Department of Tourism, School of Technology,
Federal Polytechnics in Nigeria

Road traffic accidents constituted a menace in modern times. Both the developed and the developing nations of the world have suffered from varying degrees of road accident, the developing countries clearly dominate with Nigeria topping the least of accident occurrence. This paper examines road traffic accident problems in Nigeria. Consideration is also given to the present status of planning, implementation and evaluation of road safety programmes whether satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The causes of accidents and their general preventive measures are discussed. The methodology adopted includes desk research and primary data collection which seek information on the level of road accident as well as possible preventive measure by operators of road transportation system. Recommendations as how to reduce road traffic accident menace are offered for improved road safety in Nigeria.

Keywords: Road accident, Nigeria, causes, control, vehicle, health, prevention, safety

Road accidents have taken away so many lives in Nigeria today that hardly does any single disease match its mortality rate. This is only one of many adverse consequences of road accidents which also cause a lot of injures as well as economic losses in all its ramifications. Before we can adopt a course of actions to reduce the number of severity of roads accidents we need a large amount of data which have to be analyzed and interpreted. Some of these obtained for this purpose include data on number and severity of accidents, time of accidents, contributory factors, location of accidents, time of accidents and vehicle types involved. Scholars and practioners in the area of road traffic accident have long recognized and addressed various aspects of this problem as typified by the works on accidents data and analysis, safety programme, planning and implementation, safety programme evaluation, lessons from developed countries, experiences in developing countries and insurance and legal aspects (Ikya, 1998). This paper focused on the causes of accidents and their general preventive measures. In particular, it will place more emphasis on the Nigeria situation in recognition of the effect of accidents on the public and private vehicles. The paper outlines and discusses the major causes of road traffic accidents, identify possible preventive measures which have been found to be useful in accident prevention and reduction. Recommendations to check and bring road traffic accident to the barest minimum.

Road accidents do not simply happen, they are caused. Given the fact that Nigeria has the highest road accidents rate as well as the largest number of death per 10,000 vehicles,
(Sheriff, 2009), one may be tempted to believe that the level of awareness on the causes of road traffic accidents is very low among Nigerians. On the contrary, however, Asalor
(2010) has shown that ‘Nigerians know quite a lot about what could cause road traffic accidents’ and likened the situation to that ‘in which in the midst of plenty, there could be hunger’. Accident is defined as anything which happens by chance, anything occurring unexpectedly and undesigned, Odugbemi (2010). Road traffic accident is therefore an unexpected phenomenon that occurs as a result of the use or operation of vehicles including bicycles and handcarts on the public highways and roads. Accidents may be fatal, resulting in deaths of the road users (passengers, drivers or pedestrians), or minor when it is not severe enough as to cause substantial hardship. The dividing line between minor and serious accident is however blurred. As it has been defined, accident would rarely give warning although reckless drivers should anticipate the consequences of their recklessness. In general, accidents do not just occur; they are basically brought about by human recklessness, carelessness or negligence. Even where the immediate cause of a road accident is attributable to mechanical factor, carelessness in the form of omission to check and maintain the vehicle at the appropriate time would have remotely contributed. Trivial checking and maintenance of the vehicles could avert an imminent accident.

In the ancient Roman Empire, road transport owners / operators in the 11th century must provide a slave who will carry a red flag to warn other road users that a motor car is coming and leave the road space to avoid possible road accident (Jacobs, 2010). Today the car has a faster speed and the need to incorporate gadgets like, the horn, braking system, traficators, headlights and break-lights to avoid road accident. Before the ‘Oil boom’ in Nigeria, road accidents were rather rare. The oil boom brought along with it ‘rapid’ industrialization which calls for improved accessibility. Roads were therefore built albeit without dire attentions to standard. As the disposable income of people grew vehicle ownership increased. According to Sheriff, (2009), all these developments were not matched by adequate measures and control. Consequently, the roads grew to be a death trap for Nigerian citizens. These are indirect factors of road accident in Nigeria.

