Road accidents accounted for 20,169 deaths in Thailand last year, with most of those killed being students and youth.
Motorcycles accounted for up to 70 per cent of the fatal crashes, followed by 14 per cent involving personal cars or pickups and 10 per cent pedestrians. These numbers were released as part of the 2018 Thailand road safety situation survey conducted by the Thailand Health Promotion Foundation and road-safety watch teams.
Preeda Jaturapong, a lecturer from King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, said the findings – based on information from the Public Health Ministry, the Royal Thai Police and Road Accident Victims Protection Co Ltd – showed that a third of the victims were men and most were between the ages of 15 and 24.
He said the eastern provinces of Rayong, Chon Buri and Chanthaburi had the highest number of road fatalities at 65.53, 49.63 and 49.02 for every 100,000 people. Other high scorers were the provinces of Saraburi (48.06), Chachoengsao (47.55), Prachin Buri (47.19), Sa Kaew (45.97), Prachuap Khiri Khan (45.01), Ayutthaya (44.90) and Nakhon Nayok (43.06).
The provinces with the lowest road fatalities were Mae Hong Son (13.09), Bangkok (13.48), Yala (15.22), Pattani (15.60), Narathiwat (15.83), Satun (19.28), Nakhon Pathom (19. 34), Nong Khai (19.34), Nong Bua Lampu (20.50) and Nonthaburi (20.78), the lecturer said.
The top 10 provinces with the fastest rising road death rates from 2011 to 2018 were Beung Kan at 38 per cent, Amnat Charoen at 30 per cent, Loei 30 per cent, Nonthaburi 28 per cent, Kalasin 27 per cent, Si Sa Ket 26 per cent, Sa Kaew 22 per cent, Yasothon 20 per cent, Chaiyaphum 13 per cent and Mukdahan at 13 per cent, he said.
The provinces where road deaths were fast declining are Yala (-81 per cent), Satun (-77 per cent), Samut Sakhon (-71 per cent), Surat Thani (-63 per cent), Phuket (-62 per cent), Songkhla (-59 per cent), Phayao (-55 per cent), Chumphon (-55 per cent), Trang (-49 per cent) and Nakhon Phanom (-47 per cent), he added.
Withaya Chartbanchachai, director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre, said that even though there were fewer road fatalities in 2018, the issue of road accidents remains a key and prolonged problem in Thailand, which still holds the top position when it comes to road fatalities in the Asean region.
Thailand is also very far from achieving its 2020 goal of bringing road deaths down to less than 20 for every 100,000 people, he said, citing the WHO’s suggestion that this goal can only be achieved if problems such as lax law enforcement are solved.
Withaya also said that related agencies and road-safety organisations and networks should push for:
1. The establishment of a main agency that oversees the road-safety strategy direction, brings work procedures and implementation of measures up to par with international standards and ensures good supervising and follow-up systems;
2. Ensures the strict enforcement of law in all areas and ensures the participation of all parties, who must also implement their own internal road safety-boosting measures.
With motorcyclists accounting for the highest number of road deaths, based on a report of fatal head injury cases, it proves that wearing a helmet would have cut down on the deaths. Those not wearing helmets are seven times more at risk of fatal head injuries in crashes, he said, so there is a need to continually push for helmet use and implement measures that curb risky behaviour, such as speeding and reckless driving.
He said agencies pushing for road safety want the government to make curbing road accidents a priority and perhaps include it in its 20-year National Strategy (2018-2037).
The government should also amend related laws and regulations to support the mission, and implement sound road-safety measures all year round – not just during Songkran or New Year’s. However, he admitted that the extra safety measures during festivals had significantly helped reduce the road toll from 21,607 in 2017 to be 20,169 in 2018.
“But 20,000 road deaths a year is still unacceptable, when most victims are aged 15 to 24. The Thailand Development Research Institute in 2017 cited that deaths and injuries in Thailand’s road accidents from 2011 to 2013 caused approximately Bt545 billion worth of damages per year – or 6 per cent of the country’s GDP,” he said.
Withaya also urged Thailand to adopt recommendations included in the World Bank’s 2018 “High Toll of Traffic Injuries: Unacceptable and Preventable” report, which showed that cutting traffic deaths and injuries by half can add 7 to 22 per cent to the GDP per capita over 24 years in specific countries.