By Ibrahim Paul Yushau
The first global assessment of road safety activities has revealed that almost half of an estimated 1.27 million people, who died as a result of road accidents in Nigeria and other countries of the world are mostly pedestrians, motorcyclist, drivers and passengers.
A recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) said that more than 4,000 Nigerians had lost their lives in the last three years in various road traffic mishaps. This, according to the WHO, involves men (66 percent) and women (33 percent).
The report also added that at least 17,794 cases of non-fatal road traffic injuries were recorded in the country. The WHO report entitled Global Status Report on road safety activities provides the first world- wide analysis of how well countries are implementing a number of effective safety measures. These include limiting speed, reducing drinking while driving and increasing the use of scat belts and motorcyclists’ safety helmets.
Funded by philanthropist, Mr. Michael Bloomberg, the report presents information from 178 countries. It is a standardized technique that allows comparisons among the countries.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, said “we found that in many countries, the laws that are necessary to protect people are either not in place or are not comprehensive. And even when there is adequate legislation, most countries report that enforcement is low”. We are not giving sufficient attention to needs of pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Many of them end up in clinics and hospitals”
Bloombeng, on his part laments that traffic mishaps are a leading cause of death, particularly among young people aged five to 44 years.” For the first time, we have solid data to hold us accountable and to target our efforts. Road safety must be part of all transport planning efforts particularly at this moment of focus on infrastructure improvement and road building by many countries around the globe”. While road building by many high income countries has declined in recent decades, research suggests that road deaths are unceasing in most regions of the world and that if the trend continues unabated, they will rise to an estimated 2.4 million a year by 2013.
In addition, road mishaps cause about 20 million non-fatal injuries every year and are an important cause of disability. In any country, support services for road traffic victims are inadequate. These avoidable injuries also overload already stretched care systems in many countries, including Nigeria
The Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the (FRSC), Mr Osita Chidoka, has reiterated his determination that every transport organization, whether private or government-owned, must ensure that safety measures are applied on the highways.
The report documents numbers and registered vehicles in each country and action being taken to invest in public transport and encourage non-motorist travel such a walking and cycling. Vehicle manufacture standards and requirement for road safety audits were reported, as well as the existence of formal pre-hospital care systems, including emergency telephone numbers. Accurate statistic are very necessary for understanding the condition of road safety and measuring the impact of efforts to improve it. The report found that underreporting of deaths occurs in many counties and that few countries have complete reliable data on road traffic injuries. The highest death rate is seen in Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions. The lowest rates are among high-income countries, such as the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Less than a third of countries meet basic criteria for reducing speed in urban areas, while few countries use the recommended blood alcohol concentration limit of 0.05 gram as a measure to drink-driving while safety helmet law exists in more than 90 percent of the countries, only 40 percent have a law that covers riders and passengers, while also requiring that safety helmets meet specified standard requirement.
In addition, only 57 percent of countries out of over 200 nations that make up the earth have laws that require all car occupants to wear seat belts. Significantly, this represents only 38 percent of countries in the low income category. Half of all countries do not have laws requiring the use of child restraints (e.g. child seats and boaster seats). This figure marks considered variation, with laws relevant in 90 percent of high-income countries but only 20 percent of low income countries.
And also, the Director of WHO’s department of violence and injury prevention and disability, Dr. Etiemme Krug, said “more than 90 percent of our world’s road deaths occurred in few countries while these countries only have 48 percent of the world’s vehicles”.
Our roads are particularly unsafe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, who, without the protective shell of a car around them, are more vulnerable. Measures such as a building side walls, rising crossing, separating lanes for two wheels, reducing drink-driving and excessive speed, increasing the use of safety helmets and improving trauma care are some of the interventions that could save hundreds of thousands of lives every year, he added.
■ Yushau writes from FRSC KAFANCHAN, Kaduna State