Tourists at risk on Thai roads

BANGKOK, 18 December 2018: Thailand’s dreadful road safety record was again illustrated, earlier this week, when eight Korean tourists were seriously injured in a collision between their commuter van and a stationary pick-up truck.

According to a Nation newspaper report the South Korean tourists were injured when the speeding van they were travelling in hit the rear of a pickup truck that had stopped in an exit lane to make a U-turn.

The van subsequently struck a motorcycle, before colliding with a concrete barrier on a road in Chachoengsao in central Thailand on Monday.

The driver of the van was killed in the accident, while police reported four of the Koreans were severely injured and the other four suffered less serious injuries.

A motorcyclist suffered a broken leg in the collision, while the driver of the pick-up truck involved in the accident and two of his passengers were also injured.

Thailand is notorious for road accidents with the highest fatality rate per 100,000 persons of all the 10 countries that make up ASEAN (Southeast Asia). It also listed among the 10 worst nations for road deaths globally.

Efforts to make roads safer for both residents and tourists have largely failed.  The main offenders are motorcyclists, who make up 74% of the fatalities annually, while the popular Toyota low-slung commuter vans used to ferry tourists between cities and resorts are considered high-risk vehicles.

With as many as 38 million tourists visiting the country in 2018 the accident rate involving foreigners is rising and the country’s road safety record contradicts the government’s assertion that Thailand presents a high quality and safe holiday experience.

In most respects it does, but fails abysmally to improve  road safety. The main causes of road fatalities are speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Motorcyclists refuse to wear helmets despite national legislation, car drivers and passengers fail to use seat belts and there is a widespread road culture of drink driving and non-compliance with the Highway Code.

Calls for the government to introduce speed control monitoring through GPS on all public transport including privately operated tourist vehicles such as commuter vans has been largely ignored

Editor’s comment:

Less emphasis on talking up so-called quality tourism and polishing the country’s image and more effort to ensure motorists abide by traffic rules with much stiffer penalties for non-compliance should be the priority year-round. The daily massacre of approximately 26 deaths on Thailand’s roads is unacceptable.

Safety and security issues are a damper on Thailand’s tourism economy. Pursuing quality tourism is an admirable goal, but clearly it cannot be achieved as long as the risks associated with overland and sea travel are not resolved.