THAILAND could gain significant long-term economic benefit by making the roads safer and saving its mainly young and capable population from premature death in accidents, the World Bank says.
A report released earlier this year, titled “The High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable”, concludes that, if road traffic injuries could be reduced in Thailand by 50 per cent and satisfactory road safety sustained for 24 years, the economy would enjoy a 22-per-cent boost.
Dipan Bose, one of the researchers involved, said the key to earning that substantial benefit was ensuring that productive young people live long enough to contribute to the country’s prosperity.
Instead, they’re dying or being maimed in road crashes while still young.
“Road traffic injuries are the single largest cause of mortality and long-term disability among people in the prime working ages of 15 to 29 years old,” said Bose of the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility.
“By improving road safety, we can save many young and valuable people – human capital – from being killed or disabled in road accidents,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Nation earlier this week.
Statistics indicated that three out of four victims of traffic accidents were young and male and most were poor families’ breadwinners.
By losing these productive young people, not only does the country lose the benefit of their economic contributions, but their families suffer heavily as well.
According to the Thai Road Safety Centre, 15,256 people died in road accidents last year. Nearly 79 per cent of the deceased were male and most were 16 to 25 years old.
Bose said improved road safety also brings welfare benefits to society. The researchers calculated that, if the road-accident mortality rate could be halved from now to 2038, 138,168 deaths could be prevented.
That would lead to macro-level income growth, generating an additional flow of income equivalent to 22.2 per cent of Thailand’s 2014 GDP, he said, and provide general welfare benefits to society ranging from $850,000 to $1.8 million.
With the potential for such high economic and social gains, said Bose, Thailand and other middle-income countries would be wise to give priority to making roads safer.
Improving the infrastructure, promoting use of public transport and encouraging people to walk or cycle rather than driving would all accomplish this.
Thailand’s roads are the second deadliest in the world, according to the World Health Organisation, with accident fatalities topping 36 per every 100,000 people and an annual estimated death toll above 24,000.
That breaks down to 66 people dying daily on the roads, causing preventable financial loss equivalent to 3 per cent of Thai GDP.
More than 11,000 deaths and 717,000 injuries have occurred|in road accidents in Thailand so far this year.