PHUKET: Phuket City Police are to be commended for not giving up in their effort to get all motorbike riders in their district to wear safety helmets.
Unfortunately, the entrenched carelessness that has persisted on Phuket roads for at least two decades means they face a long, uphill battle against a notoriously stubborn opponent: ignorance.
Despite a two-month public relations campaign that saw thousands of free helmets given away and countless verbal warnings, compliance with the helmet law among motorbike riders is still far from perfect, especially among children and other pillion riders.
July 1 marked the D-day, when police were to begin issuing fines against all helmet law offenders in the district. Unfortunately, and as predicted in this space soon after the campaign was announced in late April, the scale of the problem and lack of police manpower resulted in a “non-starter”.
But rather than giving up, Phuket City Police employed a new tactic: seizing the licenses of violators caught at police checkpoints and not returning them until the offenders viewed a short film with graphic images of the kinds of severe head trauma their recalcitrance puts them at risk of.
It is expected that the movie experiences will continue for about two months before fines will be issued.
Soon after its launch, the “scared straight” public relations campaign got a strong show of support from Deputy Interior Minister Thavorn Senniam, whose younger brother succumbed to a cranial hemorrhage after his unprotected head hit the pavement in a motorcycle accident in 1982.
Mr Thavorn said he would like to see other police districts of Phuket adopt similar campaigns, and would suggest similar projects in his visits to 13 other provinces in the South, where he is responsible for overseeing that government polices on health and human security issues are implemented.
Numbers alone reveal why across-the-board helmet use is essential for Phuket. According to Ministry of Public Health statistics, the province consistently ranks in the Top Five of Thailand’s 76 provinces in terms of road accident injuries and fatalities, often taking the Number One spot.
The majority are young people on motorbikes without helmets.
While the incidence-rate statistics are no doubt skewed because they fail to take into account Phuket’s huge migrant population, the fact remains that 15 deaths a month is an unacceptably high figure that could be dramatically reduced if the Phuket City Police effort is successful.
The Gazette would like, once again, to suggest that the police put particular enforcement emphasis on protecting children by setting up random checkpoints in front of schools every morning.
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