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Adeyemi Adedokun: Road accidents, Speed Limiter Device and The Federal Road Safety Commission of Nigeria

The Federal Road Safety Corps of Nigeria (FRSC) in collaboration with the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) is set to begin the enforcement of Speed Limiter Device on commercial motorists from today 1st September 2015, in an attempt to reduce road accidents in the country. The Commission confirmed during an interview that the enforcement on commercial motorists is the first phase of the process, which means it might sooner or later be extend to private motorists.

What is this device and how does it work? A speed limiter device or speed limiter, also known as speed governor, is a device that interact with a vehicle engine to permit the attainment of a pre-programmed maximum speed. Speed limiters are Electronic Controlled Modules (ECM) that are capable of limiting the maximum speed of its host engine.

Can the enforcement of this device really reduce road accident? Let us look at a used case for similar device in the United States. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), Safety groups and large carriers once pushed for a speed limiter mandate on commercial motor vehicles in 2012 because of its proposed benefits. FMCSA in response awarded a contract to some research companies to inquire the safety benefits of speed limiters. Steven L. Johnson, a professor at the University of Arkansas and another co-author of the final report to FMCSA, concluded that the research findings has no statistical significance in reduction of crashes due to speed limiters, stating that data shows high-speed related truck crashes are rare events and the reduction of speed can have negative effects on safety for heavy goods vehicles.

The FRSC, which has lost the confidence of Nigerians on providing safety on roads, has published no report on conducted research or test if there was any before concluding and now enforcing this device on the masses. It was learnt that the device is made available by a private company with whom the FRSC and SON have a controversial deal, at a cost of NGN 35,000.00 and an additional NGN 1,000.00 for installation. The reality on ground is that, more accidents are caused by bad road portions, driver fatigue due to lack of enforcement on maximum number of driving hours, driving under the influence of alcohol, with alcohol readily available at almost every motor park and lack of seat belt enforcement on commercial vehicles. It is a known fact that vehicles on Abuja – Lokoja route and several other routes still insist on two passengers at the front passenger seat of every commercial vehicle and the FRSC has closed a blind eye to such risk exposure.

Some road transporters under the aegis of International Human Rights and Anti-corruption Society, wrote a letter to the FRSC in protest to this enforcement giving the commission one month with effect from 17th August 2015 to publicly declare a discontinuation of the device or face court action, stating that according to Section 10 (3) of the FRSC Act of 2007, the commission lacks the power to introduce such device.

Studies have demonstrated that a higher variance of vehicle speeds in traffic flow increases the risk of an accident, and speed limiters cause speed variance. Regardless of the average speed on the highway, the greater a driver deviates from the average speed, the greater his chances of being involved in an accident. Low speed drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents than high-speed drivers are. In 80 percent of rear-end collisions involving a large truck and a car resulting in a fatality, the passenger vehicle rear-ended the truck. Furthermore, a reduction in speed will cause more congestion and longer travel time. Other vehicles will have to decelerate and then accelerate to manoeuver around the slower traffic, which will increase fuel consumption, CO2 emissions and increase safety concerns in robbery, kidnap and other safety situations.

Most modern vehicle engine management systems have a top speed setting but is usually well in excess of maximum national speed limits in most countries and could not be regarded as safety device. However, the type of Speed limiter device introduced by the FRSC has been used and phased out in several countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India and other parts of the world with the introduction of Intelligent Speed Limiter (also known as Speed Adaptation Systems). This type of active safety device automatically detects the allowed speed of the road section being travelled and prevents the vehicle from exceeding that speed. This system has been adopted by several manufacturers like Volvo, Mercedes and so on. FRSC should be busy ensuring such innovations are able to work in Nigeria by working with researchers and institutions to build a well mapped and geocoded road networks.

The unfortunate reality is that a large percentage of road accidents in Nigeria involves commercial vehicles and a larger percentage of fatal accidents are caused or involves heavy goods vehicles. Speed violation, which is flagged by the FRSC as the main cause of road accidents only attracts a NGN 3,000.00 fine on the list of offences by the FRSC. How then do you justify imposing a NGN 36,000.00 cost on the masses for an offence worth only NGN 3,000.00?

The following are feasible recommendations for the FRSC if they are really serious about serving Nigerians and restoring sanity on our roads;

  1. Enforce a thorough and corruption-free process of license issuance. Report shows that the national average of 45% of drivers in Nigeria does not participate in driving test before being issued a license.
  2. Implement a point system driver’s license and road use architecture.
  3. Ensure driver’s licenses are synchronized with vehicle license plates for driver verification.
  4. Implement a system for speed measurement on their vehicles, and ensure that defaulters lose points on their licenses, which limits them to certain roads for a period of time.
  5. Involve local transport institutes and researchers in policy and decision making.
  6. Support open data and frequently sponsor research works to further develop the sector.

This article has been written by Adeyemi Adedokun, an Intelligent Transport System researcher at Linköping University, Sweden. He is the founder of Accident Data Nigeria, a road safety campaign initiative that aims to use crowd-sourced social media platform for building a national accident database. He can be reached on accidentdatanigeria@gmail.com

Do you see an accident, tweet the report @accidentdatang and help us build a database accessible to all Nigerians.

Views expressed are solely that of author and does not represent views of www.omojuwa.com nor its associates

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