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OPINION: Crackdown on cracked heads in Phuket

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PHUKET: Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pekad Tantipong’s order for a crackdown on riding as a passenger (pillion) on a motorbike without a helmet is laudable, but won’t be easy to enforce.

Under the plan, police will be responsible for ensuring compliance with an existing law that allows them to issue fines of up to 500 baht for anyone caught on a motorbike without a helmet, as well as 1,000 baht for anyone caught transporting a passenger without a helmet. [See front page, this week’s Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers click here.]

Since it was introduced well over a decade ago, the law requiring motorbike passengers to wear a crash helmet has seldom been enforced in Phuket, so much so that many people don’t even know that the law exists.

Compliance on the part of riders has been somewhat better, but a glance at any local roadway reveals that it isn’t nearly what it should be.

A simple look at the numbers reveals the enormity of the task facing police.

There are more than 300,000 motorbikes registered with the Phuket Land Transport Office, and probably at least 100,000 more on the roads here that are registered in other provinces. These figures continue to grow daily, and most of the bikes are located in the Phuket City Police district, where the crackdown will take place.

Why the crackdown is not island-wide is anyone’s guess.

While the objective of the crackdown is good, the Gazette finds it difficult to be optimistic about the outcome. With just 50 officers, the ‘net’ is simply too small for the intended ‘catch’ and most of those who insist on riding without a helmet will continue to do so, accepting the risk of getting fined – and possibly a cracked skull – as the price of ‘freedom’.

A far better strategy would be to hone in on one demographic: children. There is a strong argument that the decision to put on a helmet should rest with the individual, not the state. By the time people reach adulthood they should be capable of making rational choices and be ready to accept the consequences of their actions – as dire as they may be.

Unfortunately, it seems that far too many of us in Phuket, if not all of Thailand, have grown up in what might reasonably be considered a ‘culture of carelessness’ that is instilled at a very young age and then passed from generation to generation.

Time has shown that the current system of road checkpoints and random fines is not an effective way to address such a deep-seated social problem, although it may be a tidy source of revenue for the police.

A better solution would be to arrest all riders caught transporting minors without helmets, thus instilling a sense of caution in our youth and preparing them for a lifetime in which wearing helmets is simply second nature.

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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