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Ember months: Ensuring safety on roads now and forever

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Ember months: Ensuring safety on roads now and forever
Road accident

Mr. BISI KAZEEM is the Corps Public Education Officer of the Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC.  In this piece, he corrects the wrong notion that Ember months naturally come with auto crashes.  According to him, many of the road accidents are caused by the wrong attitudes of drivers or road users in general.

As a mother, Dr. Mrs. Farida Adelaja could not help but weep uncontrollably after watching a sitcom during the 9 p.m. Network News bulletin on the inherent hazards of dangerous driving and other road vices. She shuddered with fright while reading the reaction from the medical doctor of Divine Touch Hospital, Ibafo in Ogun State on the recent fatal crash involving a commercial bus belonging to the Young Shall Grow Motors along the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Ogun State, in the early hours of Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018, killing 10 persons and injuring many other passengers.

Dr. Dotun Odofin said “of the eight injured brought to the hospital, seven survived.

He added, “The motor boy of the luxury bus, Ifeanyi Eze, died five minutes after arriving at our hospital. He was among the eight injured admitted to our hospital. His two legs were crushed. Six patients have been discharged because they had minor injuries, while one Togolese woman is still receiving treatment. The passengers said the driver had been reckless since they left Onitsha, Anambra State, for Lagos and they even called the company’s office to complain before the accident happened.”

According to the Ogun State Sector Commander of the Federal Road Safety Corps who led a team of rescue operatives to the scene of the crash, Corps Commander Clement Oladele, the commercial bus conveyed 42 passengers. He, however, said nine people died in the crash, adding that eight passengers were injured.

He said, “A total of 42 persons were involved in the accident, comprising 34 males and eight females. Three males and two female adults were injured, while seven males and two female adults died.”

Oladele said the whereabouts of the bus driver was unknown.

Reacting further, the Chief Medical Director of OOUTH, Dr. Peter Adefuye, said “nine bodies were brought to the hospital’s mortuary by emergency management workers,” adding that “some of the deceased could be members of the National Youth Service Corps.”

He said, “We learnt that the luxury bus rammed into a parked trailer on the highway. Nine bodies were brought to the mortuary; they had injuries.

“One had his head almost ruptured, while others had multiple fractures. It is possible that the deceased sat close to where the bus rammed into the trailer. Some of them appeared like youths on the NYSC scheme; they were in white tops and khakis. There were others in mufti.

“For now, the deceased are still recorded as unknown. However, the medical and social departments, with the support of the Police, will search their luggage. If they have ID cards or any means of identification, we will trace their family members. This process will take one or two days. We may have to contact their families if they don’t show up.”

These gloomy reflections occupied the mind of Dr. Mrs. Adelaja as she lay bedridden in her room with feeling of relief after surviving a near fatal lone crash which resulted in a spinal cord injury. Within the last 11 months, she has passed through the doctor’s surgical knives for five times with scars which only bring unpleasant memories.

With occasional grunts, she recounts the painful experience of November 2014 which, according to her, was an unforgettable day of her life; a day which puts an abrupt end to all her plans and then confined her to a solitary bed and has to move with the aid of one of her children, Bimpe, who has virtually stopped going to school in order to attend to her mother’s needs.

According to her: “We had almost passed Katsinala when I heard a sudden sound  which was followed by a burst tyre and the next thing I saw was our  bus skidding off the road. I woke up later on a hospital bed with a strange numb feeling on my left leg. The nurse later told me that I was brought in by concerned Nigerians together with some other passengers who were involved in the near fatal accident and now, I can no longer use my left leg. It is very painful.”

Also recounting an unpleasant experience during a trip started from the Kaduna Mando Park at exactly 7.30 p.m.  in October of last year, Miss Ephraim Bassey, a tomato seller who trades in perishable food items at the popular Uyo Central Market.  On her hospital bed in Abuja, she stated that “the fatal crash which claimed seven lives and left four other passengers in critical condition at the Intensive Care Unit of  Unity Clinic at Kubwa,  could have been averted if the driver had  noticed the worn-out tyre on his vehicle before the night trip which has left me with severe neck and back injuries that made it difficult for me to sit down for too long.”

