By George Mastronikolis; based on my experience of living in Thailand for 18 years. Two times every year a pure tragedy surfaces during the two biggest celebrations in Thailand. Funny that both periods celebrate the beginning of a New Year, for both Thais and foreigners.
It always starts with big warnings from the media, police and politicians with new policy implementations in an effort to handle this deadly 7 days. But it always ends with blaming each other for bad management, the removal of Police and other officials who have to be blamed for the results. But the problem stays the same, and will be the same if we don’t accept and realise the real issues.
Statistics show that the problem remains the same each year
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there were 24,000 deaths in road accidents in 2017, or an average of 68 people dying each day. During the 7 deadly days the statistics show that 55 people died each day; this is a lower figure than during the rest of the year. The table below shows almost no change over the years. Let’s realise that the much publicised 7 deadly days of the year do not really exist.
This is a simple and plain myth; Thailand faces the same problem every day of the year. Let’s analyse the real facts of road accidents in Thailand and try to understand the problem. As we can see in the Ministry of Public Health table below, 73% of the deadly accidents come from motorcycles and 13% come from 4 wheel cars, This is 86% of the total deaths in Thailand. In my opinion the problem is more cultural and educational. Cultural is about Thai people who don’t have any fear of death, they simple ignore the risk factors when they drive.
Maybe is about time the media and politicians stop blaming the police, public officers and lately the Army for not doing their job during these 7 days. If they want to blame them, then do so every day, but that is not news. No officers will lose their positions as scapegoats and the government will not have to spend hundreds of millions in warnings that never work. Of course this horrible issue must be addressed and solution must be found, and we can do it only by facing the real issues.
For example, look in the motorbike mirrors of teenagers drivers, where you thing the mirror points? I can insure you most point towards the face of the driver, not to look and check behind. How they look is most important than the road. The majority of drivers don’t care about what is coming from behind; they don’t care if there is a risk in changing lines. As a driver, you never know if the motorbike in front of you will stop to speak on the phone or will turn right when indicating left or don’t indicate at all when suddenly deciding to turn or stop.
Police checkups rarely happen after 5 PM and nobody checks how many children drive on a motorbike when they go to school or when they finish school, I can mentions much more. Don’t forget the ear pieces almost every teenager motorbike use to speak on the phone when they drive. In my opinion there is only one solution to solve the majority of these problems; just implement the Rules. Stop young children driving under the age of 16 or anyone without a driving licence. The 100 THB penalties don’t solve the problem. Instantly take the bike for one month first and permanently if it happens again.
This will automatically stop the problem and probably take off the streets thousands of young and dangerous drivers. This doesn’t mean the police have to stop implementation of helmets and other traffic law. To cover the other 13% of the deaths for 4 wheel cars in my opinion is also simple; implement the rules of law. The small penalties we have nowfor driving without a licence, driving with 5 people in the rear of a pickup with zero safety and driving under the influence of alcohol are not working. New and much stronger rules are needed.
What I have found very frustrating during my last 18 years of driving in Thailand is not the fast drivers, but the slow drivers; mostly pickups, driving in the fast line. They will not move when they notice you, than you get upset, frustrated and may do something stupid. In my opinion this causes the majority of the high speed accidents that happen on highways.
The police, public officers and now the Army cannot control culture and the reckless approach to life that Thai people have. It time to stop blaming individuals and see how first we can change the attitude of Thai drivers and implement stronger rules.
By George Mastronikolis