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MAIL OPINION  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 motorcyclists.

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 attention.

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.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

7 dangerous days of New Year

Riding on pavements