We can do more to make travel safer

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CHIANG RAI, 4 April 2018: Every year as the Songkran festival approaches, thoughts turn to road safety, or to be more precise the lack of it on Thailand’s highways.

It’s a year-round problem with an average 66 people dying on Thai roads every single day.  While we all value the government campaigns to make Songkran safer at best they represent a band-aid gesture during an intense week of festivities.

Thailand will welcome 38 million tourists this year so non-tourism subjects such as marine and road safety deserve the industry’s urgent attention. It is simply not good enough to say safety is the responsibility of another ministry outside the influence of tourism.

Everyday, there are horror stories posted on social media and online news channels – bus, motorcycle and boat accidents killing and injuring travellers who thought Thailand was a tourism paradise.

For some it turned into a hell, emergency treatment in an ICU, huge hospital bills that cannot be paid and injuries that change their lives forever.

Solutions to improve traveller safety require a commitment by ministries to enforce the rules that are already in place, but it also requires various ministries, such as transport and tourism, to work hand-in-hand to tackle specific issues. Motorcycles are involved in more than 80% of all accidents in Thailand. Resolving issues linked to their rental could save lives.

Some people may argue this has nothing to do with the business of tourism, but take a closer look.

When motorcycle rental shops, at resorts across the country, rent bikes many of the shop owners conveniently forget  the simple rules that apply for car rental also apply to motorcycles.

Three key issues.

Most tourists lack specific knowledge on the driving habits required to negotiate Thai highways safely. Riding a motorcycle around a resort might appear to be an attractive option, but if they have never ridden a motorcycle before they should not assume that Thailand is the ideal place to start. Even the most proficient rider will find Thailand dishes up unforeseen challenges on its highways.

Tip: Do yourself a favour if you have never ridden a motorcycle take the bus, hire a car, but under no circumstances hire a motorcycle. It should not be an option.

Motorcycle rental shops should be registered properly and made responsible to check that the bike hirer has a legitimate driving licence.

If there is an accident the shop should be held responsible for renting a vehicle to a person who is not qualified to drive on Thai highways.

Tip: Don’t fluff the driving licence rule. If you are involved in accident it will nullify any chance of claiming insurance.

Reputable motorcycle hire companies say they would welcome an insurance scheme similar to the cover car rental firms enjoy  — a daily rate and options on collision waiver for an addition fee.

If car rental firms can offer it, why are insurance firms refusing to provide similar cover for vacation motorcycle hire? They need to come to the table with an option.

Tip: Make sure your travel insurance covers motorcycles in Thailand.  Many insurance firms, concerned about the absence law enforcement on Thai roads, are excluding motorcycles from travel insurance cover.

And for the Minister of Tourism. This week’s tip: A quality tourism product starts by making the experience safer.

1 COMMENT

  1. When all that is proposed is the same thing that has failed every year for at least thirty years, why do people expect anything different?
    The issue is not compliance, but a lack of skills. This is obvious with the tourists, the facts that a passport is accepted as far better collateral than a driving licence and hiring a scooter for a day is cheaper than a short taxi fare means there is a constant stream of hirers.
    But this also misses a factor, I have noted that the British flag up in the accident statistics often, the UK and Thailand’s roads have a lot in common. But one striking difference is the actions of some of Thailand’s other road users. The British for example, would not normally expect vehicles to be overtaking towards them on bends. They will also expect drivers to give way to them when they have priority at junctions. That is not to say that everyone follows the rules in the UK, just that because people are trained to a far higher level in real world skills, they share the roads a lot more politely and more empathy for others.
    It is a shame that the skills that keep the users of the safest roads on the planet safe are denied to those for whom it would make all the difference, but instead all that is regurgitated is calls for “Compliance, compliance, compliance”

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