New regulations for driving licenses and renewals

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Helmets.
Helmets.

News to hand is that the government is instituting new regulations for first license applicants, and for renewals as well. These new regulations refer to the medical examination which has to be done. Currently this medical is an easy tick the box for the doctor, and most people get their form of ticked boxes from their local clinic. Takes about five minutes and something under 500 baht.

This new form requires a blood test for various ailments, as well as a family and personal medical history, almost as good as a check-up. Normally I applaud all measures taken to lessen the road toll (we are the worst in the world, remember), but at this point I have to ask the question – How many road deaths are the result of a driver’s poor health? Epileptics and Narcoleptics spring to mind, and indeed we did have one fatality last year when the driver had an epileptic fit in a busy street. Read that again – one fatality caused through a medical condition.

With the road toll figures around 61 every day, finding the epileptics is not going to change the road toll figures very much.

Looking further into the road toll, approximately 80 percent of the fatalities are motorcycle riders. And the main reason the riders (and pillion) die is lack of a good crash helmet. And why did they have an accident in the first place? Driving under the influence of alcohol.

There already is legislation covering alcohol and crash helmets, so that is a good start. Unfortunately the application of the legislation is, at best, patchy. There are roadside checkpoints with breathalyzers to find those drivers with a breath alcohol great than 0.05. At that stage it all falls down. Application of some baht can make the problem go away, leaving an impaired driver to do it all again.

Helmets are easy to police. Is the driver wearing one? This results in a small fine. However, even if wearing a helmet, is it good enough to protect the brain? The plastic ones are not. Is it being worn with the strap done up?

Now here is where the government can demonstrate if it is serious about the road toll. Sales outlets for helmets should be given three months to get rid of sub-standard helmets and thereafter heavy fines for sales of the defective models. Factories and other large employers of labor to ban entrance to the company parking area if not wearing a helmet.

Within one year the road toll would be down, but it needs a government/police blitz, maintained continuously for the first 12 months. Or would we see another “crack down” and application of another baht roadside slap on the wrist with a wet tram ticket?