Saturday, 14 January 2017

Road safety pile-up for Thailand and UK? Or a walk in the park?

Crunching in one after another are detailed and eloquent views in the Bangkok Post on the worst ever New Year road crashes - 478 deaths even before the storms and floods in the South cutting Thailand in half and PM Prayut urging reform:

* Khun Ratanawadee of AIP Foundation highlights the need for specific road safety organisations and the advances made in Denmark and Sweden. Waving the Union Jack just a little I'd also point out that UK has the best road safety record in the world with only 1,700 deaths, and a population similar to Thailand at c.60M. While Sweden excels in winter weather, something rarely a danger in Thailand - but more relevant to the Vietnamese or Malaysian Highlands.

* Khun Amornrat touches on the dangers to the Thai tourism industry and c.30M visitors to the Seven Dangerous Days. Tourists returning home in coffins rather than charter flights is never ideal. And that despite many of the excellent efforts of the Thai Tourism Police and road safety campaigns on hotlines, wearing helmets etc. Apart from the reluctance of holiday companies to promote such destinations, the costs in travel and car insurance and rentals must be a burden on the economy too. And indeed the dangers of farang tourists on motorbikes and tanked up on alcohol are a risk that would never be accepted in UK or EU by police or public:

* Khun Sirinya writes on the lethality of minivans and lack of rest breaks as well as the horrifying danger of LPG in vehicles and potential for the Internet of Things in traffic management:

• Khun Surinand highlights the need for improved infrastructure: designing out road problems as well as a shift to rail, law enforcement and ongoing prevention campaigning. The progress on rail links through Cambodia should improve both trade, safety and traffic jams:

With innovative AIP programmes such as Abbott Health helmet giveaways in Vietnam and UK and EU experience in road safety work whether advertising the Fatal4, or Road Safety Day in November or the badly-scheduled Project EDWARD (European Day Without a Road Death) surely Thailand should be more active in exchanges and activity to reduce the carnage on Thailand's roads?

Here in Kent, road safety is a constant issue with Dover as Europe's largest port and the Channel Tunnel and ferries, with the through-flow of 2 million lorries a year between London and Europe.

The Kent road safety record is superb with only 50 KSI (killed or seriously injured - just 4 deaths) a year.

A slight increase of c.4 KSI last year means increased vigilance by the network of emergency services: police, ambulance, fire and rescue, RNLI lifeboats and military and air ambulance helicopters and ships for accidents on land, air or sea.

As well as the efforts of schools and public health organisations and pubs and clubs and restaurants and drinks companies.

In my politics work I'm urging a 20mph speed limit in all Kent's 30 town centres, as well as a clamp-and-crush overhaul of parking on pavements or double yellow lines. Kent Police are already implementing innovations such as police HGV lorries and a crackdown on using mobile phones at the wheel. Also reviews of accidents at train level crossings.

Certainly these issues are unsafe at any speed but capable of greater reform - even smoking in cars with children is now illegal, as well as public antipathy – after years of road safety campaigning - to not wearing seatbelts or motorbike helmets, drink driving or speeding.

And the Sheppey crossing here in Kent recorded one of UK's worst pileups in of over 100 cars due to bad weather, but also a design error with a high speed limit and no hard shoulder - the kind of early warning tweak that would save dozens of lives in Thailand and ASEAN. Or with police exchanges to Canterbury University, The Hendon of the South with traffic and forensic and paramedic courses.

In my advertising work I'm always astonished at Thai car advertising showing alcohol brands and sponsorships that would be culturally unthinkable in UK.

But the UK experience of road safety work shows that it's a long and tiring drive that will take at least two generations, so shouldn't Thailand start now before Songkran and then Countdown begins its deadly toll again?


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