Khun Wasant Techawongtham’s article in The Bangkok Post “ Time to Rethink Road Safety” flags down some interesting points for both Thailand and UK:
His article eloquently as always details the horrifying death toll on Thailand's roads: the 2nd worst in the world league table after war-stricken Libya. With over 26,000 deaths and the Seven Dangerous Days of the New Year holiday in January and Songkran in April, as Bangkokians head out to the regions, the carnage is a national emergency.
And just this week national press and TV coverage in UK of a Kent citizen killed on a moped by an 18 wheeler truck in Phuket:
In my Kent MP role for next month’s election, I’ve called for greater links between Thailand and UK. Indeed Thailand’s politicians, and businesses and NGO's whether PM Prayut, Khun Kobkarn, Khun Yingluck, Khun Abhisit and AIP Foundation and Red Cross must be pushing for reform?
And in my Sincerity Advertising role - Bangkok office opening soon – I know there’s a wealth of UK public advertising available that’s been proven to reduce accidents over the last 60 years. Whether it’s ROSPA the accident organisation ideal for Royal projects, or the Green Cross Code avatar for child road safety and hard-hitting drink-driving and speeding commercials and resources.
Even Kent’s Road Safety interactive attraction opened just last year by Kent Fire and Rescue.
It’s exactly the sort of Innovation Fund and Community Fund projects that move the Blue Light services beyond just responding to problems.
Again, Thailand would be pushing against an open door for support for such innovations.
But why UK Road Safety?
Simply put it’s the best in the world: a population as large Thailand at c.65M but only 1,700 road deaths each year not 26,000. As the UK develops as a Sporting Superpower from its recent investment in the 2012 London Olympics and Rio 2016. But UK has been a Global Road Safety Champion for the hard work of decades.
Only Sweden might claim slightly better Road Safety statistics - but on a much smaller population of c.10M and snow-storm Winters of little relevance to Thailand.
And here in East Kent we have the perfect example of UK Road Safety not resting on its laurels. With only 54 KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) Kent Police have roared off the starting grid with a recent blip of a 10% increase.
Khun Wasant’s article rightly questions the value of Thai Police's military-style checkpoints: Kent Police use them very sparingly even on the main motorway routes through to London form the Channel Tunnel and Dover Europe’s largest port.
But the range of speed traps, CCTV, breathalysers and even their own HGV lorry to prevent lorry drivers watching TV(!) or using their mobile phone at the wheel are crucial tools. Plus tweaks to reporting for consistency across EU. While NGO’s such as Road Peace today highlight a fall in serious road safety prosecution that will undoubtedly be reversed.
Indeed Thailand’s road deaths of 26,000 is in stark contrast to 28,000 EU road deaths – the lowest ever and a 9% fall on the previous year - across all 27 nations and 500M population.
And there are calls for zero drink-driving limits and 20mph zones in the towns to reduce deaths and injuries even further. While autonomous driving vehicles could have the potential to reduce the 90% of accidents caused by human error.
And certainly the Red Bull heir Boss and hit-and-run cop-killer case would be unheard of in UK - and an example (as with Jonathon Moorby UK drug lord on the run in Koh Samui ) of where UK and Thai law enforcement could also cooperate more closely to prevent a Costa del Crime culture that damaged Spain’s tourism for years:
Thailand has already benefited from Mark Kent (good name!), the former UK ambassador to the Land of Smiles, now posted to Argentina, active on highlighting November's Road Safety Day as part of the UN Decade of Road Safety and the 1.2M road deaths worldwide. A horrifying total more than HIV and Malaria deaths put together.
Khun Wasant is right that Thailand needs to brake hard on these statistics to drive the casualty rate lower. Will another year drift by without UK and Thailand working together?
While Thai autoparts industries and car corporations could be plugged into the latest UK industry developments on safety eg the Parliamentary enquiry into the Vauxhall Zafira fires. Even the mundane but methodical police work on designing out road crash blackspots and car-crash reporting eg a spate of 9 injuries from car keys embedded in victim’s legs resulting in design upgrades.
With the UK car industry at record levels of exports- Sunderland's Nissan factory produces more cars than the entire Italian auto industry just down the road from the former Thai SSI steel factory.
As an aside, UK-Thailand trade down 35% and indeed Thailand's inward investment this year down a further 31% suggesting a need to put the pedal to the metal.
And major car site at Ford in Bridgend - handily positioned for both Port Talbot steel and port exports as well as BMW part of the Midlands Engine with Jaguar Landrover and Mini. Philippines is currently in the driving seat for the latter's exports.
While Lincolnshire Police Road Safety are caught on camera with the Interceptors TV show part of the rash of cheap Cops and Cars television, but detailing the long stretches of rural roads and safety issues such as #FatalFour relevant for Isaan.
PM Prayut's reforms on seat belts, mini vans and pickup truck cabins have been overly criticised but positive steps in decades-long work. the harsh reality is that without political will and business and NGO support over decades there will continue to be 26,000 reasons each year why Thai road safety is failing.
70% of Thai road deaths are from motorcycles highlighting the need for regular police enforcement rather than just ad-hoc checkpoints and cultural acceptance of wearing helmets as Vietnam has already successfully accomplished.
Surely it's absurd for most Thai cyclists to wear helmets but not motorcyclists?
Thailand and UK working together could easily move road safety reforms out of the slow lane and overtake the rest of ASEAN?