There are many things we use every day and do not really think about where they come from and why they are the way they are. Zebra crossing is just one of them. Zebra crossing is necessary in Nigeria and to pedestrians as well as drivers for the safety of life and property. The question now is, what is zebra crossing? According to Wikipedia, Zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing that is marked on the road with painted black and white stripes that gives pedestrians permanent right to way mostly control by traffic light in some Nations. Thus, if one step onto a zebra crossing a moving car or motorcycle is expected to stop for the pedestrians to have smoothed walk on the main road. These special types of crossings typically give pedestrians permanent right of direction when crossing the street because it is a positive step towards creating traffic safety culture as well as an enabling and sustainable road traffic environment.
Visitors to other countries are sometimes confused when they are told there is a zebra crossing up ahead. Some even expect to see a zebra walking across the road! Chances are that you use a zebra crossing each day on your way to work, home, schools but have you ever marvelled why they look the way they do? Why do they have strips and others colour or pattern? Of course, the reason is simple.
Zebra crossing was born October 31st, 1951 as a solution to make crossing the road safer for everyone, the increase in traffic combine with pedestrians who were not used to cars meant that fatalities from accidents were particularly high.
In the late 1940s, experiments with different road markings were conducted. With all of the tests, there was one pattern that proved to be the most effective and that of course was the black and white stripes we are familiar with today as Zebra. In Nigeria, zebra crossings were invisible for many drivers; in fact it seems like cars move faster in the Zebra crossing regions; unless you happen to be a Zebra, then they will stop! Merely, it does not mean the drivers are unskilled but rather require training.
If it is true that Nigeria and indeed the world over are losing many resources to road traffic crashes, which affect the economies of nations, then urgent steps need to be taken to reduce its negative effect.
The World Health Organisation’s 2004 report estimated that about 1.2 million road users are killed yearly in road crashes worldwide. It is important for road users to make use of road signs as it gives information on the nature of the road, bends, narrow bridges, animal/human crossing, and construction area among others.
Observably the road users (motorists/pedestrians) are largely unaware of the need and essence of this safety measure on the roads. Hence, motorists often raced across the crossing, notwithstanding the number of pedestrians attempting to or are crossing the road. Also, often time pedestrian willing to cross the road do stand aloof, few metres from the zebra crossimg. Dr. Sydney Ibeanusi on the UN global Road safety week “Make Walking Safe” said a year ago that “pedestrian safety in Nigeria was not being put into consideration by the road users, as most motorists would not wait for pedestrians at the zebra crossing”.
Traditionally, the necessity of zebra crossing on the road is primarily to maintain a peaceful and safe interaction between human(s) and vehicle traffic. That is, to reduce road accident, to make movement of pedestrians and vehicle easy, to give drivers the comfort to drive their vehicles safely and to enable the car to always be kept in a good shape. However, the attitude/activities of road users on zebra crossing in Nigeria render ineffectual the in-built safety benefit of this device. Notably, the following negative attitudes among others are exhibit on zebra crossing: Zebra crossings are obstructed due to on-street parking, Vehicles in traffic jam stand on zebra crossing, Pedestrian stand aloof from this safety device, Motorists raced across the zebra crossing. Also, the poor road maintenance culture further aggravates the unsafe state of this safety device. For example, the white paint on the Zebra Crossing often peel-off without instant replacement. In addition, supplementary component of the road environment that supposed to alert the road users of the need to use the zebra crossing, as well as the necessity to obey it are virtually not available. Some roads have lanes; others do not and people are ignoring the rules not because they want to but because the implementation is inconsistent and puzzling.
It does not stop there! Sometime you will get to be viewing your house across where you are standing but because their no availability of zebra crossing and a standard rule to guide it, you have to work another mile to reach your abode. Advisably, city authorities in alliance with private institutions and urban stake-holders in part of the states should fund substantially road safety campaign and education, through workshops, seminars, conferences, research and training activities. By so doing, more people will be conscious of the zebra crossing. Otherwise, the prevailing unsafe road traffic environment especially among the pedestrians will persist.
Amina Abdullahi Umole, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano