Set 'fixed' road safety goal

Set 'fixed' road safety goal

Officers inspect the charred wreckage of a passenger van and a pickup  truck at Ban Bung police station in Chon Buri on Jan 4 as efforts are made to determine the cause of Monday’s fatal accident. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Officers inspect the charred wreckage of a passenger van and a pickup truck at Ban Bung police station in Chon Buri on Jan 4 as efforts are made to determine the cause of Monday’s fatal accident. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

Road safety should be on Thailand's permanent national agenda and not just raised as a seasonal issue during long holidays when high-profile campaigns are launched, the World Health Organisation has recommended.

Liviu Vedrasco, a health and disaster management expert, said seasonal campaigns such as the "Seven Dangerous Days" during New Year and Songkran may have the effect of distracting attention from the real problem as 66 people die on the roads in Thailand every single day.

He was speaking at a panel entitled "Thailand's Dismal Road Safety Record" held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand after the collision between a van and a pickup in Chon Buri on Jan 2 in which 25 died. Thailand is ranked by WHO as having the world's second deadliest road accident, after war-torn Libya.

Dr Vedrasco suggested the government should increase penalties and, most importantly, enforce the law. He said WHO has worked with the Thai government and civil society to improve road safety, for example recommending compulsory use of seat belts in back seats.

Nikorn Jamnong, a former deputy transport minister who claimed to have initiated the seven dangerous days campaign, defended it, saying it had been designed as a testing measure for national and local authorities to devise preventive measures that can reduce the death toll. It was meant as a long-term strategy, he said.

Mr Nikorn conceded that the seasonal campaign had failed because no data was being analysed for clues to improving the situation, resulting in repeated high death tolls during the long holidays each year.

Mr Nikorn, now a road safety expert with the National Reform Steering Committee, said the committee had come up with six-point safety strategy, including new laws and enforcement, management and safer vehicles to improve road safety.

The strategy, which will soon be submitted to the prime minister, was created after Thailand signed the Brasilia Declaration in November 2015 that aims to reduce the world's death toll from 1.2 million people a year to half by 2020.

Dr Vedrasco pointed out a reduced number of motorcycles on the roads could result in a lower death toll. According to WHO statistics, 73% of deaths involve motorcyclists and passengers. A separate lane for two-wheel vehicles could reduce the number of road accidents.

However, to reduce the number of motorcycles, he said, other modes of transport such as improved bus or metro services must be provided.

Manoon Leechawengwongs, a safety campaigner on tired drivers, called on the government to consider drowsiness as one of the most crucial causes of road accidents.

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