The recent resolution by the House of Representatives (Thursday, February 25, 2016) that the FRSC’s policy on the mandatory use of speed limiting devices scheduled for implementation from April 1, 2016 be suspended is both commendable and timely.
This development prompted my interest in representing this article for publication Immediately the policy was announced over a year ago, I wrote a letter to the Corps Marshal/Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Commission urging the Corps to consider some salient issues to know whether to enforce the use of speed limiters in Nigeria or not, and to avoid a case of putting the Cart before the horse if at all it will be implemented. Below are my comments on the planned enforcement of the use of speed limiting devices as earlier presented for further debate by the House of Representatives and other Stakeholders.
Without doubt, speed is the single biggest factor contributing to road accidents and fatalities. Over 50% of fatal accidents are caused by excessive and inappropriate speed.
Speed limiter is a modern technology which is in use in several countries. For example in the United States of America and Canada, Speed limiters (also known as Governor) are set between 177km/h – 188km/h for Cars, 181km/h – 241km/h for V8 models and 100km/h-120km/h for Trucks and Articulated vehicles.
Speed limiters boosts safety when the traffic flow is very light and the roads are good but accident rate increases when the traffic is heavy or when the roads are bad. How many roads are light without traffic buildup and how many roads are good to the level of justifying the use of speed limiters in Nigeria as in the other Countries currently using the device? How good is our security system on the roads? How effective also is our traffic monitoring system on the highways and local roads in Nigeria?
What happens when a Driver encounter a situation where he or she needs to speed up to maneuver around a dangerous situation.
See below a research report:
- Hit by a car at 60km/h, 9 out of 10 pedestrians will be killed.
- Hit by a car at 50km/h, 5 out of 10 pedestrians will be killed.
- Hit by a car at 30km/h, 1 out of 10 pedestrians will be killed.
A critical look at the above research report reveals that with the speed limit of cars set at 100km/h the rate of accidents and fatalities will not reduce significantly because majority of the accidents recorded in Nigeria occurred when the vehicles travelled below 100km/h because of the bad roads, alcohol and drug addiction, distraction, fatigue, stress, road rage or aggression, inadequate Driver education, dangerous overtaking and several other factors. Hence the high rate of accidents on the bad roads as well as the intra – city roads. The rate of violation of traffic rules and regulationsand accidents is very high on intra – city roads which makes the presence of FRSC Officers on all grades roadsmuch more important now.
This step will create more job opportunities as many more people will be employed into FRSC and the resultant effects will surely be in favour of the Federal, State and Local Governments and Nigerians as a whole.
- Are the speed limiting devices available and in adequate quantities in every part of Nigeria?
- Do we have enough Technicians to install the devices nationwide, even in the rural areas?
- Do we have adequate maintenance Technicians?
- Is the price of the device reasonably affordable? I believe the current price of N45, 000.00 is on the high side.
- Are all the devices tamper-proof?
- How deep is the enlightenment on the policy among the vehicle Owners and Drivers?
- Over-speeding is relative and it depends on the following factors:
- Knowledge and skills of drivers
- Condition of the road
- Condition and characteristics of the vehicle.
- Environmental factors
- Physical and mental condition of the driver
- The traffic
- The load
- Condition of the vehicle tyres.
In view of the above- mentioned factors, there are situations when 50km per hour will constitute over-speeding even though the allowable speed limit may be 80km per hour. In such a situation, the speed limiter will be of no use. It then boils down to the fact that comprehensive and custom – made Driver Education with unbiased enforcement is the best antidote to over-speeding and other related factors responsible for road traffic crashes and fatalities, with or without the speed limiters.
Every Driver must be taught the effect of Gravity, Kinetic energy, Inertia, Banking and Centrifugal force on driving. Comprehensive Driver Education on the causes and prevention of road accidents should be emphasized and enforced far above speed limiters.
- Though the policy will generate employment opportunities in the areas of programming, installation and maintenance but will the implementation, enforcement and compliance be thorough and effective to make the employment opportunities profitable and sustainable?
- The Federal and State Governments must intensify more efforts to improve on road construction, road furnitures and maintenance nationwide.
- Unless the security system, particularly on the highways is significantly improved upon, the speed limiter might turn out to be a clog that turns vehicles to prey in the hands of Armed Robbers and other Vandals who will definitely not install speed limiters in their operation vehicles.
