Thailand jumped from 3rd highest in world for road accident deaths to 2nd with 44 deaths per 100,000 people compared to world average of 18 & lowest in Maldives of 2.
"...it would take all the traffic police we have just to issue tickets for these violators at a few given junctions. As a pedestrian, every week I experience how a zebra crossing is probably the most dangerous place to walk."
Road safety push going nowhere fast
The response is so right on cue it appears theatrical. A day after Chilean cyclist, Juan Francisco Guillermo's round-the-world trip ended in tragedy after he was hit by a truck and killed in Thailand, the Ministry of Public Health announced it will take a leading role in promoting road safety.
Granted, this is not the first time people at the ministry have shown its awareness of road accidents as serious killers. Over the past few years, the ministry has come up with numerous public campaigns to reduce the number of road fatalities.
The result? Thailand has jumped from being ranked the third in the world for the highest number of road accidents — according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) a few years ago — to second place, with 44 deaths per 100,000 people, according to a study by the University of Michigan released last year.
This is compared to the world's average of 18 deaths per 100,000. The Maldives, by the way, is the safest place to drive, according to the study, with average deaths of two per 100,000.
It would be unfair to blame the Public Health Ministry for its apparent failure to curb increasing road fatalities.
What can the ministry do but come up with more awareness campaigns? In this particular case, the Public Health Minister [Rachata Rachatanawin] actually told ministry officials to serve as road-safety role models by not going over the speed limit or drink driving.
But I doubt this will make any difference to Thai people's driving habits.
According to the Public Health Ministry's own policy about how road accidents remain an unsolved problem in Thailand, it's not just reckless driving that's the problem, but a lack of responsibility in general.
I witness both irresponsible driving habits and a lack of respect for traffic regulations every day, both as a driver and a pedestrian.
As a driver, there has never been a day when I don't have to contend with people who avoid queuing for a turn by going into the wrong lane and then cutting back into the right one when they get to the front.
Since these driving habits have become normalised and happen on virtually every road, I can think of no solution. I mean, it would take all the traffic police we have just to issue tickets for these violators at a few given junctions.
As a pedestrian, every week I experience how a zebra crossing is probably the most dangerous place to walk.
In front of a public park where I jog during weekends is a modern crossing installed with some of the latest equipment — clearly-painted white strips, a large LED triangular panel with a blinking graphic showing a person walking, a red-green light, a flashing count-down, as well as a voice telling people to wait to cross the street.
Every time I punch the crossing request button and the light goes green for pedestrians, which means it is going red for drivers, I never see any car slowing down, let alone stopping for people to cross. We resort to what locals call a game of measuring who has the strongest heart, by cutting in front of speeding cars every time we need to cross the street.
In fact, a day after Guillermo died in the Northeast, two women were also hit by a car as they tried to walk across a pedestrian crossing in Bangkok. One was killed while the other was injured and taken to the nearest hospital. (See full story in English here and Thai here).
A month earlier, a recently-married young woman was also hit and instantly killed by a lorry at a pedestrian crossing on Asok Road.
At the time, the tragedy, which occurred in broad daylight around lunch time, made the news and prompted some public discussions about how dangerous our roads and drivers are.
What has happened since then? Has anything been done to improve safety conditions for pedestrians in the area?
I don't think we can be reassured by learning the only safety measure being taken is for office workers in the area to carry a red flag as they try to cross the street.
As is often said, road safety in Thailand will not happen by accident. Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has a dream of promoting cycling and building more cycle paths around the country, both to promote tourism and encourage environmentally friendly travel.
His vision has become a bit scary following Guillermo's tragic demise, which followed the deaths of a British couple on a similar round-the-world quest in February last year.
Far greater law enforcement is needed than a new road safety protocol from the Department of Disease Control.
Atiya Achakulwisut is Contributing Editor, Bangkok Post.
