Thailand is the deadliest country in the world for motorcyclists with a staggering average of almost 500 killed every month. Years of road-safety campaigns have failed to reduce that death toll – in fact the trend is upwards.
The blame is often placed on weak rule of law along with even weaker enforcement of that law. Instead of relying on these ineffectual remedies, why not turn to an undoubted strong point of Thai society – its hierarchical system. Thai hierarchy produces a visible ranking of seniority through certain obvious markers. Seniority in students, for example, is marked by the uniforms they wear from kindergarten level up to university.
Given the number of universities spread across the country, why not use the “social side effects” of university student seniority to set an example of compulsory helmet use for all children, down to kindergarten toddlers (or at least their carers)? Thai society is rapidly ageing and cannot afford the rising number of road casualties it is suffering every year.
Through such “noblesse oblige”, our cream of the educational crop could expand their aura as role models by always wearing helmets on bikes.
Last year Chiang Mai’s Maejo University reported excellent results from its campaign of compulsory helmet use, while a couple of years ago Phuket was able to lower the number of bike accidents significantly with a similar scheme. Yet neither project has inspired nationwide implementation of its ideas. Meanwhile Vietnam has seen dramatic reduction of two-wheeled accidents after giving away quality helmets of the same eye-catching colour to children.
After the stupidity of a fellow road user cost me a broken collarbone, several busted ribs and 10 weeks of domestic confinement, I have firsthand experience of Thailand’s failure to take any of these ideas on board.