Thai language newspaper, The Daily News has recently reported the death toll on Thai roads, is even worse than people think. In the first six months of 2017 the rise in the number of road fatalities has been horrifying.
Along with a number of agencies within Thailand, The Daily News has been running a campaign in an effort to reduce the carnage. To date sadly, things seem to be going from bad to worse, despite the focus on road safety. Each year, the government sets a target for reducing fatalities on Thailand's notoriously dangerous roads, calling upon Thai people not to speed or drink and drive.
Sometimes good citizens of the nation run their own publicity stunts, one example being a coffin-maker who in 2016 invited journalists to film the huge stockpile his workers were building up for the holiday season. Each and every year these efforts seemed doomed to failure. The grim statistics of death and injury on the roads are tallied each day in the media and when compared year on year, the figures are much worse.
The newspaper quoted a representative from a drink driving foundation campaign partner, who stated the official figures don't add up to the actual numbers killed on Thailand's roads. Mr. Thaejing Siriphanit stated the numbers quoted only reflect those 'killed at the scene' of accidents.
Unfortunately, the figures so far released this year make for grim reading. In the first six months of 2017, 6,712 people died at the scene of accidents nationwide, compared with 5,308 in the same period 2016. The figure represents an increase of 25% more death on Thailand's roads. As you can see by the figures below, the month of April has the highest road toll numbers so far this year, despite the usual Songkran Festival road safety campaigns.
So far, for the month of July things are looking no better with the numbers coming in at 710 deaths since the 1st of July. Thailand has been named the second worst country on earth per-capita for road deaths. No doubt once officials tally the added numbers of deaths occurring 'not' at the scene of the accident, the figures will be much worse.
The challenge the nation is facing is not hard to see, as Thailand's rapid development has bequeathed it an unrivaLled network of 462,133 roads in the region, nearly all paved with plenty of multi lane highways. There are 37 million registered vehicles, 20 million of them motorbikes and millions more that are unregistered.
Driving on a Thai expressway has been likened to playing a hyper caffeinated video game. A cursory web search for road accident videos will throw up examples of breathtaking, sometimes suicidal, recklessness. Drunk driving is a huge problem.
In recent years there have been a number of cases where drivers from wealthy families have killed and been treated with extraordinary leniency. In 2012 the grandson of the man who made a fortune from the Red Bull energy drink killed a policeman while driving at speed in his Ferrari. He was charged, but has repeatedly failed to show up in court.
At the time of writing, the heir to the Red Bull empire has so far avoided extradition back to his homeland to face trial, with concerns by many that he will avoid accountability as the statute of limitations is said to apply once five years have elapsed.
Another case was that of a 16 year old girl from an influential family who was driving without a license and struck a passenger van, killing nine of its occupants. The teenager was given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to undertake community service, which it turned out two years later she had avoided doing.