Trend setting Phuket, which recently gained both international and national acclaim for its ‘green’ campaign, is to promote the wearing of crash helmets all over the island to set an example for the rest of Thailand, and one that Pattaya needs to learn in particular.
Pattaya, November 2, 2010, [PDN]: prior to the more stringent safety helmet regulations which come into force on Jan1, 2011, in Phuket, several motorcades are being organised by a consortium of Kathu police, taxi-drivers and the Patong local council to demonstrate the importance of wearing motorcycle crash helmets and extend to the whole island the “100% helmet use” campaign that began in early 2010 in the Phuket City Police District.
The first motorcade along the Beach Road, on November 16, will include approximately 500 helmeted Phuket motorbike riders with a host of pedestrians in their train. The assembled multitude will wend its way via the beach to Patong Sports Field, where an officiating ceremony will take place, after which there will be a football tournament and live stage entertainment. There will be a further motorcade on Dec29, two days before the deadline.
Police Superintendent Arayapan Pukbuakhao told the Phuket Gazette, from which this article is partly adapted, that “the motorcade of ‘safe riders’ is part of an island-wide campaign to raise road-safety awareness.”
While no-helmet driving offenders are already being stopped, this will extend after Jan1 to bare-headed passengers, too. There will also be other novel introductions: no-helmet drivers will lose their licences until they have watched the road safety and traffic law film and attended a safety lecture. The film, shown in Phuket City Police Station since July, illustrates in gory detail exactly what happens to the bare heads of importunate offending motorcyclists.
“Before the [Phuket] campaign was launched, about 15 riders without helmets died in accidents in Phuket Town every month, but since we started enforcing the law the number has fallen to about two to four people a month,” Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pekad Tantipong told the Phuket Gazette, stressing that wearing helmets evidently saves lives.
“As far as motorised two-wheelers are concerned, the most effective protection that can be offered is the helmet. Evidence from a systematic review shows that it reduces the risk of fatal injuries by 42%. The rate of helmet use is high in developed countries but often very low elsewhere, due to inadequate awareness, regulation, and enforcement.” Quoted from the WHO Global Assessment Of Road Safety Review, Mar2010.
That Thailand needs to take cognisance of these pioneering Phuket efforts and the WHO evidence is totally apparent from the horrendous nationwide traffic accident statistics. In the latest WHO Global Assessment Of Road Safety, quoted above, motorised two-wheelers accounted for more than 70% of road traffic deaths in Thailand.
Further statistics make this even more apparent:
· In Khon Kaen Province 81 % of total injured patients admitted to hospitals in 2002 were motorcycle injury victims. It is believed that this is likely to reflect the situation in other provinces too.
· 45% of deaths in 2004 occurred on the national highways, half of them involving motorcycles.
· 12,858-20,000 people were killed in road crashes in 2005.
· The primary causes of road crashes are the dangerous mix of motorcyclists and larger vehicles, alcohol impaired driving, and excessive speed.
· The working adult age group (25-59 years) represents the majority of those dying in road crashes (over 50%) followed by young people aged 15-24 years who account for 29% of the total fatalities.
· Road crashes cost Thailand nearly 2.1 % of its GDP.
“With continuing urbanisation and motorisation, VRU (Vulnerable Road Users) injuries and deaths represent a serious threat to their (developing countries) development and jeopardise the pursuit of equity in health.” WHO.
The sooner Thailand and for us, Pattaya, wakes up to the toll the currently laissez-faire and ambivalent traffic safety enforcement measures are having on its population, in terms of loss of life chances and opportunities, social hospitalisation and welfare costs and the immeasurable emotional trauma suffered by the bereft, the better.
Well done, once again Phuket, PDN takes it hat off to you.