After breaking a decade-long record for the number of people killed on its roads over the seven day-long new year holiday period, it hasn’t taken long for fresh videos to emerge highlighting the appalling driving skills encountered on Thailand roads.
The 2016-17 new year holiday period between December 29 and January 3 saw 478 people killed on Thailand roads; an increase of almost 26 per cent over the same period a year prior. The worst, in fact, since the identical period in 2007 when 449 people were killed on Thailand roads.
According to official figures the number of reported accidents was up 16 per cent on a year earlier at 3,919, while the number of those injured rose 17.7 per cent to 4,128.
While much attention has focused on a head-on collision between an inter-provincial passenger van carrying 15 people and a pickup carrying 12 in eastern Chon Buri province, south of Bangkok, the resulting 25 deaths represent a little more than 5 per cent of all those killed over the appropriately termed ‘Seven Dangerous Days’.
According to government officials almost 67,000 people were arrested for drunk driving – which was blamed on 36.6 per cent of crashes – and more than 4,000 vehicles –some 75 per cent of which were motorbikes – were seized. Simply alarming given that motorbike riders were involved in 81.82 per cent, or 3,206 of the total recorded crashes.
The statistics show that 61.78 per cent of all accidents on Thailand roads during the ‘Seven Dangerous Days’ took place on straight stretches, attributing excessive speed to 31.3 per cent. So there you have it. Eliminate drunk driving motorbike riders, and drunk driving speedsters and you’ll significantly reduce the number of deaths on Thailand roads.
Improve the safety helmet compliance rate from the present level of around 40 per cent and see the death rate drop even further. Even a measly score of three for effective law enforcement on speed limits by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its Global Status Report on Road Safety 2015 was a clear enough clue. Seems simple enough. Not to Thailand’s leadership, though
In response Thailand Prime Minister and head of the military junta, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, invoked the ‘omnipotent power” clause (Article 44 of the interim Constitution) he granted himself before establishing the country’s puppet parliament following the 2014 military putsch to announce sweeping changes to ensure the carnage on Thailand roads will end.
- Strict enforcement of traffic laws such as drunk driving, and the wearing of crash helmets
- A broad-based public education campaign
- The removal of DVD players from the front cabin of vehicles
- Point of departure random vehicle, alcohol, and drug testing for public transport drivers and their vehicles
- Mandatory devices to block cellphone useage while driving
- Enforcement of traffic laws irrespective of the social status of the offender
All great ideas. But not the right ones for lowering the carnage on Thailand roads. Instead the Thailand government will force the country’s 4,000 passenger van operators to fit global positioning system (GPS) trackers to their vehicles before the next ‘Seven Deadly Days’ on Thailand roads, the annual Lunar New Year period known as Songkran.
In addition drivers will be forced to carry a log book detailing their driving hours – the 64-year-old driver of the minivan in the Chon Buri smash had reportedly driven 2,500km (1,553miles) in the 31 hours prior.
Further, operators of the 6,431 or so passenger vans travelling between Bangkok and upcountry provinces must convert to mini-buses by the end of the year, while some 2,771 vans providing inter-provincial transport services will be given slightly longer to make the change.
That these measures will do little other than stimulate the micro-bus construction and import sector and merely enable authorities to pinpoint exactly where a crash has occurred has fooled no one. As these new year videos and figures show, the problem is much more serious than keeping logbooks, or wearing crash helmets. Perhaps the answer is that some people were simply never meant to drive.
- Thailand’s holiday season marred by accidents (TR Weekly)
- Van operators face end-March GPS deadline (Bangkok Post)
- Horror crash spurs safety drive (Bangkok Post)