How 10,000 lives can be saved in Thai traffic every year



Now Thailand has the deadliest road traffic in the world. We just passed Libya. Why is that?

As a retired Swedish motor journalist I made a small unscientific survey and I think I have the answer.

I put myself at Soi Arunothai, a busy through traffic soi with a large school (my home soi), in central Pattaya during one hour (Monday November 27, 4pm-5pm, rush hour).

As motorbikes count for two thirds of motor vehicles and 80 percent of road fatalities in Thailand I counted all motorbike riders, passengers and sidecar passengers who:

  1. Wore a fastened helmet. I also counted poor helmets, like plastic shells and bicycle helmets, loosely fastened, hard to know the limit to be an approved helmet.
  2. Wore an unfastened helmet. They are useless as the fly off at an accident.
  3. No helmet. Including children, although helmet is absurdly not mandatory for them.

During that hour 1842 motorbike riders/passengers passed. 738 (40%) of them were wearing a fastened helmet. 54 (3%) were riding with an unfastened helmet. 1050 (57%) were riding without helmet.

That means 60 percent of them (1104 riders during one hour) were riding without proper helmet protection. Even more had poor protection with loosely fastened, unapproved helmets.

You can break your arms, legs and even back and survive. But if you break your head you are dead or brain dead.

The main problem for Thai traffic is not minivans or pickup bed passengers. It is the millions of motorbike riders who drive without proper helmet protection every day.

Every year about 22,000 people die in Thai traffic (61 per day). Only counting the ones who die on accident site, not in ambulance or hospital afterward.

That is not only a personal tragedy but also an economic catastrophe for Thailand as every life is worth 10 million baht for Thai society.

So what to do? It is easy as wearing helmet is already mandatory by law! Just enforce the law and make helmet mandatory for children. With time the attitude will change among Thais to be aware of protection.

By strictly enforcing that all motorbike riders/passengers wear a properly fastened approved helmet the road deaths among them could be cut in half.

By doing that 10,000 lives and 100 billion baht could be saved for Thailand every year. Time to act PM Prayut Chan-o-cha!

Pete the Swede

  • Fred Flinstone

    Double the price of motorbikes by taxation. Use the tax revenue for vehicle education beginning at age ten. Confiscate all bikes being driven illegally and spare no one any infraction. This will keep fewer bikes on the road in the hands of the very young who believe they will live forever. When they can afford them they will drive them more carefully. Confiscate the bike if the driver offends safety practice or equipment. Confiscate the bike of anyone who lacks a license or injury insurance. Tough medicine is all that has a chance. Half measures will be ignored. It is tough for the poorer off, but better on the Songtau than dead.

  • Chris Davison

    I have got to say that I prefer the “anarchy” of Thai roads to the over-regulation that is prevalent in Europe and North America.
    I have also driven in Africa, India and the Middle East

    • Fred Flinstone

      You can afford extensive health care, Thais cannot, You did not mention if you primarily drive a car or motorbike so I don’t know if you have “skin in the game” as the saying goes. What you might find amusing anarchy is deadly dangerous and not to be taken lightly.
      And I have driven in South Africa, Germany, UK, America etc. If there were “any” regulation comparable to anywhere else we would not lead the world in road deaths here.