Learn from listening
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according to (prep): as stated or reported by somebody/something - ตามคำบอกเล่า, ตามรายงาน
announce : to tell people something officially, especially about a decision, plans, etc - ประกาศ, แจ้ง, แจ้งให้ทราบ
apparent : seeming to be something although it may not be real - ดูเหมือนว่า, ตามที่เห็นภายนอก
average : an amount calculated by adding several amounts together, finding a total, and dividing the total by the number of amounts - เฉลี่ย, ค่าเฉลี่ย
awareness : knowing that something exists, or having knowledge or experience of a particular thing - การรับรู้, การทราบ, ความตระหนัก
awareness : the state of knowing about something - การรับรู้, การทราบ
blame : to say or think that someone or something did something wrong or is responsible for something bad happening - ตำหนิ
broad daylight : the clear light of day, when it is easy to see - แสกๆ, แจ้งๆ
by accident : when something happens by accident (was not expected or planned) - โดยบังเอิญ
campaign : a planned group of especially political, business or military activities which are intended to achieve a particular aim - การรณรงค์
case : a particular situation or a situation of a particular type - กรณี, เหตุการณ์, สถานการณ์
clearly : easy to see and understand - ชัดเจน
come up with : to suggest or think of an idea or plan - คิดขึ้นมา
contend with : to have to deal with a problem or with a difficult situation or person - ดิ้นรนต่อสู้กับ
cue : saying something or doing something to tell another person to do something -
curb : to control or limit something - จำกัดขอบเขต, ควบคุม
cyclist : a person who rides a bicycle - นักขี่จักรยาน
dangerous (adj.): likely to injure or harm somebody, or to damage or destroy something - อันตราย
discussion : conversation; talk - การสนทนา, การอภิปราย
doubt : thinking that something is probably not true or that it probably does not exist - ความสงสัย
drink driving : the crime of driving a car while drunk with alcohol -
encourage : to cause someone to be more likely to happy - กระตุ้น
equipment : the things that are needed for a particular purpose or activity - อุปกรณ์, เครื่องมือ
experience (verb): to have something happen to you or to live through some event - ประสบ
fatality : a death caused by an illness, accident, crime or war - การเสียชีวิต
flash : something that shines very brightly for a short time - แสงวาบขึ้นมา
granted : admittedly, acknowledged as true - มอบให้
graphic : a diagram or picture, especially one that appears on a computer screen or in a newspaper or book - ภาพกราฟฟิก
habit : a thing that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing - กิจวัตร, สิ่งที่เป็นนิสัย, สิ่งที่ทำเป็นประจำ
in general : including the most important aspects of something; not exact or detailed; overall - โดยทั่วไป
injured (adj): hurt in an accident, natural disaster, attack, etc. - ได้รับบาดเจ็บ
install : to put a piece of equipment somewhere and make it ready for use - ติดตั้ง
instantly : immediately - ทันที, ทันทีทันใด, ในไม่ช้า
irresponsible : done or said without thinking of the possible results of your actions or words - ขาดความรับผิดชอบ
issue : to officially give out - ออก
junction : a place where roads, lines, etc., join or cross each other - สี่แยก
lack of : when there is not enough of something - ขาด
lane : one of the parts that a wide road or motorway is divided into, marked by painted lines and intended for one line of traffic - ช่องทางเดินรถ
latest (adj): newest; most recent - ] ล่าสุด, See also: ทันสมัยที่สุด, เกิดหลังสุด
law enforcement : the process of making sure that people obey the law - การบังคับใช้กฎหมาย
leading (adjective): among the first and most important in a group - ชั้นหนึ่ง, ชั้นแนวหน้า, ชั้นนำ
let alone : used after a statement to stress that because the first thing is not true or possible, the next thing cannot be true or possible either - ไม่ต้องเอ่ยถึง, ไม่ต้องพูดถึง
lorry : a truck; a large road vehicle used for carrying goods - รถบรรทุก
make a difference : doing something that will make a big change, so that the situation afterwards is "different" -
measure : a firm action taken to solve a problem or stop a dangerous unpleasant situation - มาตราการ
measure (verb): to find the size, quantity, etc. of something in standard units - วัดขนาด (ความยาว, ความสูง, ความเร็ว ฯลฯ)
ministry : a government department that has a particular area of responsibility - กระทรวง
normalised : returning to a normal, friendly relationship, for example after a disagreement or war - การทำให้อยู่ในรูปปกติ, การทำให้อยู่ในระดับธรรมดา
