PHUKET: Patong Hill has been chosen as the island’s first “Helmet Heaven”, with motorcyclists barred from it from next month unless they wear helmets. While details are still being worked out, Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi told the Gazette that riders traveling without helmets would be turned back at checkpoints on both sides of the hill, day and night. It is hoped the inconvenience of not being able to complete journeys will force Phuket motorcyclists to play it safe in the face of worsening road toll figures. Latest statistics from the island’s three public hospitals show that 26 motorcyclists died between April 20 and May 20, an alarming increase. Of the 104 fatalities on Phuket roads so far this year, 103 involved motorcycles, with just one death involving a car. “If you are not wearing a helmet, the police will not allow you to ride to or from Patong,” the Governor said. Patong Hill is notorious for its roller-coaster curves and odd cambers. The proposed checkpoints will be on Phra Phuket Kaew Rd on the Phuket Town side of the hill and outside Wat Suwankiriwong in Patong. Round-the-clock enforcement has been put forward as the most effective way to force Phuket’s motorcyclists to overcome their stubborn aversion to helmets. Many island motorcyclists already carry helmets but only don them to negotiate police checkpoints. Strictly speaking, riding without a helmet – on one’s head – should incur a 200-baht fine.
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