By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
INTERNATIONAL ROAD safety experts have urged Thailand to follow Vietnam’s example by setting up a central agency to directly mitigate the country’s severe accidents problem and create a digital traffic database to enhance traffic-law enforcement.
Some of the world’s top experts and academics gathered in Bangkok on the opening day of 13th World Conference on Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion yesterday. The high number of deaths and injuries from road accidents in Thailand was among the key issues discussed. The experts considered the numerous efforts to promote road safety which have failed to stop the increasing number of casualties.
Dr Wittaya Chadbunchachai, director of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Collaboration Centre for Injury Prevention and Safety Promotion, said Thailand has long been struggling to solve the serious road-safety problem, and the number of road-traffic casualties continues to rise.
He said there was an urgent need for Thailand to drastically alter its strategies on road-safety promotion and learn from the success of other countries.
“Thailand ranks second among countries with the highest deaths from road accidents, and the situation seems to be worsening. We have analysed and found two major factors that make Thailand’s efforts to mitigate the problem ineffective: weak law enforcement and the lack of a direct central agency to tackle the problem,” Wittaya said.
He pointed out that among Asean countries, Vietnam has the most progressive measures to mitigate road-traffic accidents. Vietnam has a central agency, National Traffic Safety Committee, which works directly on road safety promotion, creates strategies and effectively mobilises implementation of the policies.
As a result, Vietnam has reduced the number of brain injuries from traffic accidents per year by 500,000, while also preventing more than 15,000 premature deaths, which can save over US$3.5 billion (Bt100 billion) in economic losses due to road-traffic injuries, he said.
Dr Etienne Krug, director of the WHO’s Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, also urged the Thai government to create an agency working directly on road-safety promotion.
He said that since many agencies were involved in this issue, it had created discord in the country’s road-safety promotion policies.
“I think Thailand needs a lead agency on road safety. One agency that is in charge of road-traffic injuries prevention, which reports directly to the prime minister,” Krug said.
“The mission to ensure road safety and mitigate road-traffic injuries in Thailand needs collaboration from all stakeholders, and it is not only the duty of the authorities but also of road users to have more consideration for other people on the road.”
Wittaya also suggested that as the Kingdom was pushing its economic and technological advancement to achieve “Thailand 4.0”, the authorities should use this opportunity to merge the traffic databases of various related agencies into a shared single database to enhance implementation of traffic policies and management and law enforcement.
According to WHO, more than 25 million people around the world die every year as a result of road accidents, while in Thailand, the Road Accidents Data Centre for Road Safety Culture reported that 13,111 people had died from road accidents since the beginning of this year, while 850,461 had suffered injuries.