It is an offence for a large and slow moving vehicle to allow smaller or fast moving vehicles queue behind it whenever the driver can pull over safely to make way for other vehicles.Â – Section 15 of the Highway Code
THE rate of road accidents is on the increase. There are occasional mentions of this fact, but little attention is paid to addressing the situation. The statistics are startling.
According to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, annual deaths from road accidents are likely to increase from the current 1.3 million to 1.9 million by 2020.
NEMA Assistant Zonal Coordinator Apollos Jediel said this as NEMA mourned the death of its former Maiduguri Zonal Coordinator Hajiah Fatimah Usman with her children in a road accident. He added that over 50 million people were injured annually in road accidents.
â€œIt is high time we treated it as a national emergency as we are daily being confronted by an epidemic that kills and maims on the scale of major infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS,â€ Jediel said.
About 70 per cent of the accidents, he said, could be avoided if large slow moving vehicles adhered to the provision of Section 15 of the Highway Code quoted above.
Another provision of the Code that is observed in breach is Section 25 that is against indiscriminate parking of trailers and tankers on the highways. Many sections of the nationâ€™s highways have these heavy vehicles parked in manners that obstruct the highways.
More than 20 years ago, when the Federal Road Safety Corps was established, heavy vehicles observed these provisions because they were enforced. It was a common sight to see these vehicles make way for smaller vehicles.
Their compliance with the law saved the heavy build up of traffic on the highways, the resulting impatience and the accidents that follow as smaller vehicles try to overtake heavy vehicles that would not yield space. The situation has worsened with the poor state of the roads.
Efforts to lower the rate of road accidents deserve better attention than what is going on now. Mr. Jediel spoke in the heat of the loss of a colleague who everyone spoke about in glowing terms. Many other organisations and families have suffered similar losses through road accidents.
Seventeen years ago, eight judges of the Supreme Court died on the Ibadan-Ilorin road. The Federal Governmentâ€™s immediate reaction was to award the contract for the expansion of the road, notorious for high numbers of accidents. The road remains uncompleted.
Lip service to road accidents is a standard response to this epidemic. When the emotions are over, depending on those involved, we quickly forget the promises to mitigate the factors that result in road accidents.
A starting point could be education of road users and enforcement of provisions like Rule 15. A lot needs to be done to cut the high rate of road accidents, but beginnings, no matter how small can be helpful.