Reducing Carnage on Thailand’s Roads; Lessons from Phuket

Reducing Carnage on Thailand’s Roads; Lessons from Phuket
Reducing Carnage on Thailand’s Roads; Lessons from Phuket

New statistics released by the Don’t Drink Drive Foundation have revealed that the number of people killed on Thailand’s roads have soared in 2017. However a dramatic reduction in the number of traffic deaths in Phuket Province shows that identifying and modifying high risk accident locations together with a determined and consistent enforcement of traffic laws can reduce this carnage throughout the country.

The Foundation says that almost 2,500 more people were killed on Thailand’s roads in the first 11 months of 2017 compared to 2016. On average, 61 people are killed every day on Thailand’s road, the Foundation said. In 2016, 9,666 people were found dead at the scene of a road accident. However in 2017, this figure jumps to 12,078 people killed. And that figure is likely to be considerably higher, with the latest stats only accounting for people who were pronounced dead at the scene of an accident, the Thai News Agency reported. Apart from the human costs these numbers add up to over half a trillion baht of economic loss.

In November it was revealed that the total death toll in 2016 was 22,356 – that was 2,877 up from the figure for 2015 which was 19,479. With these latest stats being released in November, not included are figures for the New Year holiday, which along with the Songkran festival normally sees a spike in road accidents and fatalities. The damning statistics come despite government officials introducing numerous measures to try and reduce fatalities on Thailand’s roads. One such measure introduced in early 2017 was to ban people riding in the cargo area of a pickup truck. However even the most casual observer can see that this law, as well as motor cycle helmet requirements, are neither respected nor consistently enforced.

Foundation secretary general Dr Taejing Siripanich said Thailand’s traffic laws and the mindset of drivers were to blame. He said that drivers in Thailand regularly drive under the influence of alcohol, use their smartphones behind the wheel and show little consideration for others when driving. He also said that people are not afraid to break traffic laws and called on police and associated agencies to get tough on drivers who break the law.

Phuket has recently won praise during a Thai Health Promotion Foundation conference held as a part of the WHO program; ‘Accelerating Actions for Implementation of Decade of Action for Road Safety’. Health and safety agencies heard that the number of road accidents in that Province had been halved over the decade ending in 2016. In the previous decade, 1997-2006, Phuket was among Thailand’s five worst provinces in terms of death and injury resulting from road accidents. The dramatic reduction in accidents and casualties was credited to three basic portals of improving road safety.

  • Strict law enforcement using high-tech devices such as speed guns, breathalysers and cameras.
  • A focus on accident-prone locations, installing traffic lights, removing signs blocking vision.
  • An efficient network of multidisciplinary emergency response teams.

Phuket formed a provincial working team which produced accurate and clear analysis that led to more effective solutions that contributed to halving the crash deaths said Thai Health Promotion Foundation Manager Supreeda Adulyanon. In 2015 the non-profit Safer Roads Foundation from the UK handed over 39 breathalysers to the Phuket Police to use for its ‘Duem Laew Kab Thuk Jab Nae‘ or ‘If you drink and drive, you will get arrested’ campaign.

The ‘Phuket model’ shows that what works is a determined approach at the local level, rather than waiting for national action. Meanwhile the Prime Minister has ordered that tough action must be dealt with these traffic violations, notably those driving with no licenses. Government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd said his order came as he was concerned about the safety of the people travelling homes to celebrate the New Year, or visiting tourist spots as fatal road accidents are still on the increase. He ordered that a heavier penalty rather than just fines should be handed down such as seizure of their vehicles, and prohibiting them to drive again so as to scare them and not to repeat the same offence again, to save the life of others.

He also urged that the police enforce the law drastically especially his government’s “No drink driving, license seizure” campaign from December 29th to January 4th. However has anything really changed since the following comments were made by government spokes- man Weerachon Sukondhapatipak in January 2017? “Unfortunately the number of fatalities has increased despite a campaign from the government and law enforcement to increase safety. Road safety is something we will have to continue working on continuously and not just during the New Year period.”

“The year-round enforcement of road safety rules, a staple in the successful reduction of road deaths worldwide, remains unrealised in Thailand to the continuing enormous cost to its citizens and visitors alike.“ Thailand has the deadliest roads in the world, new report claims A new report has using the same fatality figures has ranked Thailand as having the world’s deadliest roads. The report, released by the World Atlas website, says there is more chance of people being killed on Thailand’s roads than on the roads in places like Malawi, Iran, Rwanda and Lesotho. According to the report, Thailand ranks in first place with an average of 36.2 deaths per 100,000 population, ahead of Malawi in 2nd place (35.0) and Liberia in 3rd (33.7). The other countries that make up the top 10 include Democratic Republic of the Congo, United Republic of Tanzania, Central African Republic and Sao Tome and Principe. The news comes after Thailand’s government vowed to invest in safety measures to help reduce the 20,000 deaths and estimated Bt500 billion in financial losses every year. Under the measures, officials said they would crack down on drink driving and people breaking the speed limit. And children from kindergarten age will be taught about road safety. –