Deadly roads add to toll

Deadly roads add to toll

There is no doubt that reckless driving is a major cause of road accidents, many of them fatal. Yet, two news reports this week have highlighted how poor traffic infrastructure provided by state agencies is contributing to this long-standing problem.

The first story came from Buri Ram where a set of traffic lights at a busy intersection all turned green simultaneously on Monday, after having just been fixed by municipality officers. As a result, two pickup trucks collided. It was a matter of luck that there were no fatalities. Proper installation and testing should have been a guarantee that an accident like this could not have happened so soon after engineers were at the junction.

On Tuesday, Buri Ram municipality sent more technicians to fix the traffic lights again but failed to investigate or lay any blame for the earlier erratic functioning of the lights. Residents can only hope and pray that technicians do a better job this time, or if there is a mistake, at least implement a failsafe that sees all the lights turn red rather than green.

Meanwhile, more baffling news came from the capital, home of the notorious "Koeng Roi Soep" (Curve of 100 Corpses) bend -- one of the country's deadliest spots for traffic accidents -- in front of the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road. In September last year, there were three accidents within nine days which claimed four lives, including several crashes not even reported by the media.

Early this week, the Engineering Institute of Thailand inspected the installation of collision safety roller barrier guard rails at the infamous spot as was previously recommended. The agency had earlier suggested that the rails, which reduces the impact of a crash, be fitted on the inbound side of the road, where the slope of the road, coupled with the sharp bend, makes it especially easy for vehicles to skid out of control and overturn if they fail to slow down.

However, the EIT staff were dumbfounded upon seeing that the guard rails had been installed on the outbound side of the road where far fewer accidents have been reported.

The installation of the rails on the wrong side of the road cost 38 million baht of taxpayers' money.

City Hall's Traffic and Transport Department which is responsible for this project, claimed it had done its best to solve the problem.

It said it was impossible to install the system along the accident stretch due to electricity poles and other civic infrastructure. To fit the barrier where it was most needed, it would have had to expropriate pedestrian space as well as elevate the road surface to create a more appropriate slope for that kind of bend, it argued. So, for now, City Hall has settled for a campaign to improve driving standards but pledged to ask for a budget to improve that critical stretch at a later date.

For years now, the government has claimed to be waging a battle to reduce road deaths, with its expensive PR campaign going into overdrive ahead of the annual New Year and Songkran festivals. Yet, the death toll remains high as the state has ignored making the more expensive, but necessary, alterations to the roads themselves.

The deaths on Thai roads are not all down to poor driving, and many responsible motorists lose their lives as a result of poor design and disrepair.


Bangkok Post editorial column

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