Zebra Crossing was invented in 1948 by James Callaghan, a British member of the parliament, who saw the need for safe pedestrian crossing when he visited the British Transport and Road Research laboratory. Callaghan cultivated the idea of the white and black stripes designed as Zebra Crossing because the pattern has a resemblance color with that of the Zebra.
This striped white and black sign, commonly called Zebra crossing, is an area of road painted with broad white and black stripes where vehicles must stop if pedestrians wish to cross. It is believed that pedestrians are afforded precedence over vehicular traffic. This road marking sign is designed mainly for pedestrians. This is because the pedestrians are a part of the road users as the use of roads is not limited to motorists alone. Zebra crossing avails pedestrians prerogative of being considered first when drivers of vehicles sight other road users about to cross at that point.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 1.3 million people dies every year as a result of road crashes, and it was noted that pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users that constituted more than half of all the road traffic deaths. In another development, the United Nations General Assembly has also set an ambitious target of having the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2030. This is an impending calamity that may befall us if caution and care are thrown to the wind. The impatience and ineptitude of motorists, who on daily basis, defy the zebra crossing rule, have in turn, sent many pedestrians to the great beyond.
Some motorists flippantly disregard traffic laws and they become recalcitrant when apprehended for such action. These categories of drivers choose to selectively obey some traffic laws, while they disobey others. One of such that they disobey is the zebra crossing rule which states that pedestrians have the right of way when they set their feet on the broad white and black stripes painted on the road.
In order to nip in the bud this flagrant disregard for traffic laws by some Lagos motorists, the State Government through the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) has embarked on an intensive and effective enlightenment campaign to re-orientate motorists on road traffic rules and regulations. One of such ways of educating the motoring public is the advocacy program being organized by the Public Affairs and Enlightenment Department of LASTMA at motor parks and in schools. The LASTMA Connect Program on radio is another way LASTMA enlightens road users on various traffic rules and regulations.
It is expected that anyone found on the wrong side of the law as touching the rule that governs the pedestrian zebra crossing would be apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law with respect to the fine or punishment attached to failure to give right of way to pedestrians crossing at zebra crossing area. As enshrined and stipulated in the Lagos State Road Traffic Laws, failure of drivers to yield to right of ways of pedestrians at Zebra crossing attracts a fine of N20, 000 for a first offender and N30, 000 for committing same offence subsequently.
Therefore, it is binding on all motorists by law to stop at any zebra crossing point while pedestrians walk carefully from one side of the road to the other side where the striped black and white signs stretch. It is also important that crossing pedestrians advisably exercise caution before crossing at any zebra crossing-designed area in their overall traffic safety.
Stakeholders, experts in transportation industry and other concerned authorities are expected to support and collaborate with the state government in creating more awareness and sensitization on safety of all road users as this remains the catalyst for development considering the six-pillar T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration. This will in turn ensure a safe and secured society.
As the rainy season beckons, some portions of the roads where the zebra crossing road marking signs are designed might have washed off and become unclear, so it is expected that concerned authorities and agencies who are saddled with road maintenance and rehabilitation be up to their task to ensure clear visibility of these signs. This way, the safety of a crossing pedestrian can be assured to a large extent. Concerned stakeholders in transportation sector are also urged to regularly embark on road inspection tours to ascertain the state of road marking signs on Lagos roads.
In closing, let us remember the words of a great thinker, Barry Spud, “Safety is 30 % common sense; 80 % compliance and the rest is good luck”. It is observed that Spud allotted 30 % to common sense and 80 % to compliance, all totaling 110 % which is already above 100 % maximum. This suggests in clear sense that there is no room for good luck in critical issue of road safety. Hence, common sense and compliance are the two factors that determine safety on the roads. Apply common sense and stay alive!
So, in order to attain overall safety on the road, all road users including motorists and pedestrians are to obey not only the zebra crossing rule, but also all traffic rules and regulations.
Otun, a Principal Public Affairs Officer, is of the Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Lagos.