Road carnage tarnishes Thailand’s reputation

BANGKOK, 20 November 2017: It was a bad week for Thailand’s dreadful road safety record with critics claiming the country must now have the worst safety record in the world.

The driver of a minivan that ploughed into the back of a truck killing four Japanese tourists and their guide, last week, has since been charged with reckless driving causing death.

A tour bus taking school children on a field trip flipped out of control killing three children and injuring 48. Within days a double-deck tour bus careered off a hilly road killing one passenger and injuring 30 senior citizens, who were on a weekend tour of Petchabun province.

Thailand’s highways face the distinct possibility of being named the most dangerous place on earth, the national TNA news agency warned. The country was previously identified as the second most dangerous, but officials now admit it is fast heading to the top. TNA reported, last week, that the death toll in 2016 was 22,356, up 2,877 from 19,479 in 2015.

The statistics showed that the most dangerous place to drive in Thailand was along the eastern seaboard with Rayong the worst province. Possibly due to the low average speed, statistically the safest place to drive is Bangkok. Some 45% of deaths involve motorcycles, 5% are pedestrians and 1% cyclists.

Tourism officials shrug off the grim statistics as an inevitable by-product of progress. The accident toll is an irritation unfortunately beyond their reach to cure. But considering the success of promotional campaigns that clearly encourage tourists, both local and foreign, to explore the country there are more than 1 million or more of them tripping around the country daily. Whether the tourists are foreigner, or not, is irrelevant.

For some it will be the last trip they make. That has to change. Nationally it is a disgrace and much of the blame must be placed at the doors of government departments that are just not up to the job of providing a safer environment on the roads.

It starts with compliance ensuring the drivers of tour buses and commuter vans are professionally trained and licensed, monitored and well paid.

The buck ends at the doors of the Thai Cabinet and its ministers. Together they need to raise their game and tackle the road safety disgrace collectively. They travel in a cocooned environment of police escorts. Safety is assured for our leaders.  The rest of us are not so fortunate. Once on the roads we juggle with death.

Thailand’s roads have turned into a vicious “Wild West” where rules are there to be flouted resulting death and destruction. It costs the country billions in healthcare and ruins the future of a multitude of families annually.  But all the facts show it has not been the top priority of government. They pass the buck when they should be stepping up to the plate and acknowledging it requires total collaboration across all ministries; a Cabinet war room to end the carnage.


  1. An annual death toll of 22,356 from any identifiable cause should be unacceptable to any country, and of course we do not know how many injured subsequently die as a result of their Traffic accident injuries.
    Based on 2015 statistics Thailand was experiencing 74.6 deaths per 100,000 vehicles on the road.
    Of course there are plenty of other countries with higher numbers, some appreciably so. It is not fair to compare Thailand with “Developed” countries but look at Laos on 67.5 and Vietnam on 55 though.
    With 22,356 Deaths in 2016 Thailand is suffering deaths on a scale equivalent to a punitive War. In less than 3 months Thailand experiences Road fatalities equivalent to the total number of US war dead in Iraq for the entire period 2003 – 2011.
    Just why is the carnage so marked in Thailand? I think the words of “Tourism Officials” give a very strong clue. “Tourism officials shrug off the grim statistics as an inevitable by-product of progress.”
    A combination of a high incidence of “first time” drivers, a lamentably lax Driving Licence Test which does not include a test of the Driver’s ability in Traffic or their ability to adequately control the vehicle (does ANYONE fail a Thai Driving Test?) and ineffectual Traffic Policing all contribute substantially to the mix but we must also ask if there are any other contributory factors.
    The cost to the country is immense. WHO Statistics indicate that the largest single group of Traffic Deaths are Males under 44 years – at high earning power and most probably bread winners for a family. The cost is very significant in terms of lost man power to the country and wrecked families and lives. And of course the figures do not record how many people are unable to lead normal lives again or are permanently lost to the work force even if they don’t die.
    Thailand must walk towards this problem and engage it. Metaphorically shrugging the shoulders and saying it is “an inevitable byproduct of progress” simply will not do.

  2. Bangkok has reversed its smog situation from a decade ago. This longstanding problem of dangerous traffic could also be finally tackled, but there has to be political will. Not to mention it certainly would also help ease the overburdened healthcare system.

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