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Suicidal behaviour, depression and risky driving

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Transportation plays a significant role wherever human beings are found, it is a daily activity that bridges the gap between distances as it is the avenue through which people move from one place to the other and also creates opportunities for people to make economic gains. Basically, land, air and sea are routes through which transportation takes place. Due to the economic opportunities provided by transportation, transportation by land especially by the use of road is one of the most explored avenues utilized by people to convey people and goods from one place to the other through means such as cars, buses, motorcycles, tricycles, bicycles, and trucks. In many countries including Nigeria, driving is the primary mode of transportation (Bener, Ahmad, El-Tawai, & Al-Bakr, 2004).

Commercial driving in Nigeria involves means of transportation like:

The motorcycles, which should ideally accommodate the driver and a passenger at a time

The tricycles, popularly known as “Keke NAPEP” borne out of the National Poverty Eradication Programme, which was designed to accommodate the driver and three passengers on the back seat.

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The taxis (which in the context of this study is the Micra model of the Nissan automobile used for commercial driving in Ibadan), which should ideally accommodate the driver, one passenger at the front seat and 3 passengers at the back seat.

The mini-buses most of which were designed with a capacity of fifteen passengers including the driver.

For a typical commercial driver in Nigeria, the activities include the conveyance of goods and passengers from a point to another at prices that are fixed by unions which these drivers register to ensure their unhindered practice. Most drivers are members of these unions whereas others are largely independent and ply their trade at their own prices. The Zonal Commanding Officer, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) that is in charge of Ogun and Lagos States, Mr Shehu Zaki reported that from available statistics, an estimated population of 12.5 million vehicles ply Nigerian roads out of which, 53.8% of them are commercial vehicles (PMNEWS, 2017).

Commercial drivers move from place to place having a passenger-centered notion, some of them may have an idea of the number of round trips they intend to meet before the close of business, hence they do everything they can to meet up. It is common place to see some drivers park abruptly and drive off speedily in a way that may appear to the observer as a reckless form of driving.

Road traffic incidents which are unintended, though preventable can happen to almost anyone and pose common risk to life and properties by extension. It can also cause deaths, injuries, disabilities, grief, loss of productivity, material damage and so contribute to poverty (Dixit, Tyagi, Singh, Gupta & Malik, 2012).

Road traffic crashes (RTCs) are responsible for a huge mortality and morbidity rates and in turn results in substantial global burden. The factors that are responsible for these crashes can be separated into three categories: the environment, the vehicle and the human factor. Of these three, the human factor is the lead responsible factor (Jafarpour, & Rahimi-Movaghar, 2014). The environmental factors could be curved, undivided, inclined and accident-prone roads, poor lighting, poor visibility of objects and weather conditions; the vehicle factors could be safety maintenance and security equipment; while the human factor consists of the driver’s mental and physical capacity, as well as his or her driving style, errors and violations (Thompson, Baldock, Mathias & Wundersitz, 2012). One of the human factors that account for road traffic crashes is driving behaviour which is the chain that links the human factor to different outcomes. There are some examples of driving behaviours but dangerous driving or risky driving behaviours has the potential to endanger or put the driver as well as other road users in danger (Dula & Geller, 2003).

Risky driving behaviour can be unintentional in the form of errors and distractions or intentional, in the form of violations (Jafarpour, & Rahimi-Movaghar, 2014). Patterns of driving behaviour including legal infringement, speeding, improper passing and lane-usage (which is referred to as “one way” in Nigeria), illegal turns, tailgating, among others, that place drivers (and others) at risk of morbidity and mortality are called risky driving behaviour (Shams & Rahimi-Movaghar, 2009).

Locus of control from the work of Rotter (1966) is defined as a distinct personality attribute that portrays the extent to which a person perceives events to be under their control. Locus of control is categorized into an internal locus of control and an external locus of control. This perception of events to be under ones control is referred to as internal locus of control and the extent to which events are perceived to be under the control of outside forces or powerful influences is referred to as external locus of control. It has also been defined by Sardogan, Kaygusuz & Karavan (2006) as the thoughts that an individual has in his or her belief that his or her own power or forces out of his or her own control are responsible for any positive or negative occurrence in his or her life. These attributions are not limited to chance occurrences, fate and powerful people out of ones control, but also refers to the results of the individual’s attitudes (Basim & Sesen, 2006).

