Thailand and its roads

Motorcycle crash.
Motorcycle crash.

Well we’ve done it! After being second for the past five years, Thailand is now top of the heap. Not in sales or innovation, not in adoption of electric cars – but as having the worst road safety figures in the world. A world record comes to us. Pity the award is not given for being the best, but for the worst.

There are many theories put forward to try and explain road behavior here from lack of training, to buying your driver’s license and learning on the road, to the belief in reincarnation (after all, why worry, things will be better in the next lifetime).

I have no desire to delve into such esoterics, but if my ideas are followed, Thailand could lower road deaths by a minimum of 50 percent.

Taking the government’s own statistics, 80 percent of the fatalities are on (or rather off) motorcycles. So now we have a statistic that can be looked at. Sure, there are people unprotected in the back of pick-ups, but they are nowhere compared to motorcycle fatalities.

Now, look at the deaths and it can be seen that although alcohol is a contributing factor, it is not more than the percentage motorcyclists themselves dying on the unforgiving road surface.

All this was gone over decades ago and when crash helmet wearing became a reality, deaths fell in the UK. Dramatically.

So what is wrong here? The majority of motorcyclists (are supposed to) have a helmet. But how good is the plastic helmet costing a few hundred baht? It was the Bell Helmet people that had the slogan, “If you’ve got a $10 head, wear a $10 helmet.”

That is one major factor, but the law is flouted every day. So are the police doing anything worthwhile to stop this? They have the legislation already, but applied irregularly on some days, towards the end of the month (when pocket money is probably running short?)

Here’s the plan:

1 All motorcyclists must wear a helmet which has international accreditation, and fastened correctly.

2 All helmet outlets have three months to get the less than useless plastic “helmets” off the shelves and replaced with better grade ones.

3 All motorcycle dealers have to supply a quality helmet with the purchased motorcycle.

Reasonable full face helmets can be purchased for under 1,000 B.

There are those who say the Thai people can’t afford one – if they can pay for a motorcycle, they can pay for the helmet to go with it.

The scenario I have proposed will not cost millions of baht to implement, but it needs a bipartisan approach from government and police. Could that ever happen?

Why am I skeptic?

A little research in the USA turned up a 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “Laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proved to be effective in reducing motorcyclist fatalities.” In states without an all-rider helmet law 59% of the motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets, as opposed to only 8% in states with all-rider helmet laws in 2013.

  • All very nice, only the premise of the logic is flawed.
    First, the majority of riders were wearing helmets long before the UK helmet law was introduced Attached pic of my father with his mates ten years before the helmet law was introduced demonstrates this.

    Also the year the helmet law was introduced in the UK, the fatality rate actually went up.
    The huge difference in the standards of UK road users can be seen in the huge differences between the nature of training in both countries.
    In the UK, a novice rider will require about five days of training on normal public roads to be in with a chance of passing a test. In Thailand there is no requirement to display any real world skills.

    If things are to change, that’s where it should start.

    • Dorian Nunn

      The laws need enforced. Motorbikes.need.dipped.headlighs and proper rear lights at all times, stop drivers driving with gog lights on, stop the use of lights other than white at the front, red at the rear and amber for turning indicators. White lights at yhe rear for reversing only and switched on by reverse gear. 2 persons only on a motorbike including children. Make motorbikes abide by the laws of traffic lights and one way streets. STOP UNDERAGE RIDING OF MOTOR BIKES. Iwas a policeman to ldt a child not wearing a helmet come out of a junior school on a motorbike. Give hezvy fines to parentz of underage motorbike riders after all they provide the bikes.

  • james webb

    There are so many things wrong in Thailand that its very hard to know where to start. The government have focused on drinking and speed by imposing huge fines. Personally I think that is just whitewashing the real problems. Firstly accurate stats are required to recognize exactly where and how the victims received their injuries. Example if four are killed on one motorbike, three children under ten with a forty year old driver its misleading to say the ave age was seventeen. Drivers who have just gained a driving license should have L plates on their vehicles for a year, this would at least warn others that they are inexperienced. Nobodies going to change kids on Motorbikes or farmers driving like brain dead zombies in a 4*4. Get the Police to do their job by paying them a better wage.