Road Transport Accidents: Causes, Effects and Prevention
Dr. Murtala Muhammad Umar
Road transportation is by far the commonest means of transportation in Nigeria compared to other means; air, rail and water. The technology has made life easy compared to the hitherto means of transportation such as animals. Nigerian economy despite its harshness, has afforded millions of its populace the means to own cars making road traffic a major problem.
It was estimated that the number of registered vehicles in Nigeria rose between 1988 – 2004 from 600,000 to 6,000,000. Despite the happiness and change of quality of family lives associated with owning a vehicle, its possession has made so many families bereaved of their breadwinners or lovely ones due to unprecedented rate of road traffic accidents (RTAs).
The lawlessness in our society has provided an enabling ground for lack of obedience to road rules and regulation. The causes of road traffic accidents are conventionally ramped into human, mechanical and environmental factors.
The human factor accounts for up to 90% of accidents infact, the mechanical and environmental factors are subservient to it.
Lack of knowledge of road signs and regulations, illiteracy, health problems like poor eye sight, excessive speeding, alcoholism, drug abuse, arrogance, over-confidence are some of the human factors too numerous to mention that cause RTAs.
Mechanical factors include poor vehicle maintenance, tyre blowouts, poor lights, un-roadworthy vehicles, broken down vehicles on the road without adequate warning sign etc.
Rainfall, sun reflection, storm, heavy wind, spot holes, un-tarred roads are some of the environmental conditions that contribute to RTAs.
Nigerian roads despite the current effort of Road Maintenance Agency are still in very bad states especially those leading to rural areas. It is a known fact that some very rural areas do not even have un-tarred roads that could link them to the nearest town making pregnant women and other patients die in the cause of animal transportation.
According to Federal Road Safety Commission not less than 87,320 road users lost their lives between 1990 and 2001 alone, most victims being between 20-40 years of age bracket.
The aim of this piece is to emphasize the prevention of RTAs and prevention of primary death from it due to either lack of accessible health facility or rejection by health facility. The approach to minimize road traffic accident should be multifactorial. The government agencies responsible must enact, enforce laws and prosecute where such laws are broken. The law enforcement agent must be conscious of the fact that the N20.00 he or she may collect as bribe is not worth endangering human lives.
At this juncture I like to applaud the effort of Senator Adighije, who sponsored a bill to amend Federal Road Safety Commission Act of 1990. The bill when amended and fully implemented will ensure that road side/mobile clinics are established to treat RTAs victims free of charge.
The highlights of the bill among other things include: making it an offence for any private or public hospitals to reject accident victims, all motor/motorcycles parks to be declared alcohol prohibited zones, and introduction of compulsory road traffic regulation handbook plus passenger manifest for commercial vehicles.
Let us hope that the bill when passed would be implemented as much as is humanly possible. The government should repair our railways to serve as alternatives.
The drivers on their side must adopt defensive driving techniques whose principle assumed that every other driver on the road is a potential threat. Experts have identified the features of defensive driving to include a driver not allowing his own safety to be dependent on the response of another driver not taking the response of another driver for granted, conscious awareness of his or her “Cocoon of safety” giving other road users adequate and advance information about his or her intention, etc. Defensive driving, coupled with good roads would go a long way in minimizing RTAs. The use of GSM while driving must be sanctioned by Road Safety Commission. Drivers should have adequate rest, shun drugs/alcohol and fasten their belts before embarking on a long journey.
It is advisable to break after driving for at most 4 hours in order to avoid fatigue. Accidents even in the best of settings must occur but measures should be taken to minimize the effects. The Road Safety Commission should introduce programmes to health educate various segments of the society ranging from post primary to tertiary institutions and National Union of Road Traffic Workers on how to render First Aids to accident victims.
Every driver is supposed to have a First Aid kits in his or her vehicle. Hospital on their part whether public or private should not reject patients when rushed to them. There are so many cases of rejections mostly due to financial constraints or unaccompanying police report. Some hospitals have association known as Save Accident Victims Association of Nigeria (SAVAN), which come to the aid of victims before their relatives are available. This association has saved so many lives and one will encourage health workers to form such association where it is absent.
It is hoped that when the Federal Road Safety Commission Act 1990 is amended and fully in place, RTAs rate will be reduced to an acceptable level.
Dr Murtala Muhammad Umar , General Hospital Zurmi, ZAMFARA State