Halving Thailand’s road toll by 2020 – The impossible dream

“The WHO report points out that progress has been made in certain areas, such as legislation. But it has not been fast enough to meet the UN goal of halving road traffic deaths between 2016 and 2020.”

Thailand draws world attention for its amazing scenery, vibrant foodie scene, raunchy nightlife and local festivals. It also draws attention for all the wrong reasons – mostly its infamous death toll on the roads.

CNN has done a special report about Thialand’s road carnage and looks into the reasons the Land of Smiles continues to rank in the WHO (World Health Organisation) Top 10 most dangerous places in the world to drive.

The article says that driving in Thailand can be a hair-raising experience at the best of times, but during the country’s so-called “seven dangerous days” over the New Year holiday motorists take their lives in their hands.

“Efforts to crack down on the causes of those crashes – drunk driving, corrupt cops and general weak enforcement of traffic laws – have so far proved ineffective. Between December 27 and January 2, a total of 463 people died in 3,791 traffic accidents, pretty much on par with last year’s 423 deaths, according to the country’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.”

The WHO estimates 22,941 people die each year in traffic-related incidents in Thailand, making its roads the deadliest in Southeast Asia and ninth most dangerous, per capita, in the world.

“That’s an average of 62 deaths every day, according to the WHO’s 2018 report on global road safety — just slightly fewer than the average deaths over the New Year period of 66 per day.”

The article notes that the vast majority of those deaths – 73% – are riders of motorcycles. Once this year’s Seven Days of Danger numbers were tallied up this week, the percentage for motorcycle deaths was 80% of the total toll.

Two main issues drive the horrendous and shameful toll – drink driving and speed. The statistics for these two main causes dominate the deaths everywhere in the country.

Sadly, many Thais still think nothing of having a night out with friends or a few beers after work and then jumping on their motorbike or into their car and driving. The lack of responsibility in this area remains breathtaking for many foreigners who have been educated over the past two generations to view drink driving as an avoidable social problem. Poor education in the use of alcohol within families and communities drives the high domestic violence numbers as well as the drink driving statistics.

These local habits are often picked up by expats and tourists accounting for plenty of additional deaths outside the local population.

Speed, coupled with some poor roads and a lack of driver education and training, also fuels the numbers. Until the last few years, a speed limit sign was a rare sight on Thai roads. That is changing but CNN notes that enforcement of those speed limits and road rules remains a challenge.

“The Interior Ministry’s Road Safety Thailand unit said the majority of deaths during this New Year period (41.5%) were caused by drunk driving and 28% by speeding. The northern province of Chiang Mai, which reported the second largest number of incidents this New Year period, with 16 deaths, is a case in point.”

In many areas of Chiang Mai, like most other provinces, it seems the traffic stops and checkpoints remain more about making money than road safety. CNN reports that is common to see drivers in Chiang Mai being stopped by police for failing to produce a driving license or wear a helmet, only to jump back on their bikes and drive away once they’ve paid a “fine”.

Read the rest of the CNN special article on the Thai road toll HERE.

Chiang Mai NewsThailand News
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