By Shayne Rochfort
In Chiang Mai, it’s worrying to see a large number of motorbikes at night without backlights. Thankfully most have functional brake lights, but many have no lights at all, which cause road accidents.
Chiang Mai Safe City is a public safety organization concerned with reducing the number of Thai people dying on the roads. When I got my first Thai license, I was happily doing the theory exam, and I got two questions wrong where the answer had broken tail lights. I found out it was legal to drive tanks on Thai streets, but not vehicles without taillights.
We all drive on some of the most dangerous roads in the world, with Thailand’s road fatalities perennially in the top ten of the United Nation’s lists. Even after concerted efforts to reduce the road toll through road safety initiatives, the average daily death toll is more than 60.
Statistics from the UN and local traffic reporting sources regularly highlight three factors:
1. Around 75% of all fatalities are people on motorbikes.
2. Around 30% of all accidents involve driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. After 10pm these percentages rise dramatically. We don’t need reduced testing. We need more testing and harsher penalties.
3. Only 50% of motorbike riders wear helmets.
These figures are alarming, but we are not seeing any significant reductions in recent times except for earlier this year when Thailand was in lockdown and had 10pm to 6am curfews in place. Also, there were no alcohol sales for a week.
Many developed countries have responsible alcohol laws, which prohibit sales of alcohol to visibly intoxicated customers. However, in Thailand, the service of alcohol is self-regulated with drink top-ups by table friends. No one knows how much they are consuming before trying to drive or ride home.
The Thai Government has had limited success with law enforcement and road safety awareness campaigns. Social media and news outlets regularly show mangled vehicles and lifeless bodies, but we seem desensitized to real effects. We comment RIP, or we use the “sad” emoji, and we get on with scrolling our feeds for the next cute cat picture or celebrity lifestyle picture.
Chiang Mai Safe City is a safety initiative proposing a local approach, Thai people helping Thai people. Safety is something everyone can play a part in.
Our roads. Our responsibility.
We can all tell others if their light is broken, right?
Right now, we all need to check our vehicle and motorbike lights.
This takes around 30 seconds or less if a friend helps. It’s a simple 20 baht five-minute fix at any mechanic.
When riding, look around, and someone doesn’t have a backlight or brake light, you can simply tell that person, and hopefully, they will listen.
We need to reduce Thailand’s road fatality statistics. Roads are for everyone to use. Let’s make them safer.