The myth or legend of the “…ember months” is probably just a Nigerian superstition, but yearly between September and December an unusually high number of road accidents involving unacceptably high number of fatalities do occur nationwide. The facts show that those accidents do not come from superstition. They are the consequences of our conscious acts.
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The last quarter of the year tends to move at a frenetic, pace full of activities including festivities, Christian, Muslim and traditional, much of which entails the massive movement of people.
It is, after all, the dry season, a more pleasant atmosphere, balmy weather and a lot of excitement in the air, preceding and including what is now universally called the holiday season. But it has not gone without notice that the swift pace of the season tends to be carried into our roadways leading to untimely deaths, avoidable injuries and, generally, tragedies that could have been averted with a little caution. This is the origin of the myth of the “ember” months.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has reported that 2,598 Nigerians died on road accidents between October 2017 and March 2018. This is totally unacceptable, indeed, intolerable. Each and every one of those accident victims was a great loss to parents, friends and families. Of that number, 1,306 died in the fourth quarter of 2017 in 2,489 accidents while 1,292 persons died in the first quarter of 2018 in 2,482 accidents. The NBS noted that the figures indicated a decline in the accident rate.
On closer examination, the NBS found that 50.81 percent was due to excessive speeding between January and March. During October to December the percentage was 45.08 percent. But the figures for both quarters instruct that an overwhelming number, approximately half, of all accidents were caused by excessive speeding. In previous figures released some years back, it was determined that 90 percent of all accidents that resulted in fatalities were due to excessive speeding. In addition to speeding, other causes of road accidents in Nigeria included “tyre bursts” which caused 8.26 percent of the accidents; “dangerous driving” is the cause of 8.42 percent of accidents. The NBS selected the month of January 2018 for closer analysis.
That month, the Federal Road Safety Corps recorded that 456 Nigerians were killed in 826 accidents nationwide and that 3,404 were injured. It was ironic that the Federal Capital Territory which is credited with the best road network also recorded the highest number of accidents in January with 92 cases, followed by Kaduna which had 81 incidents, and Nasarawa which recorded 45. Bayelsa was distinguished for having no accident at all within the period.
The Abuja-Lokoja Highway recorded the highest number of accidents with 47 cases. Next was the Kaduna-Abuja road with 44 cases. The Ilesha-Ipetu-Ijesha Road in Osun State recorded only 5 accidents. In addition to burst tyres and dangerous driving, the records show that “wrong overtaking” occurred in 64 cases and constituted 6.8 percent of the accidents; brake failure led to 39 accidents and was 4.1 percent of accidents.
The picture that emerges is that all hands must be on deck to get Nigerians to speed less and kill less of their fellow citizens, now that we have got into the ‘ember months’ and are about to enter into the last quarter of the year, given the unequivocal data that half of all accidents and 90 percent of all fatalities are due to excessive speeding.
We urge the FRSC to double up on the installation of the speed limiters on commercial vehicles and to begin a fresh 2018 enlightenment campaign to remind motorists that speed kills. It is so clear that the better the road, the faster Nigerians drive and the more numerous the accidents. Yet we must encourage the development of good roads while getting more drivers to observe the driving codes and the road signs which, we confess, are inadequate. The issue of tyre blowouts is a function of drivers thinking they are saving money by buying cheap, used and, sometimes, fake tyres and vehicle parts. It can only lead to tragedy. Drunkenness was not mentioned as a factor apparently because the highway patrol men and FRSC agents do not seem to worry about the sobriety of drivers.
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Yet we know that a drunk driver is an accident waiting to happen. Many vehicles on our roadways do not seem roadworthy, and passengers should discourage and, indeed, report commercial drivers who are over-speeding to their employers. Reducing accidents in our roadways should be the responsibility of every responsible Nigerian. We urge the FRSC and other agencies to double their efforts and make the oncoming season as accident-free as is humanly possible.