When asked why so many people die on Thai roads, officials here ascribe it to a “sabai sabai” culture.
Sabai sabai is one of those untranslatable phrases, but it denotes a kind of relaxed contentment. Sabai sabai is one reason Thailand is a great place for a beach holiday. But it’s not a helpful attitude when building national safety standards.
Weak Enforcement, Compounded by Corruption
Speeding, drunken driving and failing to wear proper helmets are the primary causes of traffic deaths in the country, Thai officials said. While the laws are there to combat each of those factors, enforcement is not.
Road accidents killed 45 people and injured 2,523 each day on average from January to October this year. This is according to data compiled by the central road accident claims company.
Road Accident Victims Protection Co was jointly set up in 1998 and owned by all insurance companies at the time to ensure quick payments of compulsory compensation to road victims under the 1997 Protection for Motor Vehicle Victims Act.
According to the company’s data in the first 10 months of this year, 13,692 people died and 757,010 were injured in road accidents.
Jarut Visalchit, director-general of the Land Transport Department, said safety measures had been implemented and planned to reduce Thailand’s road accident fatalities to below 10 per 100,000 population, the goal set for next year.
Based on the population of 66.4 million last year Thailand’s goal of 664 road traffic deaths a year or 1.8 per day on average is a tall order, given the 10-month data.
GPS systems and GPS-based monitoring centres
Mr Jarut said several measures had already been implemented. For instance, public transport vans must use terminals. All public vehicles and lorries must install GPS systems and GPS-based monitoring centres were set up to monitor them for violations.
Online systems on vehicle conditions and their fuel systems were also put in place while more checkpoints were set up at accident-prone spots nationwide, told the Bangkok Post.
Public drivers with past records are monitored 24 hours while drivers’ working hours are required to be reported and checked. Drivers must also be tested for alcohol and receive training.
For cargo trucks, twist locks are required to be installed
Next year, public transport vehicles must be no more than 3.8m high from 4m currently while double deckers must be no more than 4.3m high. Vehicles 3.6m or higher must also pass rollover tests and standards will be set on doors and interior materials, he said.
Since the government made its promise to halve road deaths, Thailand has barely inched upward. Moving from the country with the next-to-worst per-capita death tally to the eighth-worst.
Thailand has the eighth worst record in the world for fatal road accidents, as measured by deaths per 100,000 population, according to the World Health Organization.
The ranking in the most recent WHO survey in 2018 is actually an improvement from the previous two surveys, when the country ranked second, behind only Libya. The survey on road accidents is conducted every three years.
Source: New York Times, Bangkok Post, WHO