Have you ever been stopped for no real reason by the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC)? If you love road trips as much as I do, you've probably been stopped many, many times. Recently, I was driving past the Sagamu interchange on my way from Ibadan to Lagos when a FRSC officer jumped in front of the car about 50 metres ahead of me. From his demeanor, I was sure I must have committed a heinous traffic offense. It turned out that he only wanted to check my Driver’s License (which turned out to be authentic). For good measure, the young officer also asked to see my fire extinguisher- all this while numerous lopsided trailers sped by dangerously like bats out of hell, bare tires screaming on the tarmac while they belched toxic black fumes.
On another encounter at Ogere, I asked an older officer why he and his colleagues persisted in the potentially lethal practice of trying to use their bodies to stop speeding vehicles. He had no answer to this. I also asked him why they never stopped rickety death-trap trailers but instead chose to focus their attention on private cars in decent condition. I was dumb-founded at his answer: He said they had 'orders from above' not to disturb trailers! Apparently there is some truce negotiated at the highest levels between FRSC and trailer owners, Nigerian style.
We Are More Than a Statistic
If the FRSC is truly the organization charged with the responsibility of preventing accidents and loss of life on our roads, then it's time for every Nigerian to demand greater accountability from them.
Speaking of accountability, the FRSC happens to be a big fan of statistics. Like every nigerian bureacracy, they have a Policy, Research and Statistics Unit fully dedicated to publishing annual statistics on road traffic accidents and associated casualties. This is not surprising since the top echelons of FRSC happens to be packed with Ph.D. holders. Let's take a look at statistics from recent years:
Fatalities From Road Traffic Accidents in Nigeria
A cursory look at these damning statistics shows that in recent years there has been no significant reduction in number of road crashes and associated fatalities. It's obvious that whatever they're doing has had limited impact.
Safe System Approach: A Strategy for Saving Lives
In order to begin to justify their reason for being, the FRSC need to refocus their short, medium and long term strategies as outlined in their own internal roadmap document.
The FRSC road map document is full of great ideas with no underlying operating principle. In other words, it is not focused on the single most important key performance indicator for FRSC, namely: reduction in loss of life due to road accidents.
In order to refocus their strategy, FRSC should immediately adopt the Safe System approach developed by the International Transport Forum (an OECD initiative). Here is an extensive quote from a key policy document outlining this strategy:
>> The basic strategy of a Safe System approach is to ensure that in the event of a crash, the impact energies remain below the threshold likely to produce either death or serious injury. This threshold will vary from crash scenario to crash scenario, depending upon the level of protection offered to the road users involved. For example, the chances of survival for an unprotected pedestrian hit by a vehicle diminish rapidly at speeds greater than 30km/h, whereas for a properly restrained motor vehicle occupant the critical impact speed is 50 km/h (for side impact crashes) and 70 km/h (for head-on crashes).
- International Transport Forum, “Towards Zero, Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System Approach”, Exec Summary page 19
In other words, the single biggest determinant of road accident fatalities is the speed of the vehicle at the time of impact. In the Nigerian context this essentially means that we need to start controlling the speed at which vehicles move along our highways. Currently, you can drive at any speed you want and nobody can do anything to stop you. FRSC knows this and that is why in recent years they have started focusing on installation of speed limiting devices as their main speed management strategy.
This focus on speed limiting devices is however a mistake because speed limiters are impractical and unimplementable. When you think about the current security situation in the country, if someone puts a speed limiting device in your car, what happens when you're being pursued by armed robbers or kidnappers??
FRSC will achieve better results through vigorous enforcement of speed limits on federal highways. They must begin to patrol highways with hand-held speed monitoring devices and back this up by installing speed cameras to identify and track violators all the way to their registered address. This is the prevailing global standard and no-one should tell me that we cannot achieve this in Nigeria.
3 Tactics for Safer Roads in Nigeria
As noted above, FRSC has an existing roadmap document published in 2009. This document lays out the following 9 priority areas and programs:
- Sustained Public Enlightenment
- Effective Patrol Operations
- Prompt Rescue Services
- Stakeholder Cooperation
- Improved Motor Vehicle Administration
- Data Management
- Internal Business Processes
I propose that FRSC should re-focus on the following priority areas and key performance indicators:
Tactic 1: Establish Modern Online Motor Vehicle Administration Systems (road worthiness + driver testing and licensing):
- Establish 1 Electronic Licensing office per senatorial district operated by private ICT firms inpartnership with state governments.
- Establish 1 Road Worthiness Inspection Centre per local government in partnership with states, engineering/ICT firms and mechanic associations).
Tactic 2: Expand and Equip Patrol Operations to Enforce Speed Limits:
- Procure mobile and stationary speed monitoring devices (with cameras).
- Procure 9-10 patrol vehicles per 50-100km route (1 car + 2 bikes per 50km, 1 heavy tow truck + 2 medium tow trucks + 3 light tow trucks per 100km).
Tactic 3: Establish Modern Emergency Rescue Services on Every Single Highway:
- Ensure 2 Ambulances per 50 km with 10 min response time. These can be operated by private operators.
- Certify 1 Accident & Emergency Centers per 100km. These can be either public or private facilities but must have full complement of trauma equipment and trained trauma specialists.
- Establish 1 Command and Control center per state with emergency lines.
- Procure 1 Medivac helicopter per state.
In order to refocus on what really matters, which is preventing loss of life on the highways, FRSC should also consider the following ideas to make their job easier:
- Convene nationwide and statewide stakeholders workshops to consult citizen groups, road transport unions and other critical stakeholders.
- De-centralise operations of FRSC to state level by establishing Command and Control Centers in each state.
- Appoint a non-executive Chairperson to head the FRSC in each state. This Chairperson should be elected from residents of the state who have demonstrated a high sense of civic responsibility. This will subject the FRSC to control of the civilian population.
- Increase number of volunteer Road Marshalls selected from among private citizens
A Call to Action: Time to #ReformFRSC
Are you frustrated with the FRSC and want to take action? Here are some things you can do right now:
- Share this article and add your comments in the comments section below.
- Call the FRSC switchboard to register your displeasure: 0700-2255-3772 (0700-CALL-FRSC).
- Record any interactions with FRSC officers and post to Facebook and Twitter.
- Tweet your support for reform of FRSC with the hashtag #ReformFRSC and tag @FRSCnigeria and @bpsr_ng (Bureau of Public Service Reforms)