The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) last week said plans were underway to increase the fine for use of phones while driving to between N50,000 and N100,000. Corps Marshal Boboye Oyeyemi attributed the move to numerous road crashes partly caused by the use of phones while on the wheels. He said FRSC was already working with the National Assembly to increase the fine.
Oyeyemi said, “In the last 18 months I have lost about 74 lives [of FRSC personnel]. We will not stop at ensuring the prosecution of those errant drivers.” He added, “It was discovered during the last Sallah patrols that about 30 per cent of articulated vehicle drivers do not see well at night. So, we conducted vision test on the highway and motor parks and we observed that 30 per cent of the articulated vehicle drivers have vision problem and that is also contributing to crashes.”
Two months ago, FRSC released a worrying report which said over 3000 persons died as a result of road crashes within four months, an indication that we have a serious problem on our hands and any effort to tackle it is welcomed. We therefore support the Corps in its efforts to increase the fine. At the moment, when a motorist is apprehended for using a phone while on wheels, he/she is made to pay N4,000 as fine and also asked to visit a doctor for psychiatric evaluation before his/her vehicle is released.
This measure has not stopped people from using phones while driving. Some persons go as far as sending text messages while behind the wheels. Several studies have shown the danger of using phones while driving. In fact, some experts say it is worse than drunken driving. Driving is a serious business which requires total concentration and mental alertness. This mental state is gravely disrupted when a driver picks up a call or sends messages. In any case, there is no telling the type of message that one could receive after answering a phone call. While behind the wheels, one could receive terrible news that would cause him to be immobile or take leave of the senses for a brief period. This is enough to cause danger to the driver and to other road users.
In Nigeria, where most of the roads are dotted with potholes, it is almost suicidal to text while driving, because it is almost impossible to properly navigate the roads while using both hands to type messages. Unfortunately, that is a common sight today, especially among young people and indeed several lives have been lost through this action. Anyone who drives a car should be responsible enough to obey traffic rules.
We urge the National Assembly to look into the matter and pass a bill to that effect without delay. Also one of our major problems in Nigeria is implementation. We urge the Corps to ensure that when the law is passed it is fully implemented as that is the only way it can achieve the purpose for which it was made.
We note the Corps Marshal’s statement that he lost 74 of his men in the past 18 months. We sympathise with him and condole with the families of the deceased. But it is important to point out here that all those deaths may not have been caused by the use of phones by motorists while on the wheels. Often times, FRSC personnel in their bid to stop traffic violators jump onto the road or in front of moving vehicles and they get run over in the process. This act is very risky and must be discouraged. FRSC personnel should follow the provisions of the law guiding their operations at all times. No job demands that personnel should willingly sacrifice their lives. They should do away with this crude way of apprehending offenders and embrace technology. Using themselves as obstacles to stop speeding vehicles is a very bad practice indeed.
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