By Shana Kongmun
7 dangerous days of New Year
By Shana Kongmun
Well, it is that time of year again, the 7 dangerous days of New
Year begin on December 31 2014 despite the fact that thousands of people
are already leaving Bangkok. I guess the accidents that occur between
now and New Year’s Eve won’t go into the official count. This is too bad
since I am sure the number would be significantly higher as the hordes
of people head home.
This year, apparently the 7 Dangerous Days begin December 31 and end
January 4, given the extended holiday allowed by the government. Last
year Chiang Mai ranked 2nd for road accidents during the 7 dangerous
days of New Year and saw 11 people killed and 119 accidents. Nationwide
366 people were killed and 3,345 people were injured in in 3, 174
accidents during this period. The year before Chiang Mai topped the
nation in number of accidents and injuries and came in third in deaths
during the “7 dangerous days of New Year” with 141 accidents, a total of
147 people were injured and 14 killed in road accidents.
A recent study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research
Institute gave the appalling news; Thailand ranks second in the world
for road fatalities. Thailand sees 44 deaths due to road accidents out
of 100,000 people. Namibia, which topped the list, sees 45. The global
average is 18 deaths per 100,000 people. In the top ten Thailand was the
only Asian country, Mongolia came in 12th with 31 deaths and Malaysia
17th with 30. The next highest Asian country was China at 44 with 22
deaths per 100,000 people.
The government announced in 2011 that it planned on cutting road
fatalities by half by 2020. Motorbike accidents are the top cause of
death both during the regular rather deadly period and during the 7
dangerous days of New Year and Songkran. Drunk driving, reckless driving
and driving without a helmet are the top issues.
Last year Muang District had the highest number of accidents with Chom
Thong and San Sai Districts the second highest number of accidents. Only
San Kamphaeng and Galyani Vadhana Districts saw no accidents.
Forty-eight accidents were caused by drunk driving, and 106 of the
accidents involved motorcycles. Most accidents occurred between 4 p.m.
and 8 p.m.
These are easily solvable problems and it is surprising that most
accidents took place in the evening when the police could be out and on
the roads controlling traffic, setting up drunk driving checkpoints and
stopping those with no helmets.
Each year they pledge to reduce the numbers and yet in 2010 ten people
died during accidents so the numbers are climbing. Yes the increased
numbers of visitors surely drive the numbers up higher than if it were
just locals but the police should take this into consideration and
increase police presence on the roads.
Riding on pavements
Sidewalks, or pavements as the British
call them, are a rather rare piece of real estate here in Chiang Mai. There
are stretches of roads with none at all. There are stretches of road where
the pavements are parking spaces for both motorcycles and cars. Finally,
when there are pavements and there are no cars or motorcycles they are
filled with signs, trees, chunks of concrete and broken bricks. Generally,
Chiang Mai pavements are not conducive to pedestrians much less
Bangkok recently instituted a ban on driving on pavements, frankly a major
problem in the city as the motorcycle taxi drivers frequently use them as an
alternative to the roads. Chiang Mai, not so much. There really aren’t great
stretches of pavements to drive on much less walk on.
However, there are a few traffic campaigns the police could consider
implementing, driving down the wrong side of the road being one of them.
This occurs on a regular basis on Mahidol Road coming from town towards the
airport, occasionally on Nimmanhaemin and a few other places. Then add in
those motorcycles that drive in the lane of oncoming traffic to reach the
intersection, frequently blocking the cars that are coming. This is very
dangerous and something traffic police really need to start targeting.
Other major issues that traffic police could target are the blocking of
intersections by cars; this behavior causes traffic blockages as vehicles
try to turn right into roads that are blocked by people who don’t pay
The famed crackdown on running red lights and blocking of pedestrian
walkways has dissipated and while in some intersections it seems to still be
respected, in most it does not. As a pedestrian forced out into the road, it
is certainly inconvenient but the vehicles that run the red lights put lives
at risk every single time.
Traffic laws and traffic courtesy are an ongoing issue here in Chiang Mai
and one that needs more than just “crackdowns” but constant, regular
enforcement. Drivers will obey laws if they know that those laws are
enforced every single day at all times.