“It was very ghastly and I was lucky to have lived through it,” she explained.

A common feature between Adelaja and Ephraim’s near death experience is the fact that both are hinged on the fact that both crashes occurred during the period which most people refer to as the Ember months period.

The Ember months refer to the calendar months of September to December. These are the months during which higher incidences of deaths and injuries occur through road traffic crashes due to the increased number of road users in the run up to the festive season are usually recorded. In the case of the Young Shall Grow bus, the attitude of the driver is to blame.

As usual, the Federal Road Safety Corps has initiated a novel strategy towards imparting safety consciousness among road users across the country through the proposed flag-off of a nationwide robust public advocacy, intensive patrols and rescue services with the theme: “Safe Driving Save Lives.”

According to FRSC Corps Marshal, Dr. Boboye Oyeyemi, “the reason for rolling out our annual safety awareness campaign drums in this manner is to tell motorists that road safety is the collective responsibility of everybody.”

He added that, “we adopt the same operational and campaign focus across the various formations of the Corps in order to achieve uniformity and also conscientize road users and motorists to understand that road crashes do not have any special link to Ember season aside from the attitude of every road user and motorists alike.

“We also emphasis on the need for proper and regular vehicle maintenance and educate passengers on their rights to caution their driver in the event of any form of reckless driving. Road Safety is a collective responsibility.”

Most worrisome is the generally held misconception which ascribes the spate of road crashes during the Ember season to the activities of some spiritual forces which operate along designated routes of the nation’s highways with the primary motive of “sucking human blood” through road carnages which often result in untimely death of drivers and passengers of “targeted” vehicles plying the highways.

While debunking these claims, the FRSC spokesman, Corps Commander Bisi Kazeem said that “the insinuations that road traffic crashes are caused by spiritual forces is laughable and unfounded.”

According to him, the fact remains that over 90 per cent of road traffic accidents are due to human causes.

He said:  “We have drivers who will refuse to obey traffic rules and regulations, drivers who despite knowing the dangerous consequences, will still go ahead and buy tokunbo tires and also drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol. So, it is a combination of these factors that are responsible for the crashes you see on the roads and not any spiritual forces. Added to this trend is the reluctance of most drivers to do the routine morning checks on their vehicles before leaving home.”

It then follows that attitudinal syndrome remains a determinant factor towards safer road use in Nigeria. Little wonder, the FRSC Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi will always assert that “bad use of the road and not bad roads lead to road crashes.”  This means that the driver’s acts of omission has a direct bearing on road crashes.

In trying to elucidate on the traffic peculiarities associated with the ember season, we will try to look at vehicle condition and vehicle accessories which will no doubt, equip vehicle owners with adequate knowledge on maintenance and proper use of vehicles in order to reduce avoidable road crashes, especially during the ember season.

Understanding vehicles accessories

Every vehicle is provided with accessories whose state and condition is determined by the proper, correct or effective use of necessary accessories provided in such vehicles. Some of these accessories which every driver should understand how to work with include:

  1. Seat adjustment spring/knob
  2. Seat belt
  3. Steering
  4. Mirrors
  5. Dash board informative signs
  6. Gear lever
  7. Head lamp switch
  8. Trafficator/signal switch
  9. Hazard light switch
  10. Pedals (brake, clutch and throttle/accelerator)
  11. Horn button
  12. Dryer/defroster buttons
  13. Spare tyres, etc

As pointed out earlier, our driving attitude and not the Ember season is responsible for most crashes which occur between September and December. As a driver, you are jeopardising the lives of your passengers when you refuse to put on your seat belts only to hurriedly struggle with it on sighting FRSC operatives.

As a passenger, you are supposed to be responsive and not passive when your driver exceeds the recommended speed limit by politely urging him to slow down before he kills you and other passengers.

As the FRSC continues its nationwide advocacy towards safer road use during the Ember season and beyond, it is envisaged that all hands should be on deck towards achieving the Corps’ corporate strategic goals of reducing road crashes by 15% and fatalities by 30% by the end of the year, 2018. Always note that only our positive attitude can change the trend of road crashes in Nigeria.

 

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