The issue of road traffic accidents is one that requires great care in handling as it is hydraheaded
in nature. The major causes of road traffic accidents could be classified under the following sub-headings.
a. Vehicle related factors
b. Human related factors
c. Environment-related factors

Vehicle Related Issues
According to Ovuwori et al., (2010), tyres, engines, braking system and lights system are among vehicle subsystems which malfunction can cause road accidents. The vehicle itself is a component of the road traffic system. Consequently its reliability is positively correlated with accident causation on the road network it plies. The reliability of the vehicle is itself a function of the condition of vehicle.
Attempt is made to discuss the following vehicular issues which are usually responsible for a number of the accidents on Nigerian roads.

Vehicle Design
Every vehicle is designed for a specific maximum load in all its ramifications. It is therefore, not surprising that when subjected to stress over and above the provisions of the design specifications, accelerated wear and tear set in on the vehicles. The net effect of this could result in deterioration for the condition of the vehicle. Design defects affect the subsequent condition of the vehicle once it is put on the road and operated either normally or otherwise which may result to possible road accidents.

The Vehicle Body The body attribute to some measure in causing road traffic accidents; though less prominent is the firmness of the structure of the vehicle. Hanging parts of the body of a vehicle though rare can greatly affect the stability and hence the level of control by the operator.

The Brake System
The brake subsystem, working jointly with the accelerator is the main synchronizer of the speeds of vehicles. Any malfunctioning of the brake sub-system should be taken very seriously as a potential source of unavoidable accident.

The Vehicle Tyres
The tyre is a dominant factor in determining the safety of automobiles on the road. Tyrerelated causes of road accidents could be due to one or a combination of:
i. Tyre(s) (are) overinflated
ii. Thread are thoroughly worn-out
iii. Tyre(s) is (are) ‘pregnant’ and
iv. Tyre(s) is (are) rear peel-off

The Vehicle Lights
Vehicle lights fall into two broad categories, namely those that are useful at all times (i.e. in daylight, in darkness and in poor weather) e.g. headlights. Although it is well known that the failure of vehicle light is a major factor in road traffic accident. As pointed out by Adiele (2011), light failure (e.g. of one headlight) has a tendency to misinform and mislead other road users thereby providing a good
opportunity for an accident to occur. Similarly,  a failed trafficator light will not normally
provide the usual warning to the rest of the followers that the vehicle is about to undertake
a turning maenovour, for instance. If the vehicle following has a faulty brake subsystem
or its operator has not allowed for a sufficient safe-gap, this could result in an accident.

The Engine
The engine sub-system may be considered the head of the vehicle and one who’s sudden failure on a highway is more likely to cause an accident if the volume of traffic is sufficiently high. Even when the traffic is reasonably low, mis-management of the failure by an experienced operator could cause an accident

Human and Environmental / Road Related Issues
Some of the well known factors which fall under this category include fog, sunrays, mist and rain. These in no small measure contribute greatly to the rate of road traffic accident in Nigeria today. In particular it is expected that the operator who is the master ‘on board’ should be able to exercise sufficient control over the vehicle. A significant number of vehiclar accidents are traceable to the road. Recent studies (Asolor et al, 2008) have demonstrated that the road is another major factor in road accidents in Nigeria. Akinyemi, (2009) collected and analyzed ‘data on geometric design information system, roadway surface and road side conditions on seven two lane rural roads in the country. It found that rural roads in the country have low levels of design consistency, sight distance on and between geometer features as insufficient for stopping and oveNRSking adequate traffic control devices and unforgiving road sides’. He then argues that their deficiencies are due largely to inadequate road design specification and maintenance. Anyata (2009) on the other hand showed that inadequate drainage could render the road a serious accident threat. Another aspect of the road factor is the general condition of the road itself. Issues of potholes, the indiscriminate location of police check points and the reluctance of the appropriate authorities to continually improve on the condition of the roads are significant in road accidents.

Driver Related Factors
Studies have shown clearly that the single most impoNRSnt contributing factor to road traffic accidents in Nigeria is the attitude of the driver to driving code and etiquette. Driver related issues include sleepiness and fatigue, faulty preparation, ignorance of highway codes or traffic orders, driving under the influence of drugs and or alcohol and inexperience.

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