Holiday carnage returns to Thailand’s roads as 182 people die in just three days
- 1,633 accidents were reported over the three days on Thailand’s roads – named the deadliest in Southeast Asia by the World Health Organisation
Authorities in Thailand are braced for a record number of road deaths over the holiday period as the country’s motorways live up to their official status as the most lethal in southeast Asia.
The annual spike in dangerous, often alcohol-fuelled driving, saw 182 deaths reported between Thursday and Saturday last week, up from last year’s count of 167.
A total of 1,633 accidents were reported over the three days on Thailand’s roads, which this month were named as the deadliest in Southeast Asia by the World Health Organisation. Although the death toll was up, the total number of accidents was down 4.9 per cent year on year, from 1,690.
According to the WHO, Thailand’s road accident-related death rate was 32.7 out of every 100,000 people. Vietnam was second in Southeast Asia with a figure of 26.7.
Singapore was reported to be the safest country in the region for road accident deaths, with a figure of 2.8. The figure for the UK is 2.9.
With many roads becoming congested with travellers visiting friends and family – and getting to and from drinking sessions – Thai police declared a “Seven Dangerous Days of New Year” period beginning on Thursday. In the same seven-day period last year, 423 people died.
Last week, a Chinese blogger visiting Thailand described how she had to have her left arm amputated after the car she was travelling in crashed into a tree. Her story sparked debate on Chinese social media about how safe Thailand was to visit during the new year period.
Police said that 40.9 per cent of accidents over the three days were caused by drink-driving, with 27.2 per cent caused by speeding.
Three-quarters of vehicles involved in accidents were motorcycles, with 45,652 motorcyclists arrested at checkpoints for not wearing crash helmets. Police arrested 42,649 drivers for not being able to produce a driving licence.
Thai authorities have attempted to crack down on drink driving, and have considered measures such as promoting using dashboard cameras to shame dangerous drivers.
However, the WHO said that the country’s high road death rate was due to weak enforcement of driving rules. It reported that only 51 per cent of motorcyclists wore helmets and only 58 per cent of car drivers wore seat belts.
Nikorn Chamnong, a road safety campaigner and former deputy transport minister, told the BBC: “Enforcement is the key and punishment needs to be big enough for people to be afraid of it.
“And the safety campaigns must be continuous, not just at peak seasons … we need to go back and change the DNA of the country.”