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Saturday, 24 October 2020

COVID-19 PROTOCOLS AND ROAD SAFETY IN NIGERIA

Chinecherem Ogodimma Ubaka

-highway interchange in Kano State, Nigeria.

Introduction
Everybody is a road user and everyone wants to leave his/her home and return back home safely. The transportation sector is a necessary necessity that mankind cannot do without for obvious reasons.  Consequently, ensuring road safety in Nigeria is extremely essential in order to safeguard lives and properties in any form of road transportation.

Road safety
Road safety refers to the methods, measures and procedures employed by government through its agencies to reduce death and injury on the road.

 The 2004 World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, which was produced jointly by the World Bank and the World Health Organization highlighted the fact that “road crashes already kill as many people annually as major pandemics such as malaria or tuberculosis”.  
Consequently, The World Health Organization (WHO) has framed road safety as a health and development campaign. In fact, they have declared a decade of action for Road Safety. i.e. 2011-2020. It identifies five pillars or areas for intervention which are;
-Road safety management
-Safer roads and Mobility
-Safer vehicles
-Safer Road Users
-Post-Crash response 

WHO have also endorsed a comprehensive approach to road safety. It is called the Safe System Approach. The Safe System Approach, recognizes that, as the human body is vulnerable to injury and humans will always make mistakes, the safety of all parts of the system (e.g. road users, vehicles and roads) must be improved to help to help minimize the impact of those mistakes.  

In Nigeria, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) have been at the frontline of ensuring road safety in Nigeria. They have done this through public awareness and the implementation of government policies on road traffic rules, safe driving, use of seat belts and helmets etc. 

As much as we cannot deny the fact that Nigeria still has many bad roads, about 55% of road crash, deaths and injuries are as a result of negative human behavior especially with regards to the failure to wear seat belts and helmets, driving at excessive speeds, driving under the influence of alcohol, non-adherence to traffic lights, symbols and FRSC guidelines on road safety generally.
 
COVID-19 PROTOCOLS
As stated earlier, the lockdown directive and implementation was necessary to curtail the spread of the virus. However, at some point, it became clear that the Covid- 19 virus is not in a hurry to leave. Thus, the government began to issue out guidelines for the gradual ease of the total lockdown previously imposed. 

 On July 1st, 2020, the Nigerian federal government lifted the ban on interstate travels. The Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 headed by Boss Mustapha issued out protocols aimed at preventing a second wave of the virus.
 
 In the carriage of passengers,
transport companies are to:
 1. ensure adequate spacing between passengers;
2.   clean and disinfect frequently touched parts e.g. doors, window handles, steering and dashboards.
3.   encourage passengers to frequently perform hand hygiene.
4.       Wearing of face-masks is necessary.

Furthermore, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Road Transport Unions have also adopted resolutions aimed at enforcing the Covid-19 protocol on interstate travels. The following were adopted:
* All public transport operators should sanitize their parks and terminals regularly.
There should be the provision of hand sanitizers or hand wash points with running water which shall be used before and after disembarking from vehicles.
* Notices should be placed at conspicuous places in terminals and parks to guide passengers and other park users on all the safety protocols and provide temperature readers to check on all persons.
* All interstate travels should be initiated from registered or organized operating terminals and motor parks to enable effective passenger screening, sanitizing and dedicated queues and signage should be used to distinguish passengers.
* There should be protective barriers in designated areas around the operating terminals. All passengers luggage should equally be disinfected before entry into the vehicles.

SO WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE ABOVE PROTOCOLS ON ROAD SAFETY IN NIGERIA?

CONTAINMENT OF THE VIRUS: One of the main implication of the above protocol is to contain community transmission of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. If strict adherence to the protocols is ensured, the chain of the spread of the virus will be broken.

SAFER TRAVELS: There will be no room for passenger overload. Overloading can cause road accidents. Thus, when an 8-seater vehicle is carrying about 10-12 passengers, the vehicle is operating at its medium capacity. The driver will be able to manage and exercise proper control over the steering. The result is most probably going to be a safe journey for the driver, the passengers and the vehicle. 

PUBLIC HEALTH: Asides from curtailing the virus, the spread of other deadly diseases like tuberculosis will be contained as well. Social distancing will be effectively implemented thereby reducing body contact will be significantly. Some individuals lack social etiquette. Some people cough without covering their mouth. Others vomit as well. Where these protocols are implemented, public health will improve. Furthermore, some Nigerians seldom go for medical check-ups. Thus, at the screening stage, if a passenger is discovered to be ill, it helps such an individual seek medical care. If we can maintain a proper road health, then our public health profile as a nation will increase.

REVIVAL OF THE HAND-WASHING CULTURE: 
Right from primary schools, children are taught to wash their hands before and after eating, after using the toilet, after visiting the hospital etc. The corona virus has for the umpteenth time reminded us of the importance of doing something as little as hand washing. 

MASSIVE REDUCTION IN ROAD ACCIDENTS, INJURIES AND DEATHS: Yes, there would be a massive reduction in road accidents and consequently, injuries and deaths. This is because there is a fundamental decline in passenger travel because most companies and businesses have gone virtual. Others have adopted the remote working policies, rotation and limitation of the number of staff members expected to be at the work place.

IMPROVEMENT OF OUR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Less passenger travel means less vehicles on the roads, less carbon in the air and a significant reduction in air pollution.

CONCLUSION
The implications highlighted above promotes public health. To achieve the afore-mentioned, we need the  FRSC and allied agencies to strictly implement the protocols so as not to defeat the public health benefits of the protocols.

image from hotels.ng

Keywords: COVID-19 PROTOCOLS, Transportation, FRSC, PUBLIC HEALTH, ROAD SAFETY.

Chinecherem O. Ubaka is a legal Practitioner based in Lagos. She can be contacted via lumenaogo@gmail.com.

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