PHUKET: Any serious effort to improve road safety in Phuket will need a major shift away from the existing “police checkpoint” method of enforcing traffic law and instead move towards catching violators in the act.
Results of a recent Phuket Gazette online poll revealed that three-quarters of those taking part had never been fined for a moving violation of traffic law in Phuket.
Even more remarkably, the majority of these (42%) did not even know of anyone who had. While the figures may be skewed by the large number of tourists who took part, the results are nonetheless quite revealing.
In fact, the Gazette poll editor received a number of queries from curious Thai readers asking exactly what the term “moving violation” meant – as no equivalent term to describe such a set of infractions appears to exist in Thai language.
To keep all of our readers in the loop, we define a moving violation as any violation of traffic law committed by the operator of a vehicle while it is in motion: speeding, running red lights, dangerous overtaking and drunk driving are just a few of the infractions that exist under Thailand’s comprehensive traffic law. Unfortunately, these laws are far too poorly enforced where they are needed most: out on the open road.
It is unlikely that Phuket drivers from western countries, who are all too familiar with the term “moving violation”, would like to see Thai police adopt a US-style approach that involves pulling over drivers who fail to come to a complete stop at stop signs on deserted roads late at night, “speed traps” or similar tactics just to generate revenue by writing tickets to drivers who pose no real threat to others.
When enforcement reaches that extreme it makes a mockery of the “spirit of the law”, turns the public against police and relegates driving – which can be a pleasurable experience – into just another anxiety-laced routine to plod through.
Unfortunately, here in Phuket the rule of the road seems to be almost the polar opposite. The almost complete disregard by police in regard to moving violations has allowed an extremely dangerous driving culture to develop – with near daily fatal results.
Phuket already has numerous factors that contribute to making it among the most dangerous places to drive in the Kingdom: roadways that are among the worst in Thailand; ever-increasing traffic congestion; lack of public transport that forces may visitors onto unfamiliar roads, including many on motorbikes for the first time. The list goes on.
Instilling just a small measure of cognizance among drivers that speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road and a host of other violations could result in fines or arrest is a necessary first step to making our roads safer for one and all.
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