CHIANGRAI TIMES – Mikael H. Winther, Ambassador of Denmark to Thailand and his wife Ratanawadee H. Winther played in each their way a significant role at an event on 11 January to promote the use of motorcycle helmets in Thailand.
The Ambassador led a convoy of motorcyclists on his big Honda TransAlp motorcycle around the block in a central part of Bangkok while Mrs. Winther represented the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation that co-hosted the event at the Interior Ministry’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation.
The Danish stamp on the event was complete with the participation in the motorcycle convoy of the Ambassador’s driver, ‘Thom’ Surasak on his own chopper.
The helmet wearing campaign took off last year and is designated to last throughout the decade 2011 to 2020 to achieve that 100 pct. of all motorcycle drivers and passengers will be wearing safety helmets. In selected areas, where the campaign in 2011 has been going all out, significant results were achieved. In Phuket, for instance, the number of motorcyclists killed in road accidents dropped from 58 in 2010 to 26 deaths in 2011 although the number of accidents were unchanged.
For all of Thailand, the number of people killed in traffic accidents remains shockingly high: On an average day, the death toll is 34 people – that is one dead person every forty minutes.
Thailand records roughly a million road accidents every year – including non-fatal collisions. Of these accidents, 75 percent involve motorcycles. And half of those accidents involve drivers or passengers who did not wear a helmet.
Mikael H. Winther sees the situation as a tragic loss both individually and for the nation.
“I support this campaign so warmly, because I feel deeply with the bereaved families who looses one of their loved ones in this meaningless way, and also because these many traffic fatalities are such a big loss for the whole country,” the ambassador says.
Ratanawadee H. Winther mentioned in her presentation of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation some of the areas, that the campaign would need to focus on in the years to come.
“This year, especially the use of helmets for children and students is an area that we will focus on,” she said. In Vietnam, the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation has already had a major impact within this area, among others by supporting a legislation that makes it illegal for children under 14 years of age to drive a motorcycle.
The culmination of the event was the signing of an MOU between the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation that marks another step forward in reducing the high fatality rate of motorcycle-related road accidents in Thailand.