Antidote to the world's deadliest roads proposed

Antidote to the world's deadliest roads proposed

Experts have urged the government to set up an academic road safety institute to devise proper measures to reduce traffic casualties.

Thanapong Jinvong, manager of the Academic Centre for Road Safety, said Thailand should establish the institute specialising in road safety to clarify the exact causes of most traffic accidents.

The institute would serve as a main agency to integrate all available knowledge for use in lowering road injuries and fatalities in line with road safety strategies and measures which would be systematically rolled out.

The agency would also push forward amendment to related traffic laws as well as raise public awareness on road safety, he said.

Dr Thanapong was speaking during a seminar in Bangkok Wednesday.

The event was attended by representatives from road safety advocacy networks.

He pointed out that countries which have been successful in addressing traffic accidents such as Japan, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and Malaysia have similar agencies.

The reasons for many road accidents in Thailand are not clearly defined, with the blame usually laid on the use of alcohol or drugs, he said.

Dr Thanapong said it would be difficult to set up the academic road safety institute on account of the state's limited budget, manpower and a general policy that does not encourage the launch of any new agencies, partly out of concern of overlapping responsibilities.

As such, national strategies would need to be adjusted gradually to pave the way for the institute, he added.

Remarking on the issue, Dr Wittaya Chadbunchachai, a road safety expert who serves as an adviser to the World Health Organisation, said failures in road safety management has contributed to traffic deaths and injuries in Thailand.

Even though the government came up with fresh measures, it did not produce substantial results as old-school approaches were still applied, he added.

Dr Wittaya gave the example of how safety helmets are used, saying the 1996 law stipulates legal action will be pursued against motorcycle drivers and pillion riders if they fail to wear one.

However, only 50% of the public comply with this law, he said.

Dr Wittaya also said there was no difference between the traffic casualty rates during this year's New Year holiday and Songkran festival.

Although the public and private sector have made concerted efforts to campaign against traffic accidents, 463 people were killed in traffic-related accidents during the New Year at the end of December, and other 462 people died from road accidents during the water-splashing festival.

Thailand still ranks as the country with the highest traffic-related death toll, he said, adding it also has the unfortunate distinction of having the world's most dangerous road conditions and badly behaved motorists.

Thaejing Siripanit, secretary-general of the Don't Drive Drunk Foundation, said 20,000 people are killed on Thai roads each year.

Many of these are preventable but the government only focuses on the issue during festive periods, or around 30 days a year, he said.

The seminar is due to wrap up with a quarterly report on the traffic situation and submit it to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

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