In a recent list that ranked countries by their estimated road traffic death per 100,000 members of their population, Thailand took the top spot with 36.2. That’s a further 1.2 deaths more per 100,000 than Malawi, who took the second spot, while Liberia joined them on the podium at third. The list was comprised only of countries from Africa and Asia.
Thailand has long struggled with road safety and has found itself on lists of the most dangerous roads for several years. This new one will come as little surprise for those who live or have visited the Land of Smiles. There’s thought to be 37 million vehicles on the roads in the country – many of which are often driven illegally by those without a licence or those who are underage. Going over the intended passenger capacity is also common to see, with three people sat on a small scooter, and some even more. Vehicles driving the wrong way down a road is everyday reality, which represents a culture of not following the rules of the road, rather than being unaware of it.
There’s been a number of high-profile road accidents that captured the hearts and minds of the people in Thailand. Last January, a minibus collided with a pick-up truck in Chon Buri that saw 25 people killed, and images of the burnt wreckage were all over the media. The problem was two-fold; not only did the the pick-up have 11 passengers on board — some of which were sat in the back without any support or seat belts — but the driver of the minibus was on his fifth 300km journey in just 33 hours. Consequently, he fell asleep at the wheel and caused the crash. Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident; accidents like this happen all too often in Thailand.
The tragic event resulted in discussions about changing road laws in the country. A law in April stipulated that vans could only carry a maximum of 13 passengers, and proposals were put forward to limit their speed and to monitor them via GPS. With regards to pick-up trucks, there are discussions in place to ban the practice of riding in the back. Thailand is also tackling those who ride motorbikes without helmets, impounding the vehicles of those who don’t wear them. But while such measures look good on paper, it’s only when they’re fully enforced by authorities that Thailand will finally disappear from lists of the world’s deadliest roads.