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Island View: Don’t need a 12-lane highway



PHUKET: With over 20,000 deaths every year, Thailand is second only to Libya – a country in the midst of a civil war – for the highest rate of annual traffic fatalities.

Here in Phuket, poor planning, dense populations, unqualified drivers and a lack of law enforcement conspire to constantly raise each week’s body-count.

The main thoroughfare through the island – Thepkrasattri Road – resembles a parking lot during rush hours, and overdue and over-budget construction projects are not helping.

Outside of rush hours, ‘ghost’ motorists driving against oncoming traffic; people turning on their hazard flashers and parking on the road to pop into a 7-Eleven; salengs sloshing along at a snail’s pace; dangerously overloaded trucks; silly teenagers on motorbikes racing between lanes without helmets; tour buses cutting off the entirety of the roadway at u-turns; and speeding taxi and tailgating van drivers with a half-dozen ghost-faced Chinese tourists packed in the back, are all ongoing concerns.

That’s to say nothing of the degraded state of much of Thepkrasattri and the bypass roads. Ongoing simultaneous construction projects throughout the province (whoever had that brilliant idea) have forced most of the traffic into too few lanes, wearing down what roads are left. Road crews of Burmese workers – themselves little better off than indentured servants and forced to live in camps – are either preoccupied with completing overdue projects, or unable to patch up the craters due to incessant traffic.

While outgoing Governor Chamroen Tipayapongtada is correct that something must be done about Phuket’s roads, it doesn’t take a 12-lane highway or (God forbid) a train running down the center of Thepkrasattri road to solve the problem. It doesn’t take new laws or more baht or much bureaucratic wrangling either.

Simply don’t allow people to park on Thepkrasattri.

What is meant to be a six-lane artery for the island is choked up to four or even two lanes along it’s route into Phuket Town.

Phuket does not need another construction project, particularly after the remarkably poor performances in building the bypass road underpasses. Phuket needs her veins flushed.

Paint every curb along Thepkrasattri red and white and, most importantly, enforce the no-parking rule. It wouldn’t be too hard to convince police to quit shaking down businesses and instead to shakedown motorists stopped along the thoroughfare.

Phuket’s traffic casualty rate is approaching, quite literally, epidemic proportions. Building more roads is not going to solve what is, at its core, a systemic failure of governance.

Yes, there will be a backlash, an outcry and a great brouhaha from every yokel who has to park around the corner to buy his cigarettes and beer. But frankly, they could use the walk as heart disease is still the number one killer of Thais. And, ultimately, it’s a fair price to pay for the family of four on a scooter to not end up as another smear across the roadway and yet another newspaper clipping in the teetering stacks we keep at this office.

— Desmond Farang


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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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