the same report, Africa was listed as the “least motorized out of the six continents in the World, but suffers the highest rates of road fatalities” of the 37 countries that the survey covered, with death rates well above the average of 18 deaths for 100,000 population. The fatality figures for USA and Britain are 15 and seven percent, respectively.
Altogether, the WHO report confirms the grim reality of the carnage on our roads. By all accounts, the survey calls to question the safety of roads in the country. It also highlights the recklessness of many of our drivers, the poor maintenance of our vehicles and our numerous dilapidated roads with several bad spots that have become deathtraps and dens of robbers.
The frightening statistics call for immediate action by government and other relevant road safety and maintenance agencies. It is also a challenge to all road users and stakeholders in the country.
The outcome of the WHO survey corroborates reports from the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) that the rate of traffic deaths in the country is alarming. For instance, in 2009, deaths resulting from road accidents were 7000, with 969 of them children. In 2010, according to WHO, Nigeria recorded 5,279 deaths from road crashes. Between January and June, in the following year, 2218 lives were lost in 2234 accidents, while 3000 persons died in road accidents between January and October 2012. Road accident statistics have particularly been on the upward swing in the cities
No doubt, this is the time for swift action to stem the trend. We need enlightenment campaigns on the importance of containing accident rates in the country to reduce the avoidable loss of lives. There should be adequate surveillance of our highways by road safety officials. Needful of particular attention are the Lagos/Benin highway and the Zariaga end of the Abuja-Okene highway in Kogi State, where heartrending deaths have been recorded in recent times. There is no gainsaying the fact that many of the highways across the country have become deathtraps due to a combination of factors, among them, the poor state of the highways and recklessness of the drivers.
While we urge all tiers of government in the country to hasten the rehabilitation of the roads under their jurisdiction, the FRSC should double its efforts on promotion of road safety. Let the agency design fresh strategies to regulate the operation of different categories of vehicles, especially the articulated trucks, to reduce road accidents. Drivers should also be enlightened on how to avoid traffic accidents. The Commission should not restrict its safety campaigns to the end of the year, or the “ember months”, as the last four months of the year are called. The campaigns should be an all-year round affair.
It has become glaring from both the FRSC statistics and the latest WHO report that road traffic deaths have become one of the worrisome problems that require urgent attention in the country. As our economy grows, it is estimated that the volume of traffic in the country will increase from eight million at present, to 40 million by 2020. This calls for all hands on deck to safeguard lives.