In January this year, the Thai government launched their campaign to promote 100% use of crash helmets. It is a year long campaign that started mainly with government offices. It became compulsory for anyone entering or riding in their premises to be wearing a helmet. If they didn’t have a helmet, they were stopped at the gate and told to walk in. In Samut Prakan signs have been up for the last few months encouraging 100% use of helmets.
As we all know, things like this take time to make a difference. It has been compulsory for a number of years now for motorcyclists to wear helmets. The police stop them at random to fine the drivers if they don’t have a helmet. Although the police are not very consistent in cracking down on this, it is a fact that these days people without helmets are now in the minority. It is working, but very slowly.
The secondary problem is that the passenger, often school kids, don’t have a helmet. The parents might survive the crash but what about the little kids? This is something they are also targeting now. As part of the “100% Campaign” the Governor of Samut Prakan presided over a ceremony to hand out thousands of helmets to children and also motorcycle taxi drivers. Similar campaigns were held in other provinces around Thailand.
Probably the most dangerous period on the roads in Thailand is during Songkran. Every year we get daily updates of how many people have died on the roads. Motorcycles were involved in 79.61% of the accidents last year. In 2010, 361 people died during Songkran with 3,802 people injured. 29.53% of the accidents were caused by drunk driving, followed by speeding at 17.11%. The northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima recorded the highest number of road fatalities at 18.
The Interior Ministry have identified 11-17 April 2011 as being the “Seven Days of Danger”. They have sent out instructions to all of the Provincial Governors that they must reduce road deaths by at least 5% in their province. The police have been ordered to set up more roadblocks and strictly enforce the law regarding drunk driving.
To me 5% seems such a low target. Surely they should aim for 100% reduction in road deaths? And although I applaud the 100% helmet campaign, it has to be asked whether these helmets are actually strong enough to protect the head. There doesn’t seem to be much padding. A secondary problem, is that even if they have the helmets on, they don’t do the straps up. In one study, it was claimed that up to 25% of helmets came off during accidents. More really needs to be done because in many cases motorcycle crashes are fatal even when wearing a helmet. More needs to be done in the education of drunk driving and proper road etiquette. And we shouldn’t be doing all of this 5 minutes before Songkran is about to start. It should be a year round campaign.
What do you think? Will fatalities be reduced this year again? After all, it did drop last year from the year before.