Why people keep dying on Thailand's roads, the most lethal in Southeast Asia

Driving in Thailand can be a hair-raising experience at the best of times, but during the country's so-calle...

Posted: Jan 4, 2019 11:14 AM
Updated: Jan 4, 2019 11:14 AM

Driving in Thailand can be a hair-raising experience at the best of times, but during the country's so-called "seven dangerous days" over the New Year holiday motorists take their lives in their hands.

Authorities say the one-week festive period is marred by an increase in crashes, deaths and injuries as Thais travel to visit friends and family.

Accidents

Accidents, disasters and safety

Asia

Automotive industry

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Continents and regions

Health and medical

Motor vehicles

Motorcycles

Non-profit and NGO organizations

Public health

Road transportation safety

Roads and traffic

Safety issues and practices

Southeast Asia

Thailand

Traffic accidents

Transportation and warehousing

Transportation infrastructure

World Health Organization

Accidental fatalities

Deaths and fatalities

Society

Corruption

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal offenses

Driving while intoxicated

Motor vehicle crimes

Efforts to crack down on the causes of those crashes -- drunk driving, corrupt cops and general weak enforcement of traffic laws -- have so far proved ineffective. Between December 27 and January 2, a total of 463 people died in 3,791 traffic accidents, pretty much on par with last year's 423 deaths, according to the country's Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.

The World Health Organization estimated 22,941 people die each year in traffic-related incidents in Thailand, making its roads the deadliest in Southeast Asia.

That's an average of 62 deaths every day, according to the WHO's 2018 report on global road safety -- just slightly fewer than the average deaths over the New Year period of 66 per day.

The vast majority of those deaths -- 73% -- are riders of motorcycles, which have exploded in numbers over the past few decades to become the most popular form of transport for most households in the country.

Lack of enforcement

One of the biggest obstacles to safer roads is poor enforcement of traffic rules. The Interior Ministry's Road Safety Thailand unit said the majority of deaths during this New Year period (41.5%) were caused by drunk driving and 28% by speeding.

The northern province of Chiang Mai, which reported the second largest number of incidents this New Year period, with 16 deaths, is a case in point.

In recent years the number of police traffic stops around the provincial capital of the same name has increased and there are more signs ordering motorcyclists to wear helmets.

But in many areas of the city it seems the traffic stops are more about making money than road safety. It is common to see drivers in Chiang Mai being stopped by police for failing to produce a driving license or wear a helmet, only to jump back on their bikes and drive away once they've paid a "fine".

Nikorn Jumnong, former Deputy Transport Minister and Chairman of the People's Safety Foundation, told CNN that if road safety is to be improved, this kind of corruption needs to stop.

"That is one of our main problems, and it is a two-way problem. Corrupt law enforcers see loopholes (in the law) and the commuters are not following the law too," he said.

Nationwide, just over half of motorcycle drivers wear a helmet and a mere 20% of pillion passengers, and only 58% of car drivers wear seatbelts, according to the WHO report.

While those figures are an improvement on a decade ago, the WHO estimated that if everyone wore a helmet it could prevent 40% of deaths.

In addition to the failure to wear helmets and seatbelts, speeding, drunk driving, and a lack of restraints for children are among the biggest risks to road safety.

"We need to change the DNA (of the country) and our instinct to follow the laws," Nikorn said. "Education on law enforcement is the key. We have so many laws and I think they are good and more than enough. But it is all about enforcement."

Thailand is making some progress. The number of road deaths has decreased from 36.2 per 100,000 people in 2015 to 32.7 out of every 100,000 in the WHO's latest report.

A 'pandemic'

Thailand is not the only nation struggling to make its roads safer. The risk of a road traffic death is three times higher in poorer countries than in more affluent nations.

In Vietnam, 111 people died in 147 accidents during the four days between December 29 and January 1, traffic police said, according to local media.

Worldwide, road accidents have been labeled a "pandemic" by the Pulitzer Center and are the eighth leading cause of death for people of all ages, ahead of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, recent WHO figures show -- with 1.35 million people globally dying on the roads in 2016.

"Road safety is an issue that does not receive anywhere near the attention it deserves -- and it really is one of our great opportunities to save lives around the world," Michael R Bloomberg, Founder and CEO of Bloomberg Philanthropies and WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries, said in a statement.

"We know which interventions work. Strong policies and enforcement, smart road design, and powerful public awareness campaigns can save millions of lives over the coming decades."

The WHO report points out that progress has been made in certain areas, such as legislation. But it has not been fast enough to meet the UN goal of halving road traffic deaths between 2016 and 2020.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33068

Reported Deaths: 2068
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9524558
Lake3494175
Cass15897
Allen141966
St. Joseph122134
Hendricks114268
Hamilton113292
Elkhart110128
Johnson1092106
Madison58459
Porter50522
Bartholomew49034
Clark47941
LaPorte42022
Tippecanoe3823
Howard37824
Delaware37636
Jackson3721
Shelby36822
Hancock32727
Floyd31739
Boone30535
Morgan27724
Vanderburgh2592
Montgomery23417
White2308
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Noble20421
Grant19721
Dubois1903
Harrison18921
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16512
Warrick16528
Dearborn16521
Vigo1538
Lawrence15223
Miami1401
Putnam1357
Jennings1294
Orange12422
Scott1203
Ripley1106
Franklin1098
Kosciusko1011
Carroll933
Daviess8416
Steuben812
Marshall801
Newton7610
Wayne756
Fayette747
Wabash742
LaGrange682
Jasper661
Washington511
Jay490
Fulton471
Clay461
Rush452
Randolph453
Jefferson431
Pulaski410
Whitley383
Owen351
Sullivan341
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke323
Perry280
Wells270
Benton260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford222
Parke190
Spencer191
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0161
West Lafayette
Broken Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 67°
Kokomo
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 64°
Rensselaer
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 59°
Fowler
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Williamsport
Broken Clouds
64° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 64°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
62° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 62°
Frankfort
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Delphi
Broken Clouds
62° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 62°
Monticello
Broken Clouds
62° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 62°
Logansport
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 64°
Cooler, less humid weather ahead by the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events