Activist steps up call for better management to make Thai roads safe for motorcyclists


An activist renewed her call for the government to put in place more effective measures to prevent road deaths, especially of motorcyclists, who she believes are victims of poor management.

Dr Chamaiphan Santikan made this call on the occasion of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR), which is marked on November 20 yearly.

Chamaiphan, who is a former WHO advisor in Asia on injuries and the handicapped, is now working with the so-called Motorcycle Safety Thailand project that was established in 2020.

She said motorcyclists in Thailand had become victims of poor management and unequal access to safe roads for more than 53 years now. This inequality, she said, makes Thailand one of the most dangerous countries to drive in with the biggest death toll of motorcyclists.

Chamaiphan said information from three databases of the Public Health Ministry’s national injuries monitoring system found that more than 17,000 motorcyclists had died from road accidents in 2019, double the number killed in 1995.

She blamed the fatalities on unaddressed issues related to people, roads and vehicles. One of the worst examples of bad management, she said, was the Transport Ministry’s decision to let 15 to 17-year-olds drive 110cc motorcycles instead of 50cc ones. She said this decision dates as far back as 2005.

In comparison, Chamaiphan said, other countries like the United Kingdom, Japan and the US use a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system to control inexperienced drivers and prevent accidents.

She said the GDL scheme reduced the deaths of young motorcyclists in the UK by 25%.

The GDL system also restricts young and inexperienced motorcyclists from riding at night, stops them from providing pillion rides and has their blood alcohol level regularly monitored, she added. These steps, Chamaiphan said, have reduced injuries among 15 to 19-year-old motorcyclists by up to 23%.

The activist added that Thai roads were built a long time ago without proper traffic engineering in mind or the prioritising of road safety.

For instance, she said, motorcyclists can ride as fast as motorists and there are no special lanes for their safety.

Dr Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said on Sunday that Thailand has been losing more than 20,000 lives in road accidents yearly and motorcyclists account for 75% of deaths.

He said most of the motorcyclists killed were young people who should have lived to become an important resource for the country.

Separately, Thailand is introducing a point deduction system for traffic-related offences. In the system, each licence holder will start off with 12 points, which will be deducted for every traffic offence. If the points come to an end, the offender’s licence will be suspended for up to 90 days. This regulation is scheduled to go into effect from January 9.