Academic blames rising number of deaths on roadside obstacles, ineffective laws
Traffic accidents over long holidays have gone down over the past few years, but fatalities remain stubbornly high because the crashes have become more severe, an academic said yesterday as the death toll hit 321 in the seven dangerous days of Songkran.
“Our records show that more people are killed per accident when we calculate the severity index by dividing the number of deaths by the number of accidents,” Assoc Prof Kunnawee Kanitpong, manager of the Thailand Accident Research Centre (TARC) at the Asian Institute of Technology, said.
According to TARC, the severity index during Songkran had risen from 8 per cent in 2007 to 10 per cent in 2010 and about 11 per cent this year. Severity index during the New Year holidays rose from 9 per cent in 2008 to 10 per cent in 2011. (10 per cent means 10 people killed in every 100 accidents.)
The Road Safety Centre reported 321 deaths and 3,040 injuries in 2,828 road accidents from Thursday to Wednesday, compared to 320 deaths and 3,320 injuries from 3,129 accidents during the same period last year.
Wednesday alone saw 36 deaths and 257 injuries from 247 accidents.
Deputy Interior Minister Chatt Kuldiloke said that drunk driving was responsible for 39 per cent of the accidents, followed by speeding at 24 per cent. Prachuap Khiri Khan suffered the most deaths at 12, while Chiang Mai witnessed the most injuries at 110 and the most accidents at 104. Chaiyaphum, Trat, Pattani, Phuket and Ranong were fatality free.
“Speeding and harmful objects near roads have made the collisions worse,” Kunnawee said. “We found that many of the deaths in Prachuap Khiri Khan were caused by vehicles skidding off roads and crashing into obstacles like trees. The authorities have not paid enough attention to reducing speeding and dangerous things along roads.”
Features like trees and power poles were placed far too close to roads, when they should be at least five to seven metres away.
The Thai Roads Foundation’s survey last year found that only 56 per cent of drivers wore seat belts and 43 per cent motorcyclists wore helmets.
“We recommended agencies to seriously enforce existing traffic laws, pass new ones, especially those involving speeding, and give violators tougher punishment. Obstacles should also be removed from the roads.
“Although we have a system that records traffic offences and suspends the drivers’ licence, it is not practical. Police and the Land Transport Department should hire a company to update and link data of violators, which would make the system more effective and practical.
“Also, another system that sends evidence to the home of traffic-law breakers and lets them pay a fine is not practical or effective enough,” she said.
Effective law enforcement and penalties would make drivers fearful so they will stop ignoring laws. Some European countries succeeded in reducing their road tolls after they forced drivers to slow down and policed traffic laws more strictly, she added.
Road accidents during Songkran from 2003 to 2013:
51,722 accidents during Songkran from 2004-2013;
4,310 people killed and 106,869 wounded from 2003-2013;
668 deaths in 2003, the highest;
320 deaths in 2012, the lowest;
Most accidents involved motorcycles and the main reason was drunk driving.
Sources: Road Safety Centre, Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, Interior Ministry