The World Health Organization (WHO), in one of its researches conducted in 2004, pointed out that the most vulnerable age group in the event of a road traffic crash are children within the age bracket of 5-14 years and adults of the age 18-49 years, thus making Road Traffic Crashes (RTC) one of the leading causes of death globally.
Of the total of 10, 380 road traffic crashes recorded in Nigeria in 2014, a total of 5,996 lives were lost, while 32,063 people were injured. The scourge has left in its wake the loss of wage earners, active workforce, loved ones and future leaders, all of which subject families to extreme poverty and the nation, erosion of its bright future.
Speaking at a recent joint press conference with major stakeholders in the transport sector, the Corps Marshal and Chief Executive of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Boboye Oyeyemi, identified excessive speed as responsible for 50.8 percent of road traffic crashes which occurred across the country in 2014.
His presentation also grouped loss of control, tyre burst and dangerous driving, which are directly linked to excessive speeding, as major contributive factors to road crashes recorded within the same period, thus pointing to speed limit violation as a predominant challenge to collective efforts by government agencies and non-governmental organizations to stem the tide of avoidable crashes on the highways.
The issue of speed has been identified by WHO as a key risk factor in road traffic injuries, influencing both the risk of a crash as well as the severity of the injuries that result from crashes. In fact, WHO and the Global Road Safety Partnership, in its publication, Speed Management: a Road Safety Manual for Decision Makers and Practitioners recommended that speed limits be introduced in every country as part of the global strategy to cut down road fatalities.
Buoyed by this scenario, the FRSC convened a one day stakeholders’ forum in Abuja and Lagos on speed limiting devices, with Leon Du Plessis, an expert on vehicle speed limiting device from South Africa, as guest speaker with other stakeholders in the transport sector in attendance.
As the nation’s lead agency for road safety management and traffic administration, the FRSC said the meeting was necessitated by the need to intimate the public, drivers and fleet operators on the importance of speed limiting device in vehicles as a means of achieving safe driving on our roads. In addition to this engagement plan, motorized rallies are lined up with transport operators as part of measures to deepen awareness on this initiative.
It also noted that by slowing down vehicles, the travel risk for all motorists may be lowered by reducing the number of collisions and mitigating the severity of those that do occur as prescribed by the National Road Traffic Regulations 2012 which specifies the speed limits allowed on our roads for different categories of vehicles.
It was therefore a major boost to this initiative when last year, the Governing Council of the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) approved specifications for speed limiters to be used by vehicles in the country.
What is excessive speed? Excessive speed is defined as exceeding the recommended speed limit, while inappropriate speed is defined as driving at a speed unsuitable for the prevailing road and traffic conditions. Excessive and inappropriate speeds are responsible for a high proportion of the mortality and morbidity that result from road crashes.
In some low and middle-income countries, speed is estimated to be the main contributory factor in about 50 per cent of all crashes. Excessive speeding decreases driver’s response time in an emergency and may increase the risk of a crash. It equally reduces his ability to maneuver safely on the road, extends the distance necessary to stop a vehicle. This is because, the higher the speed of a vehicle, the shorter the time a driver has to stop and avoid a crash. For example, a car travelling at 50km/hr will typically require 1 meter in which to stop, while a car travelling at 40km/hr will stop in less than 8.5 metres. An increase in average speed of 1km/hr typically results in a 3 per cent higher risk of a crash involving injury, with a 4 to 5 per cent increase for crashes that result in fatalities. Speed also contributes to the severity of the impact when a collision does occur. For car occupants in a crash with an impact speed of 80km/hr, the likelihood of death is 20 times what it would have been at an impact speed of 30km/hr.
The relationship between speed and injury severity is particularly critical for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. For example, pedestrians have been shown to have a 90 per cent chance of survival when struck by a car travelling at 30km/hr or below, but less than zero per cent chance of surviving an impact at 45km/hr. Pedestrians have almost no chance of surviving an impact of 80km/hr. What this means is that controlling vehicle speed can prevent crashes from happening and can reduce the impact when they do occur, lessening the severity of injuries sustained by the victims.
The use of speed limiters in Europe and Great Britain dates back to February, 1992 when a Council directive 62/6/EEC required speed limiters to be fitted in certain categories of vehicles. By November, 2002, the European Parliament and the Council Directive 2002/85/EC extended the range of vehicles to be fitted, while in January 2007, it was extended to more categories of vehicles. Within Africa, Tanzania and Kenya followed suit in 2003, while Uganda in 2004, Zambia in 2006 and Ontario and Quebec took their turns in 2009.
Aside from reducing injuries and fatalities and probable dent to vehicles, scientific proof indicates that adherence to speed limit regulations also reduces fuel consumption of vehicles.
According to the Canadian Department of Transport, there are environmental, safety and cost benefits. For example, lower fuel consumption reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves money on fuel consumption. A study on Ontario Canada showed that fixing speed limiters to all heavy duty trucks would save about 100 million litres of fuel a year (the equivalent of 280,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions). The study further shows that the risk of collision is reduced when driving at lower speeds while safety of road users is assured. Driving at higher speed induces major stress that results in driver fatigue and loss of concentration. Installing speed limiters will reduce the operating costs of many transporters by reducing fuel consumption and increasing vehicle energy efficiency.
In 1974, the US Congress imposed a nationwide 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit on all vehicles – it was estimated that a speed of 55 mph used 17% less fuel per mile than a speed of 75 mph.
As the FRSC intensifies on-going advocacy on the relevance of the speed limiters as build up to the nationwide enforcement which will commence on 1st June 2015, It is expected that all hands must be on deck to achieve this goal of addressing the challenges posed by speed-induced road traffic crashes in the country.
Ohaeri Osondu J is a Media Officer at the Corps Public Education Office of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Abuja.