Sometimes a single incident is able to capture the attention of officialdom and the broader community to put a spotlight on a significant issue. In this case the dangers faced by pedestrians and the need for increased safety on crosswalks has been highlighted by such an incident with an immediate reaction.
There’s been a flurry of activity across the country in the aftermath of the tragic death of ophthalmologist Waraluck Supwatjariyakul. The doctor was fatally struck as she walked across the road on a pedestrian crossing by off-duty Police Lance Corporal Narawit Buadok riding a big bike.
That’s included a protest with participants, including those who have suffered injuries in their own encounter of the road, playing dead and demanding safe crosswalks in Bangkok. A banner declared “how many more deaths at crosswalks?”
Reports of zebra crossings being redesigned have been received from Udon Thani to Phuket and at the site of the Bangkok tragedy the Royal Thai Police are discussing with the hospital the possible removal of the pedestrian crossing. Across the country crosswalks are being repainted, more warning and speed reduction signs installed, flashing lights implemented, and new color schemes and fines for crosswalks proposed.
In Hua Hin the Wow Roads project may have preempted this need, with the repainting of crossings beginning before the Bangkok incident.
Royal Thai Police Deputy Commissioner Damrongsak Kittipraphat along with Transport and Traffic officials inspected the crossing near the hospital days after the incident, saying inquiries will include invitations to the hospital staff/officials to seek solutions.
The Deputy Commissioner told the press after the inspection that there were no signal lights at the crosswalk and commented that being near a major intersection and that vehicles in the right lane may be visually blocked by other vehicles reducing the visibility of pedestrians.
Elsewhere in Bangkok, official have stated that crosswalk lights and CCTV cameras would be installed at crosswalks. The Ministry of Transport and local authorities were also ordered to assess crossings in provinces to consider making changes or removing them.
Meanwhile commentators have pointed out that apart from pedestrian crossing design, the main issues are about law enforcement, education and driver attitudes, not only to improve crosswalk safety, but the broader tragedies of Thailand’s ongoing huge daily road traffic fatalities. It also remains to be seen whether attention to pedestrian safety continues after the memories of the recent tragedy fade.