A poor road safety culture in a developing country
One of the problems encountered in a developing country is the lack of road safety culture among road users. Most road users lack the good understanding of road signs and traffic rules. Whenever they see these road signs they cannot interpret the meaning let alone imbibe the culture that is needed to make our road safer in a developing country.
Another issue is that some motorists, who understand some of the traffic signs, also fail to obey it hence, whenever they use the road they consciously exhibit their poor road safety culture. For instance, I turned on the television set one day and I saw one of the television stations in Nigeria on the screen conducting a public interview on zebra crossing and the interviewers focused majorly on the motorists. It is interesting to note that most motorists interviewed did not know zebra crossing while the few of them that said they know zebra crossing also said they don’t stop for any pedestrian that stand on zebra crossing and no one enforce them to obey the rule or to observe the traffic sign. Since motorists fail to stop for pedestrian that stand on zebra crossing hence, the pedestrian end up in crossing the road at will on the same zebra crossing. This is a poor road safety culture in developing countries.
Military and paramilitary aren’t blameless
To worsen the whole issue, I have seen pedestrian crossing the road at will in the presence of a policeman, soldier and even in presence of road safety personnel in Nigeria. I personally thought that it is one of the civic responsibilities of any of these officers to stop the traffic for any pedestrian who intends to cross the road at their sight, but most of the time I saw this responsibility or assertion being proved otherwise by these officers. In fact, a time, they violate the traffic rules and nobody is able to challenge their impunity.
My early days in Boy Scout and Boy Brigade
I remember when I was still a member of a Boy Scout and Boy Brigade in Nigeria, we were taught then that whenever we are in uniform and we see a pedestrian who wants to cross the road without being invited we should help to stop the traffic for them to pass or cross the road safely rather than ignoring them and allow them to cross at will. Therefore, whenever we were in uniform we were always eager to stop vehicles for any pedestrian we saw who intended to cross the road at will and we were proud to do this as a responsibility to the public. I don’t know if paramilitaries and military also see this as a responsibility to the public whenever they are outside their barracks. It is a lack of road safety culture and responsibility for any uniform men to ignore a pedestrian who intends to cross the public road at will. Since most of these uniform men are under the government then it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that all these uniform men demonstrate a good road safety culture in the society.
A senior national road safety officer demonstrated poor road safety culture in another country
It is also interesting to see one of the senior rank officer in Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)(a federal government agency responsible for road safety administration in Nigeria) who was been interviewed in the local television program in Nigeria. I listened to him as he shared his experience when he traveled out of his country (Nigeria) to one of the European countries. According to him, he said he was going out from his apartment and he walked to the zebra crossing with the intention to cross to the other side of the road, he said, immediately he stepped on the zebra crossing just with one leg, he saw all the vehicles both from left and right stopped immediately for him to cross. According to him, he was shocked and afraid to see vehicles in such a busy road stopping at the same time therefore he thought within himself that something must had happened that was unknown to him that caused all the motorists to stop at once. So out of fear he ran back to see what had happened that held all the motorists into ransom, unknown to him that he was actually the one that held all the motorists into ransom by stepping on the zebra crossing, he was marveled and baffled when the motorists were asking him to cross the road since he had stepped into zebra crossing before he ran back. In fact, he said, no vehicle moved until he crossed the road. It was then he got to know that he was the one they actually stopped for.
He is one of the top senior ranks in Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), a federal government agency responsible for road safety administration in Nigeria. By his status in the society he knew by theory what zebra crossing stands for but he lacked the practical sense of it as a road user. He knew it is uncommon in Nigeria to see motorists willingly stopping their vehicles for just a pedestrian who steps on the zebra crossing. Even among the paramilitaries in Nigeria it is a common behavior to see those ignoring pedestrians on zebra crossing. Culture here means a behavior or an attitude; therefore, it is a very wrong behavior or bad attitude for a motorist to deny a pedestrian of his or her right to use the road on zebra crossing. In a developed country it is uncommon behavior but in a developing country it is a common behavior that must be corrected.
It is not a gainsaying or overstatement, to say that in a developing country like Nigeria we lack a good road safety culture that is required for all road users, to maintain safety on the road. If a senior road safety officer could act ignorantly in such manner, you can imagine how a pedestrian who is not working in any position as a road safety officer would act. The truth never dies and the simple truth is that we lack road safety culture in our society. It is high time we start to imbibe this road safety culture for the benefit of all of us.