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Opinion: Addressing road safety in Phuket

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: A proposal under consideration by the Department of Land Transport that would privatize driver education nationwide correctly recognizes and attempts to address the horrific state of road safety in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, the root causes of the problem run at a far deeper level than any bureaucratic reform could ever hope to reach, let alone rectify.

It seems that hardly a day passes without a deadly road accident happening somewhere in Phuket – and the situation only seems to worsen with each passing year. Not too long ago, reports of road accident fatalities qualified as front-page news. Such incidents are now so commonplace that they are often relegated to the back pages of the news section, if in fact they are reported at all.

The sad reality we all face is that Thai roadways are among the most dangerous in the world – and Phuket’s roads are among the most dangerous in Thailand, if not the most dangerous.

The roads themselves are generally poorly designed, constructed and marked. Signage, especially the English-language versions, often seem like a deliberate attempt to confuse.

Phuket’s huge tourism economy, coupled with the woeful state of public transport, results in the island playing host to more clued-out ‘guest drivers’ than any other province.

Speeding about like lunatics in their midst are the so-called ‘professional drivers’ who operate at breakneck speeds in their frenzy to get from Point A to Point B. Throw into this mix the almost complete lack of traffic law enforcement when it comes to ‘moving violations’ and you have an almost perfect storm.

A high degree of what can only be described as ‘wishful thinking’ exists among far too many local drivers.

The typical reasoning seems to run something like this: I want to get past this lumbering lorry in front of me, so it is safe to assume that there are no other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, the view of which is currently obscured by that lorry.

For an unlucky few, such thoughts will comprise the last attempt at reasoning they will ever make.

Adding new layers of bureaucracy will never seriously impact the pervasive ‘culture of carelessness’ that persists on our roads. Perhaps our best hope lies in new technologies – such as self-driving cars.

 

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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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