ARE THAILAND ROADS THE MAIN REASON FOR HIGH MOTORBIKE ACCIDENT RATES?

Thailand has the highest rate of deaths due to motorcycle accidents in the world and bad roads are part of the problem, the road safety group ThaiRAP has said.

ThaiRAP, an agency under the International Road Assessment Program, has proposed to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha a series of measures addressing motorcycle safety that includes bike performance standards, revising vehicle categories and improving the licence system.

ThaiRAP director Kasem Choo­charukul on Thursday said that three out of four roads — at a length of more than 1,000km — were found unsafe for motorcyclists.

Holes in roads and curved lanes mostly designed for cars were the main reason behind the high motorcycle accident numbers, said Mr Kasem who is a lecturer from the Faculty of Engineering at Chulalongkorn University.

“Roads in Australia, France, England and the US are mostly designed for cars due to there being proportionally more cars than motorcycles, but it’s not like that in Thailand,” he said.

Lanes for bikes are on the left in Thailand which is also the same for lorries. That has also resulted in road accidents. Objects on the roadside — such as electric poles or trees — are also a major factor in fatal accidents. Roadside barriers in Thailand are designed for cars rather than bikes, unlike in some other countries that have taken motorcycles into consideration.

“If the government injects only 0.1-0.2 % of GDP each year or about 15 billion baht into the road network it will save some 7,500 people from suffering a road accident each year,” he said.

The Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 from the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than 22,000 Thai people died in road traffic accidents in the year 2016.

“The majority of these deaths occurs to those aged between 15 and 29 years,” a statement accompanying the report said. “The 2018 report also shows that 74% of road traffic deaths in Thailand are to riders of motorised 2- and 3- wheelers, mainly motorcycles.”

In general, some 20,000 road deaths appear to be the recognised annual accepted figure.

Dr Chamaiphan Santikan, a former WHO adviser, said the number of motorcyclists in Thailand increases by about a million each year. He said that 21 million bikes have been legally registered but he added that some 11 million riders were found not to have a driving licence which raises the risk of danger on the roads.

The most popular types of bikes among teenagers, with wide rims and narrow tyres, were also found to have the highest rate of accidents, he said.

“Over the past 18 years, the yearly number of deaths from motorcycle accidents has been more than the number of deaths we have seen from Covid-19 last or this year,” he said. “But the government hasn’t stepped up measures to deal with this issue. A proposal was also submitted to the prime minister but it has yet to see progress.”