Make zebra crossings safe

Make zebra crossings safe

A zebra crossings in Bangkok. (Bangkok Post file photo)
A zebra crossings in Bangkok. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Wilawan "Linchee" Poommala had a bright future ahead of her. Tragically, she was killed in a crash at a zebra crossing in the capital on July 1.

She was newly graduated and ready to start her first day of work at a company in the Rama IX area. Hurrying to use the zebra crossing on that fateful morning, she was knocked down by a motorcyclist on a big bike. After a few days in a coma the young woman succumbed to her injuries.

The motorcyclist initially refused to take responsibility for Wilawan's death as he claimed the traffic lights had turned green. He sped through seemingly without thinking that a zebra crossing is a place where motorists need to exercise the utmost caution.

The motorcyclist insisted Wilawan was partly to blame. This heartless statement, which Wilawan's family shared on social media, sparked a tidal wave of public anger that eventually led the man to offer to compensate the family for their devastating loss.

While the woman's family and the motorcyclist presented their sides of the story, police decided to keep quiet about the tragedy, at least for the first few days after the crash. They made no comment about whether the motorcyclist's claim that he was in the right because of the green light really any held water. It was only after Wilawan died that police charged the biker with careless driving resulting in a death.

Wilawan is not the first person to lose her life on a pedestrian crossing. Such accidents show how unsafe the roads are in Bangkok -- just like they are other parts of the country. To be more precise, zebra crossings can turn into killing zones if pedestrians get the wrong idea and actually believe that motorists take any notice of the road traffic laws.

Such optimism can be costly, as is illustrated in the case of Wilawan, as many motorists think they have complete freedom to break the law while state authorities have no backbone at all when it comes to enforcing traffic rules. The sight of motorists ignoring people waiting at zebra crossings is a common one. Few, if any, motorists seem to think they have a duty to respect the rights of pedestrians. Some even honk their horns to scare pedestrians from using zebra crossings.

A similarly outrageous case happened in late 2014 when a young woman was killed at a pedestrian crossing in the Asok area after a lorry driver jumped a red light and slammed into her. Public anger about the death prompted a knee-jerk reaction from state officials, who promised to crack down and make sure motorists obeyed the law.

But it was just a flash in the pan. When public attention faded, the road insanity resumed, resulting in more deaths and injuries.

In the case of Wilawan, state authorities responded just as they always do with more empty promises to the public.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon earlier this week urged authorities to make pedestrian crossings safe. Initially, Gen Prawit said police should give priority to three areas: schools, hospitals and temples. This is absurd.

What the government and police need to do is to ensure there are no deaths or injuries at zebra crossings at all -- not only in Bangkok but across the country. Pedestrians' lives must be protected.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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