numerous : many - มากมาย
occur : to happen - เกิดขึ้น
officials : people who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
panel (noun): a flat piece of metal, wood, glass or other material that forms part of something such as a door, wall or solar equipment - แผ่นกระดานสี่เหลี่ยม, ไม้กระดานที่ใช้ปิดผนัง
particular : specific - เฉพาะ, จำเพาะ, โดยเฉพาะ
pedestrian : a person who walks, especially in an area where vehicles go - คนเดินถนน, คนเดินเท้า
pedestrian crossing : zebra crossing, crosswalk - ทางม้าลาย, ทางขีดเส้นดำสลับขาว เป็นที่ให้คนเดินข้ามถนน
pedestrians : people who are walking, especially in an area where vehicles go - คนเดินถนน, คนเดินเท้า
policy (noun): a set of plans or action agreed on by a government, political party, business, or other group - นโยบาย
probably (adv): likely อย่างน่าจะเป็นไปได้, อย่างค่อนข้างแน่, อย่างน่าเชื่อแน่ว่า - อย่างน่าจะเป็นไปได้, อย่างค่อนข้างแน่, อย่างน่าเชื่อแน่ว่า
promote : to encourage or support something - สนับสนุน
prompt : to cause someone to take action - กระตุ้น
protocol : a system of fixed rules and formal behaviour - ระเบียบการ
public : open to people in general - สาธารณะ
public : open to people in general; intended to be seen or heard by people in general - อย่างเปิดเผยให้รู้
public health (noun): the health of all the people in a country, city or community and their health issues; also the name of a government department - การสาธารณสุข
punch : a hard hit made with the fist (= closed hand) - การชก, การต่อย
queue : a line of people waiting for something - คิว
rank : to put someone or something into a position according to their success, importance, size etc - จัดลำดับ
reassure : to make someone feel less worried about something - ให้ความมั่นใน
recently (adverb): not long ago - เมื่อไม่นานมานี้, เมื่อเร็วๆ นี้
reckless : not thinking about the possible bad effects of your actions - สะเพร่า
regulation : an official rule that controls the way that things are done - กฎระเบียบ
release : making known to the public - การเปิดเผย, การปล่อย
remain : to still be present after the other parts have been removed, used, etc; to continue to exist - ยังเหลืออยู่
request : an act of asking for something in a formal or polite way - การขอร้อง
resort to : to do something extreme or unpleasant in order to solve a problem - ใช้มาตรการรุนแรงในการแก้ปัญหา ยุติปัญหา
respect : to accept the importance of someone's rights or customs - เคารพ
response : a reaction to something that has happened or been said - การตอบสนอง
responsibility : a duty; a duty to deal with or take care of somebody/something, so that you may be blamed if something goes wrong - ความรับผิดชอบ
responsibility : a moral duty to behave in a particular way - ความรับผิดชอบ
right on cue : something happens exactly when the signal or "cue" is given for it to happen -
role : the position or purpose that someone or something has in a situation, organisation, society or relationship - บทบาท
role model (noun): someone/something whose behaviour/activity is considered to be a good example for other people to copy - ผู้ซึ่งมีลักษณะควรค่าแก่การเป็นแบบอย่างให้กับผู้อื่น
solution : a way of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation - วิธีแก้ปัญหา
study : a project that looks at some subject in great detail and produces a report to share the information - งานวิจัย
take a leading role in : be among the people to make something happen -
theatrical (adj): exaggerated in order to attract attention or create a particular effect - โอ้อวด หรูหราหรือมารยา
ticket : an official notice that orders you to pay a fine because you have done something illegal while driving or parking your car - ใบสั่ง สำหรับผู้กระทำผิดกฎจราจร
traffic : the number of cars, trucks and other vehicles traveling along a road at one time; also used for data traveling along a network - การจราจร
traffic police : the police who enforce the laws of the road, giving people tickets and fines for speeding, running red lights, reckless driving, etc -
tragedy : a very sad event that causes people to suffer or die - โศกนาฏกรรม
triangular : shaped like a triangle - เป็นรูปสามเหลี่ยม
violator : a person who goes against or refuse to obey a law, an agreement, etc. - ผู้ฝ่าฝืน, ผู้ละเมิดกฎ
virtually : almost - เกือบจะ
voice (noun): the sounds that a person makes when they speak or sing - เสียงพูด, เสียงที่เปล่งจากปาก, เสียงร้องเพลง
witness (verb): to see something happen - มองเห็น, เป็นพยาน
zebra crossing : zebra crossing, pedestrian crossing, crosswalk - ทางม้าลาย, ทางขีดเส้นดำสลับขาว เป็นที่ให้คนเดินข้ามถนน