High road toll a blow
Numerous deaths and injuries related to road accidents over the past three days, almost half way into the extra holidays during the Songkran festival, once again attest to the fact the government's approach to tackling the road toll is of no use.
According to a sub-committee for prevention and reduction of road accidents, 54 people were killed and 373 injured in 388 crashes on Monday, the third day of the designated seven-day period during special holidays for Songkran when the government steps up efforts to cut down accident rates.
The other seven-day period is during new year when a large number of people typically embark on travel to visit families or take a holiday. The period is also dubbed as the "dangerous seven days,'' when what is supposed to be a time for joyful family gatherings ends up in tragedy. It has been a tough challenge to beat for every government for decades as Thailand ranks as one of the countries with the highest road deaths.
The total deaths over the past three days are reported at 110, with over 1,000 injuries. It should be noted that the majority of those killed in the crashes are people of working age. It's likely that accident and death rates -- like in previous years -- will not change much when the designated period ends on April 16. But the monitoring should be extended to April 18, a Sunday, the actual date when the exodus comes to an end.
Also similar to previous years, high accidents rates have been reported for motorcycles, which account for more than 87% of the crashes, followed by pickups and cars. Reckless driving and driving under influence remain the top accident causes this year. On April 10 alone, police filed charges against more than 58,700 motorists.
Earlier this month, the government said 80,000 police would be sent along motorways nationwide during April 10-16 with the aim of reducing road accidents and casualties by at least 5% over the three-year average of 3,405 accidents and 378 deaths in 2017–2019.
The Royal Thai Police resumed checkpoint operations shortly ahead of the Songkran holidays with the hope that road safety could be boosted. Given de facto travel restrictions as a result of the new Covid-19 outbreak that have seen several provinces declare quarantine for those travelling from Bangkok and high-risk provinces, which have prompted some people to cancel their travel plans, such heavy casualties are indeed a disappointment.
It's known that the poor public transport system in the provinces forces a large number of people to acquire motorcycles which give them more flexibility when travelling. Weak enforcement of traffic laws and regulations allow motorcyclists to be reckless. The state should improve the public transport system in the provinces, making it safe, reliable, efficient, and economical, so people will depend less on private vehicles and motorcycles.
What is needed particularly is comprehensive policy and action plan, and synergy among state agencies and civic groups, to curb road accidents in everyday life.
It's time the government learn from its past failures; it needs more than a one-time effort -- like the designated seven-day period -- to achieve road safety. The key is strenuous efforts with consistent measures and enforcement by the authorities. Only then will cutting the road carnage be possible.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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