Özkan, & Lajunen, (2005) hypothesized that external locus of control might play a significant role in irresponsible driving which could in turn result in accidents. They also noted that locus of control is one of the most important psychological factors that can predict the behavioural adaptation of a driver. Depression has been identified as one of the depressive disorders in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5, 2013). It is beyond the feelings of sadness associated with the loss of a loved one and is diagnosed when the sad mood persists for long, can be regarded as pathological and interferes significantly with the person’s ability to carry out daily task. Other symptoms are loss or increase in appetite, loss of interest in initially pleasurable activities, significant weight loss, excessive or reduced sleep, feelings of worthlessness.

In major depression, at least 5 of the symptoms are present most of the day, every day for at least two weeks with significant distress or impairment. Chronic depression, or dysthymia, is characterized by a long-term (two years or more) depressed mood. Chronic depression is less severe than major depression and typically does not disable the person. An individual with dysthymia or chronic depression may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during his/her lifetime.

It has been estimated that 350 million people experience depression worldwide (World Health Organization, 2017) and studies have identified concern about the fitness of individuals who are suffering from depression to drive safely due to the impact that the symptoms of depression (excessive sadness, anhedonia, suicidal ideation, and even attempts, etc.) may have on the driver’s driving ability (Hill, Lauzon, Winbrock, Li, Chihuri & Lee, 2017). A likely reason for the impact of depression on risky behaviour can be the effect that depression has on the psychomotor functioning, attention span, as well as its ability to negatively affect problem solving capacity, multi-tasking and decision making (Bulmash, Moller, Kayumov, Shen, Wang & Shapiro, 2016).

Depression is generally characterized by excessive sadness, a sense of hopelessness, reduced motivation or drive towards daily tasks. These feelings could promote a sense of powerlessness in men, especially when negative life events are involved, and in a bid to end the pain, they can consider the option of suicide, initially as an ideation, could progress to a tunneled vision about life and living, thereby creating the room for involvement in risky behaviours (Beyondblue Initiative, 2014). As far back as 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported suicide as one of the three leading causes of death among 15 – 44 years old, also regarded as the most economically productive age group (WHO, 1996).

Although there is paucity or outright absence of indigenous data on suicidal ideations and attempted or completed suicidal behaviour in Nigeria, WHO has estimated that about 800,000 people die as a result of suicide yearly and globally, this figure represents a rate of 11.4 per population of 1,000,000 and 6.11 per population of 100,000 in Nigeria (WHO, 2013).

Overtime, suicide has been recognized as a public health issue with the projection of contributing more than 2% to the global burden of disease in the year 2020, with particularity to the sub-Saharan African countries where services, which is believed to be suicide-centered services, are scarce (Vijayakumar, Nagaraj. Pirkis, & Whiteford, 2005).

From the cross-national survey carried out by the World Mental Health Survey (WHMS) (cited in Adewuya, Ola, Coker, Olayinka, Zechariah, Olugbile, Fasawe & Idris, 2016), the rate of suicidal ideation is estimated at 9.2% globally and 3.2% for Nigeria, however, Adewuya et al., (2016), conducted a study in Lagos to ascertain the prevalence of suicidal ideation across the metropolis and found a prevalence rate of 7.2 %, this they attributed to the fact that they may have investigated suicidal ideation based on current prevalence, rather than a lifetime prevalence that the WMHS employed in their study.

From observation, commercial drivers experience differing degree of stress, physically as per the amount of time they put into their work daily, which can result in burnout; mentally, as they, within the context of this study are Africans, most of who belong to a family and will have a target of earning sufficient money in a bid to provide for themselves and their families. Where there is an inability of meeting expected targets on the job, it can result in mental pressures which can affect the state of mind of the drivers, especially in the light of economic realities at present in Nigeria. In addition, commercial driving involves more men than women and literature has shown that men can be affected by suicide as a result of stoic beliefs due to cultural beliefs and values, social isolation and acute stressors. The stressors which may endure for a period of time could result in depression due to employing ineffective coping strategies to deal with it (Beyondblue Initiative, 2014).

