People appear to be in unnecessary haste during this period especially drivers, hence they are tempted to over- speed, over-load and pay little regard to traffic signs and general road conditions resulting in more accidents.
Road accidents have caused the nation monumental loss of human and material resources. Many Nigerian families have been plunged into despair, hopelessness and sorrow as a result of sudden deaths on major roads, thereby throwing beloved oens in a state of despair, sorrow and hardship. This is particularly worrisome when the victims happen to be breadwinners.
Though road mishaps can occur at anytime or season, but experience has shown that more road accidents are recorded during the “ember months” particularly within the last two months of the year. Authorities attribute increased road accidents at this period to several factors.
The Commissioner for Transport in Rivers State, Hon. George Tolofari, while declaring open an ember months road safety campaign organised by the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Port Harcourt recently attributed increased road mishaps during these festive months to attitude of drivers who display all manner of recklessness while driving on public roads.
While warming drivers against reckless driving, Honourable Tolofari argued that until road users, particularly the drivers tread the season with extra care and adopt a positive attitude while on the wheels, the problem of increased road accidents may remain unabated.
The Rivers State Sector Commander of Federal Road Safety Commission, Mr. Osas Osadebamwen linked the trend to high human and vehicular traffic which creates several problems on the road.
“When you have high density of vehicles and humans, you are going to have more traffic problems. You are going to have more stress, you are going to have more need for patience from drivers and you are going to have more problems,” he stated.
On his own part, the Vice Chairman, Rivers State Chapter of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Chief Lawrence T. Williams attributed the development to unnecessary haste on the part of drivers. “People appear to be in unnecessary haste during this period especially drivers, hence they are tempted to over- speed, over-load and pay little regard to traffic signs and general road conditions, resulting in more accidents” he said.
The NURTW boss explained that people try to cover within one or two months what they were unable to cover in the past ten or eleven months.
Chief Williams also said that some people had to very negative mentality that the problem was spiritual and that during the period most accidents that occur have spiritual undertones which could not be avoided.
“But we keep telling them it is not true. If it is negative, it is due to how you approach it or what you believe in. As far as we are concerned, ember months are beautiful months, festive months and time of the year when people can give account of their stewardship for the year and thank God for His blessings. So people should remove that mentality and be positive,” he advised.
Worried by the high incidence of road accidents during the season, the Federal Road Safety Commission has taken some proactive steps to reduce carnage on the roads.
The state sector commander told The Tide on Sunday that apart from the ember months special patrols which he said are nationwide, his command was involved in the Eld-el-Kabir and the Sallah special patrol and also launched its own baby idea tagged “Rivers Road Safety Corridor.”
“Within these three programmes, we are able to take charge of the traffic problems. I assure you that we are going to have smooth traffic situation during the Sallah celebration, Christmas period and the new year. We are particularly going to make sure in the new year, we will not have the kind of problems we h ad in the past,” he assured.
Mr. Osadebamwen also disclosed that several awareness campaigns had been carried out by FRSC in the state, stressing that stakeholders in the transport sector were also involved, and expressed the hope that if those concerned continue to do the right thing as being preached, the high incidence of mishaps on the roads in the state which occur during festive periods would be drastically reduced.
“Garages, commercial drivers, transport union executives, staff of the Ministry of Transport and owners of driving schools amongst numerous other stakeholders were not left out in the FRSC campaigns for safety on the roads during the festive periods.”
The Sector commander maintained that such campaigns which also involved school children and media men were part of the mitigating measures put in place to check road mishaps.
He said that in Rivers State, what we really have at the moment is not high rate of road accidents as such but traffic jams and noted that his command would continue to work assiduously hard to bring the situation under control.
Issues as overloading, state of the vehicles, over speeding, driving against traffic, dangerous overtaking and the use of safety or seat belts were emphasised in the campaigns. Believe you me, if the drivers can take extra care of all these, the target would be achieved,” he remarked.
He disclosed that the sector command had concluded plans to organize a new campaign on December 3, 2009 to bring under control, traffic difficulties and accidents on the roads in the state.
He decried the general high level of indiscipline on the roads by drivers which he said often pose great challenges to the command.
