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NIGERIA: FRSC and The 2015 Rear Seat Belt Enforcement

You probably heard the announcement by the Federal Road Safety Corps a few days ago on January, 2015 enforcement of seatbelt for all occupants of vehicles. Few days after that announcement, I have received calls, text messages, tweets and other sundry contacts on the issue, ranging from outright condemnation, passive inquiry, passionate outcry, and a few commendations on the issue.
 
Yahaya Usman says “I rather sell my car than to go for seat belt construction. Sir, make una fear God oh and know the kind of policy u giving us”! He continues “If you want to save lives, u no where to go. But if u want to inflict pain on us, its not a new thing. We’r used to many pains!” Tally (Tallyjena007) says “FRSC did not finish with number pleat (sic) issue, now is back sit (sic) belt, the should think before making dis policies”, while Akin Raphael Akinsipe maintains that the intention is money making, since having lived in the UK for over ten years, he knows that wearing seat belt for back seat passenger is only compulsory for a child less than seven years. Bassey Unaowo says FRSC with its Corps Marshal is out to exploit Nigerians again, bla bla la. And so many other such indicting comments, too numerous to mention here, some of them bordering on the very ridiculous. But on the brighter side, I did receive quite some responses
 
that support the initiative. Iffiok Akpanim wrote to say that God used it to save his life in 2010 when he ran into a deep ditch, was thrown up and rolled sideways. He came out unscratched. Eye @cike864 sounded quite irritated in his outburst. “For God’s sake, seat belts are affordable, …… …. and are available in all motor spare parts shops! HABA NAA! I commend FRSC”. Wish there was enough space to show all the comments, as they make for interesting reading on people’s perception of the implications of the use of seatbelt.
 
Seat belts save lives. It can’t be put simpler than that. Seatbelts have been adjudged to be the most effective traffic safety device for the prevention of death and injury in the event of a crash. Wearing a seat belt can reduce risk of crash injuries by fifty percent, according to the Global National Safety Council.
 
For those who insist that the use of seat belt is not an issue that merits the kind of attention been given to it by the FRSC, for those who believe that it is another money spinning venture for FRSC, for those who believe that we are making much ado about nothing, it is hoped that by the time FRSC commences and concludes its public enlightenment activities preparatory to enforcement, opinions and perception would have changed.
 
On January, 1st, 2003, the Corps launched a decisive enforcement on the use of the front occupant seat belt nationwide. One could say without fear of contradiction that the launch was extremely successful, with about 90% compliance level recorded all over the country. Ten years down the line, the need arises to take another long look at the issue of seat belt usage in the country.
 
Evolving times come with evolving technologies, which in turn come with associated complications and risk factors, which in their own turn require commensurate strategies to combat. As technology improves on vehicles and roads, traffic management strategies must also be employed to examine ways to minimise crash causative factors inherent in these.
 
Nigeria, like most other African countries, is witnessing population explosion, with its attendant vehicular increase and activity on the roads. Juxtaposed against this is the skyrocketing technology advancements …. high-tech vehicles, high-tech gadgets (with high tech distractions!). While the FRSC is totally focused on battling to ensure that reduction of crashes to the barest minimum is achieved even in the face of the distractions, it nevertheless must put in place machinery to ensure that in the event of a crash, minimum level of injuries and fatalities are recorded. That is the all-encompassing mandate.
 
The Federal Road Safety Commission Establishment Act 2007, part II, section 10 (4) (ee) mandates members of the Corps to arrest and prosecute persons reasonably suspected of having committed any traffic offence including driving a vehicle not fitted with seat belt or where fitted, not wearing same while the vehicle is in motion.
 
The National Road Transport Regulation 2012, part XII, 126 (1) stipulates that every vehicle shall have fitted in the Front and REAR SEATS, seat belts and child safety seats which shall be securely worn by the driver and THE OTHER OCCUPANTS of the vehicle while the vehicle is in motion.
 
Is Nigeria running ahead of others? Are we leaving substance to pursue shadows? I do not think so. The United Kingdom is not enforcing back occupant seat belt? And how has this affected crash fatalities? A study shows that while driver and front passenger fatalities fell by 21% and 28% respectively, fatalities for non-seat belt wearing rear passengers rose by 16%. Countries all over the world are looking for ways to entrench safety in all facets of community living, and traffic safety happens to be one that every country is giving optimum attention to. Data gathering all over the world attests to this. In the United Kingdom, out of the 1,432 car occupants killed in 2007, 34% had not belted up. An estimated 565 people were not using seatbelt when killed in 2005. 370 would have probably survived if they had been properly restrained. In Canada, the ‘insignificant’ 7% of people not wearing seatbelts account for almost 40% of fatalities in crashes.
 
In the US, seatbelts saved almost 13,000 lives in 2009. What is the data in Nigeria? I wish I could state that. But what needs to be stated is the fact that I, personally, have lost quite a number of people who could have lived if they had used their seat belt, and I have heard the testimony of others who believed they were spared because of seatbelt use.
 
A seatbelt is designed to protect the occupants of a vehicle against any dangerous movement in the event of a crash or sudden stop. A seatbelt reduces the severity or even the possibility of an injury in a crash by preventing the occupants from colliding with interior elements of the vehicle or other passengers. It keeps occupants positioned correctly for maximum safety, and prevents them from being ejected from the vehicle. Seatbelts have been adjudged the most single traffic safety device for preventing death and injuries.
 
On January, 1st, 2003, the Federal Road Safety Corps launched a decisive enforcement on the use of the seat belt nationwide. However, the focus as at then was on front seat occupants. Ten years down the line, the need arises to take another long look at the issue of seat belt usage in the country.
 
Like I said before, our roads are getting better. Anyone who has done a long distance journey by road in the recent past can attest to this. The GSM craze is on the rampage. The built-in vehicle video screen is competing with it. All these, while good, creates a large room for driver distraction and recklessness, resulting mostly to road crashes. Speeding has been identified as the major cause of these crashes. A crash resulting from speed usually throws its occupants off the vehicle, somersaults, apart from its other haywire attributes. A properly restrained occupant of a vehicle stands a better chance of survival than an unrestrained passenger.

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