Starting with the Transporters, it is advisable that the installation of speed limiters should be extended to other vehicles in Nigeria, including the vehicles owned by Government Functionaries. Security on the highways must be improved upon both in the day and in the night.
- Are the Officers of the Federal Road Safety Commission in all the States and Federal Capital Territory equipped with the equipment for detecting violators of the speed limit while they are far away from the vehicles? Are automatic camera system (CCTV) and automatic number plate recognition devices being installed in strategic locations, particularly the roads where over-speeding is common, to capture the violators, both in the day and night?
More speed limit signs and safe driving Tips should be erected at regular intervals and occasionally on the road surface nationwide.
In a nutshell, the introduction of speed limiter in Nigeria is a good step but strict enforcement, monitoring, evaluation and security supports among other strategic decisions must be effectively put in place to ensure that the new speed limit policy is not a white elephant project nor counter-productive in Nigeria. The fact that the Expression of Interest Advert for the Supply, Installation, Maintenance and Calibration of speed limiters in Nigeria was just published in The Nation Newspaper on April 21, 2015 when the ultimatum given to commercial vehicles to install same is June 1 is another pointer to the fact that we often put the cart before the horse in policy implementation. The new Driver licence scheme was in shambles because it was commenced with inadequate centres which gave room to fraud, bribery, fake licence production, inconveniences and other shortcomings. Over one year after, FRSC is just proposing to establish 71 more centres when the agency ought to have done their mapping before commencing the scheme and the accompanying problems would have been averted.
The Vehicle Inspection Officers(VIOs) of all the States and FCT should also complement the efforts of the Federal Road Safety Commission by embarking on thorough and regular vehicle inspection to ensure they are road worthy, particularly the vehicle tyres, brakes and lights before issuing road worthiness certificate(within their yard and not on the roads as it is today).
All said and done, the use of the weapon of environmental analysis and diagnosis is very vital for result – oriented policy formulation and implementation. I strongly advice that the Federal Road Safety Commission, Standard Organisation of Nigeria and the Automotive Council of Nigeria (The main parties in the speed limiter project) should call an emergency meeting of all the Stakeholders including the Association of Driving Schools in Nigeria (Umbrella Body of Driving Schools in Nigeria) to brainstorm on the key issues surrounding the implementation of the speed limiters to ensure it doesn’t die prematurely as other policies previously launched (overloading of commercial vehicles, use of safety helmets by Motorcyclists, Drunk driving, etc).
In view of the low level of preparedness, inadequate number of speed limiters and maintenance Technicians, low level of public enlightenment coupled with the high cost, I hereby plead that the enforcement date be shifted from June 1 to a later date when the above – mentioned factors would have been reasonably addressed even though we know the commercial vehicle passengers will ultimately pay the price through increased transport fares.
In addition, it should be noted that Tools to circumvent the speed limiters are widely available and easy to install because it operates through electronic sensors and the engine Computer which can be easily manipulated. In developed countries, electricity meters are not usually manipulated but you all know the situation in Nigeria of today where even prepaid meters are been manipulated.
It is possible for Manufacturers of Commercial vehicles and Trucks to be compelled to install pre – set and unalterable road speed limit right from the factory as a condition for the sale of their vehicles in Nigeria to avoid the need to be compelling buyers to install.
Adequate and Appropriate Driver education is much more vital than speed limiter and must therefore be emphasized. Driving Schools must not compromise the standards of their training. The public and private sector Organisations must also release their Drivers to go to Driving Schools for result – oriented theory and practical re – training and capacity building programmes. Speed Limit signs should be installed in the appropriate places on the highways and rural roads with the right monitoring mechanism put in place for the apprehension and prosecution of speed violators even for speeding up to 40km/h where the speed limit sign says Drivers should not speed more than 30km/h.
CALL FOR FURTHER BRAINSTORMING
While I suggest that the June 1 implementation date should be pushed forward, I want the Federal Road Safety Commission and her Partners in the speed limiter project should in addition to the above – mentioned, take note of the above-mentioned facts for further brainstorming to ensure a more result – oriented implementation of the speed limiting policy in Nigeria.
I am not an Apostle of doom but the unpleasant and devastating results of the over-rushed new Driver licence and the ongoing Graduated Driver Licensing System which have been worrisomely compromised is one of the very fresh examples to further affirm my claims in this article.4