“Some drivers won’t obey the electronic instructions of traffic lights, the issue of traffic jams which we experience is not traffic violation per se but it is a problem that results from high density of vehicles and humans compounded by disregard to traffic regulations,” he maintained.
On the part of driving schools, the sector commander said driving schools were being streamlined so that their operations would be standardised.
“In an attempt to streamline their operations, we insist that every driving school must have the minimum requirements as stipulated in our guidelines. We need more driving schools in the state. We are not going to close them down but assist in ensuring that they operate strictly according to the rules,” he stated.
He also advised passengers to call any commercial driver who is driving recklessly to order. “If your driver is over speeding, overloading or overtakes dangerously, you have the responsibility to call him to order and at the nearest checkpoint, report to our men and they will take actions.
Probably, the need for passengers to take active participation in the drive for safety on the roads has become more imperative since reckless ones among them may not die alone in case of an accident.
Unfortunately, some passengers are known to have encouraged the drivers to over-speed or overtake carelessly simply because they want to arrive their destinations in time while some helpless ones watch even when their lives are equally in danger.
Reacting to the issue, the Rivers State Chairman of Driving Schools Association, Chief Samuel Ogba attributed the problems on the road to display of ignorance by some commercial and private drivers who did not pass through genuine driving schools in the society.
He said for any person to be qualified to drive on Nigerian roads, such a person was supposed to have passed through a recognised driving school, stressing hat if not the person could not observe the necessary regulations guiding traffic.
“But what we see these days are people who are trained by their husbands or friends who did not pass through the normal training. They buy their cars and the next few days, they are on the roads causing all kinds of frustration for the public,” Ogba said.
He commended the FRSC in the state for its efforts in streamlining the operations of driving schools.
Chief Ogba who last year raised alarm over the operations of unregistered driving schools said at present, the new sector commander of the commission in the state had taken stringent measures to bring sanity on the road.
He called for new legislations on the operations of driving schools by the law making arm of the government so that the place of driving schools would be regarded.
He regretted that the carelessness of some quack drivers and operations of driving schools have led to the loss of several lives and properties in the society.
Safety Manager, Rivers State Road Transport Company (RTC) Mr. Jembarimiema J. Harry most of what we call accidents on the road are not accident per se but avoidable situations that resulted in the wrong attitude to traffic rules and regulations.
He said apart from holding regular safety meetings with drivers and conductors in his company, as the Safety Manager, he makes it a point of duty to be at work as early as 5.00a.m before the first motor takes off to check the safety state of the vehicles, the state of the driver and the loading capacity since these are issues that can lead to accidents on the road.
In some manner, the Manager of Sam-Jaja Transport Service, Mr. Pekins Jaja who spoke to The Tide on Sunday said his company has held meetings with the Director, management staff and drivers on how to approach the season.
According to Mr. Jaja, drivers have been warned to reduce the normal speed limit because of eventualities occasioned by the season which he described as a season of haste and desperation.
“Drivers must maintain speed limit, not over load. The state of the vehicle must be checked and certified by the company’s safety officer and driving under the influence of alcohol is totally unacceptable by our operational standard,” he said.
“Apart from the drivers, reactionary centres have been put in place for travellers to enable them relax so that the journey would be a happy one devoid of any form of desperation because experience has shown that disagreement between desperate passengers and drivers also lead to accidents and avoidable quarrels. “ he added.
One issue that bugs the mind is the existence of many sales points for alcoholic drink in the parks. All known public parks in the state have enough supply of alcohol and other intoxicants. This situation brings to question the possibility of maintaining the no drive no drink stands of both FRSC and transport unions.
The FRSC Commander, Rivers State Sector, Mr. Osadebamwen who also reacted to the issue said his Command was working with Parks and garage people on the ban on alcohol in the parks especially during this festive season and assured strict compliance.
But the Vice Chairman of NURTW in the state, Chief Williams blamed the local authorities over the continued sale of alcohols in the public parks.
He said “the management of parks are in the hands of local government authorities; they give out stores and we have little or no power to control them. Ordinarily, e would have wished that the ban be totally complied with.”
The transport union boss appealed to the various local government councils to joint he drive by ensuring that those they give the stores in the park strictly adhere to the order for the safety of the masses.