Drivers’ suicide is perceived to be common, however, there are methodological difficulties associated with its research, which could be explained by the challenges of recognizing which accident scenario can be attributed to suicide attempts on the part of the driver (Henderson & Joseph, 2012). They identified risk factors associated with drivers’ suicide to include being male, age range of 25 to 34, driving alone and colliding with a vehicle with heavy goods or crashing into a tree or pole, non-usage of seat belt and, significant recent psychological and social stressors, as well as mental disorders like depression, and previous suicide attempts.

Studies have shown that mood disorders such as depression can lead to risky driving (Scott-Parker, Hyde, Watson & King, 2013) and when it is a major depression, risky driving and involvement in road crashes might be resulting from a disguised suicidal attempt (Henderson & Joseph, 2012) and literature has further shown that mental health may significantly influence risky driving behaviour in adolescents and adults (Cunningham & Regan, 2016) and road traffic crashes as a result of risky driving behaviour in turn causes significant psychological distress and economic burden in micro and macro scales (Jafarpour, & Rahimi-Movaghar, 2014).

Mr Shehu Zaki also reported that according to the National Bureau of Statistics, speed violation is a major determinant of traffic crashes on the road and accounts for 42.96%, followed by loss of control accounting for 12.7% and also followed by dangerous driving, accounting for 7.3% of the total number of crashes that was reported in the first quarter of 2017 (PMNEWS, 2017).

Studies have been conducted on determinants of driving behaviour in Nigeria, e,g. Psychosocial factors and aggressive behaviour (Balogun, Shenge & Oladipo, 2012); aggressiveness and anger (Ogwude, 2012), Ocular Status of Commercial Drivers (Omolase, Afolabi, Omolase & Ihemedu, 2012), Compliance with seat belt use (Omolase, Afolabi, Omolase & Ihemedu, 2012). However the area of depression, suicidal behaviour and risky driving among commercial drivers is yet to be investigated and to the best of the researcher’s knowledge and from existing literature, the effect of depression on driving behaviour has not been studied extensively (Buckley, Robinson & Stapleton, 2017), even in Nigeria, hence this study seeks to fill the gap by broadly investigating depression, suicidal behaviour and the mediating effect of locus of control on risky driving behaviour among commercial drivers in Ibadan. This study will seek to answer the following questions:

Could risky driving among commercial drivers in Ibadan be due to depression or suicidal behaviour?

Is there a relationship between Locus of Control and risky driving behavior among commercial drivers in Ibadan?

What dimensions of Locus of Control {Self (referred to as internal Locus of Control), Vehicle-Environment, Fate, Others (referred to as external Locus of Control)} will have influence on risky driving behaviour among commercial drivers in Ibadan?

Will the age, driving licensure and driving experience of the drivers play any role on risky driving among commercial drivers in Ibadan?

If there will be an influence of depression on risky driving among commercial drivers in Ibadan, will Locus of Control mediate the influence?

This study seeks to investigate if:

Commercial drivers in Ibadan experience depression or engage in suicidal behaviour as they engage in the business of commercial driving;

The experience of depression or suicidal behaviour impacts risky driving in anyway among commercial drivers in Ibadan;

Socio-demographic factors (age, driving licensure, driving experience) will determine risky driving among commercial drivers in Ibadan;

The relationship between Locus of Control as well as its dimensions (Self, Vehicle-Environment, Fate and Others) and risky driving among commercial drivers in Ibadan; and

Locus of Control will mediate the influence of depression on risky driving among commercial drivers in Ibadan.

It will add to the existing literature and data on depression, suicidal behaviour, locus of control and risky driving among commercial drivers.

The result from this study will enlighten on depression, suicidal behaviour and the mediating role of locus of control on risky driving among commercial drivers and will inform professionals in the healthcare and transport sector on the underlying reasons beyond issues like poor eyes sight, aggression or driving rage and also inform recommendations to mental health professionals and the FRSC on health and safety measures that commercial drivers can benefit from.

The findings can provide a framework to design an indigenous Mental Health Assessment Test for commercial drivers and will inform recommendations that will be made to the Drivers, Government, Policy makers, Academicians and future researchers.

The findings from this study can also inform the design of a module on mental health that can make up the periodic orientation organized by the Federal Road Safety Corps to Commercial drivers. It will add to the existing literature on risky driving and contribute to emerging issues on mental health among commercial drivers.


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