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Monday, December 26, 2011

Highway safety in Northeast Thailand, Isaan

Well the holiday season is upon us, here in Thailand and around the world. Now thailand reports about 13,000 highway fatalaties a year or about or about 1.5 per hour.
I know (+95% sure) that during the Songkran holiday only those pronounced dead in Government Hospitals are included in the statistics and assume it is true the rest of the year. I do not know what % of deaths that is, but it has to be lower than the actual total count.
I am not familiar with the rest of the country, but in Isaan there are a number of reasons for the fatalities.  Many people in Isaan "buy" their driving license, as they are not able to pass the test. Part of the test is to back up about 4 car lenghts, with flexible poles marking either side. The freeboard is about 6 inches a side. Thai people cannat back up, this tests gets about half of them. If you have an automatic transmission one must demonstrate the ability to back into a space to parallel park. I have a number of places i go around isaan where I can sit and watch Thais try to parellel park "They can't". And I can't count the times I have made a left turn onto a major road only to end up looking into a truck on the wrong side of the road turning in. Parking in the road on blind left hand curves in another habit the Isaan driver has achieved high marks for, as well.  And I also can't count the times when I have been unable to even see the driver behind the wheel of some of the SUVs and the like that barely even fit in a lane.
Now add incompetent drivers to the state of the roads in Isaan and you are well on your way to more and more traffic fatalities.Speeding, driving on the wrong side of the road, drunk driving, pulling into the adjacent lane without looking and not having a clue about the rules of the road and just ignoring them add to the death toll. Add to all this unscrupulous monks who "bless" vehicles and tell the driver thay are safe from accidents the Buddha will protect them.
I do not know about road conditions in the rest of the country, but in Isaan I would say that  between poholes and unmarked highways and other deficiencies,  after 16+ years on the roads here say that nearly 50% are substandard.
And to add insult to many injuries, while kilometer after kilometer on the Friendship Highway, all of which is at least dual carriageway goes unmarked they spend money and time lining a footpath in the park around Beung Kaen Nakhon. Drive blinded by oncoming headlamps on sweeping right curves.
Then you have Christmas tree lit coaches and trucks coming at you from all directions, in the night.
Take a look at this post.
I generally stay off the roads during the hours of darkness as accident rates must double during those hours.