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.