To promote safety on Nigerian roads
IN the past few weeks, Lagosians have witnessed multiple heavy vehicle accidents on Lagos roads. While majority of the incidents often result in fatality and injuries, only few of the accidents resulted into vehicle damage and minor injuries to road users. In most cases, road users and other vehicle operators who are unlucky to be hit by heavy vehicles do not survive.
In developed countries, the effect is calculated in financial terms, hence, the projected revenue lost by the government and private sectors is estimated in millions of dollars. Surprisingly, we are yet to realise that incident like this does not only put road users at risks and create discomforts but also a channel for state and federal government revenue losses. When roads are in bad state and poorly maintained and vehicles are put on roads together with inexperienced drivers or drivers with bad behaviour, they combine to create a situation of multiple failures that put road users at risks and impose costs on employers, individuals, the government and the society.
The estimated costs of heavy vehicle road accident to Nigeria includes impose costs on employers (e.g. sick pay, man-hour lost due to lateness to work), on individuals (e.g. the human costs of pain, grief and suffering) and on the Government (e.g. health care expenditure). The State and Federal government must work together in finding a lasting solution in ensuring that our roads are motorable and not a source of danger to vehicles and other road users. They must ensure heavy vehicles plying our roads are in good state of repairs and maintenance. Also, stringent penalties must be given to drivers who wilfully breach traffic laws and exhibit unsafe behaviours, etc.
Restricting the movement of heavy vehicles on specific roads must be enforced if we must reduce heavy vehicle accidents on our roads. Public roads must be designed and constructed to be able to carry heavy vehicles of standard maximum mass (weight) unless a special restriction or weight limit applies to those roads. The Road Safety Enforcing Authority (RSEA) should ensure that the maximum dimension limits for these vehicles are enforced and are checked for a certificate of fitness to ascertain their suitability in plying the road.
Heavy vehicle rest and parking spots should be considered during the design and construction of the road. Drivers should have access to adequate off-road parking facilities along designated routes used so that they can stop their vehicles to take a break from driving and also to check the vehicle for possible mechanical problems and its load for possible movement or loose chains, ropes or straps. This off-road parking facilities should be clearly marked and indicated with advisory signs to inform the drivers of such location.
Pedestrian and cycle facilities should also be given priority. Footpaths should be provided on designated heavy vehicle routes so pedestrians can walk or run clear of heavy vehicle movement. Also, in areas where pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow is required, then pedestrian crossing facilities should be provided. Consequently, maximum speed limit for heavy vehicles on Nigeria roads must be specified and speed restriction imposed for particular roads.
Insufficient warnings signs and their wrong placement can be a causal factor for heavy vehicle accidents. Trucks typically need considerably more distance to stop than cars. Hence, heavy vehicle drivers should be given sufficient warning in time to enable them slow considerably or stop. Avoiding what the vehicle driver cannot see would also help in accident reduction. Most heavy vehicle drivers have a better view of the road ahead than car drivers due to their higher seating position. However, they often have significant blind spots due to parts of their vehicle or its load blocking their view. The blind spots are located infront, behind, from left side, through left side window and rear side view. These blind spots are particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists who may be situated within the blind spot area when a driver intends to turn left or change lanes to his or her left. Heavy vehicle drivers should therefore not reverse their vehicle without assistance in areas to which the general public has access. Bus turnaround areas should be designed so that the bus can turn without needing to reverse.
In addressing these unsafe practices, all heavy vehicles should be required to have a Certificate of Loading which lists the maximum weight or passenger limits that the vehicle can safely carry or tow. Vehicles should be loaded or unloaded in an off-road area. Loading equipment which is carried on or fitted to a vehicle should only be operated by people who have been trained in the safe use of that equipment.
Loaders who need to work on a roadway should wear high visibility clothing and receive appropriate training in safety procedures. Generally goods vehicles should not be loaded or unloaded on roadways with high traffic flows.
It is important that the Nigeria Road Safety Authority develop a road safety management system and guidance document which should be accessible to the general public. This would help create awareness and educate the heavy vehicle operators on how to make use of the roads safely.
Restrictions on use of roads by heavy motor vehicles might be essential as the impacts of heavy vehicle on the roads can be minimised by restricting their operating time to certain time of the day. For this to be effective, the State and Federal government must come up with appropriate legislative provisions.
Enforcement of this rule would help reduce the incidents on the road since there would be fewer road users and thus, accident can be averted.
Drugs and alcohol impedes judgement and creates a situation where drivers make wrong decisions because they are not in their right senses. This must be discouraged and such class of people must not be allowed to drive freely on our roads.
• Fowode, an engineer, is a chartered health and safety practitioner