Thailand is world’s most dangerous country for motorcyclists

Motorcycle accident in Thailand. File photo

A leading Thai engineer and campaigner for road safety has said that three out of four Thai roads are not fit for motorcyclists.

Too many are designed solely with cars and four wheel transport in mind.

Thailand needs to get real and follow UN recommendations and spend 15 billion baht a year on upgrades.

Then 7,500 lives could be saved a year by 2030.

Dr Kasem Chujarukul is the leader of ThaiRAP – the Thai Road Assessment Programme – part of an international drive to improve road safety.

The Chulalongkorn professor was speaking to Sanook who noted that Thailand was #1 in the world for motorcycle deaths.

He said that a survey of 1,000 kilometers of roads in Thailand revealed that three quarters (750 kms) could easily result in road accidents for bikes.

But it was not just a question of potholes and uneven surfaces – what car drivers might perceive to be the problem.

It was the geometric design of roads, poor bends and lack of visibility that contributed to the death toll.

Roads were simply designed for cars. Thailand has to understand that bikes and cars are two very different beasts with different braking and cornering capabilities.

“It’s not much different in the US, France, UK and Australia,” he said. “Roads are designed with cars in mind. It’s just that in those countries there are far fewer motorcycles.

“There are a huge number on the roads in Thailand and it all adds up to more than half of road deaths being motorcyclists,” he said.

ASEAN NOW notes that is a conservative estimate. Most statistics point to death on the Thai roads being about 70-80% of the total. Around 25,000 road users are thought to die annually with up to a million injured.

A further problem for motorcyclists, the professor continued, is that road rules mean they are obliged to travel on the left – the domain of six and ten wheel trucks.

No wonder we read so many stories of motorcyclists ending up under those much larger vehicles, he noted.

Other grave dangers for motorcyclists are roadside lampposts and trees that are the worst of all.

Safety measures exist for cars but motorcyclists need more protection from such hazards. Some countries are implementing these with barriers designed to protect bikers.

He said that it is time that the Thai government act on UN General Assembly aims to cut road accidents of all kinds in half by the end of this decade.

He estimated that if just a fraction of GDP was spent on upgrading roads for motorcyclists each year – 15 billion baht – then 7,500 lives could be saved annually by 2030.

ASEAN NOW notes that such sentiments have been expressed for years just as it has been known for decades that motorcycle death is at the forefront of Thailand’s appalling road death and injury stats.

The affect on GDP from the carnage in financial terms from both deaths and injuries resulting in time off work and longer term handicapped issues is staggering.

But there appears little political will despite campaigners’ assurances that spending money will result in savings in the future.

Death among motorcyclists is also as a result of lack of helmet wearing, riding while drunk and poor riding standards, of course. Not to mention lack of enforcement by the police and riding by young, untrained teens contrary to the law.

A laissez-faire attitude exists especially in the Thai countryside.

Vehicle manufactures advertising speed and glamor over safety also plays a deadly part.

This post has been republished with permission from ASEAN NOW