Why does Thailand have such high numbers of road deaths?
This is a very interesting question and one that is hard to answer. We don’t have conclusive evidence based data but we will put forward a number of factors:
· Lower levels of driver education and training
· Limited use of motorcycle helmets
· Uneven and inconsistent enforcement of laws
· Relatively high level of drink driving
· Cultural attitudes
For comparative purposes looking at Indonesia the number of road deaths is 1/3 of the rate of Thailand. The condition of roads in Indonesia is much poorer and there are fewer cars than Thailand but many more motorcycles.
What would help to reduce this problem and save peoples lives?
There is no magic bullet for this issue. Technology plays an important part in reducing road deaths — Seatbelts and Helmets are two of the most important pieces of technology which have been shown to significantly reduce road deaths. Large numbers of passengers in the rear of vehicles, especially ones standing up can impact the stability and lead to accidents.
Some of the issues involved here go right to the heart of the inequality in Thai society and cannot easily be addressed. One example is in 2018 the Junta introduced a quite sensible law banning carrying passengers in the rear of pickup trucks. In isolation this seems to be quite a sensible measure that would lead directly to a reduction in road deaths (assuming it was enforced). It was quite quickly rescinded after a public outcry. In rural Thailand public transport is quite limited and often crowded pickups and motorcycles with multiple people on them are the only options.
One of the key contributors to high road deaths in Thailand and other middle income countries is the higher number of passengers in each vehicle. September 30th 13 students died when the pick up they were traveling in was involved in an accident. Had this law been in place and followed, would the passengers still be alive today?
In the 1980s and 1990s Meechai ran a very successful campaign to promote the use of condoms in Thailand. This saved the lives of countless people and helped to reduce the birth rate in Thailand from around 7 children per woman to less than 2. You can watch the Ted Talk here:
A similar campaign aimed at encouraging the use of helmets and stigmatizing drunk driving should be implemented to reduce road deaths.