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Phuket’s dangerous driving habits force underpass lane closure

PHUKET: A slew of near-collisions from people trying to overtake while driving through Phuket’s Darasamut Underpass has forced the island’s Highways Dept chief to close one lane through the busy tunnel.

transport, accidents, construction, police,

Chutharat Plerin

Saturday 10 June 2017, 04:55PM

The central lane through Phuket's busy Darasamut Underpass is now closed. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot
The central lane through Phuket's busy Darasamut Underpass is now closed. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

The central lane was closed late last month, with traffic cones placed in the middle of the lane running the entire length of the underpass.

Previously, the central lane was used to allow different traffic flow, controlled by overhead signs, depending on the time of day.

“We had to put cones in the middle of the lane because we want motorists to reduce speed and to prevent them from overtaking inside the underpass,” Phuket Highways Office Director Patiwetwoottisak Sookki told Khao Phuket.

“Our aim is to prevent accidents in the underpass. We have received reports from motorists of drivers using the lane to overtake in the underpass,” he said.

“We have also received reports of motorbike drivers using the underpass, but motorbikes are not allowed through the underpass – there is no shoulder (outside the main lane) for them,” Mr Patiwetwoottisak added.

Closing the central lane to traffic has another benefit he noted: “When any accidents happen inside the underpass, it is difficult for rescue teams to render assistance, and it creates more traffic jams.”

Mr Patiwetwoottisak blamed Phuket’s renowned “bad driving habits” for the problems.

“We have to make these changes to improve safety and to account for how some people think, and the motorists who follow the traffic rules are being inconvenienced by others’ bad habits,” he said.

Strict enforcement of laws would not work, Mr Patiwetwoottisak added.

“Strictly enforcing the rules cannot solve the original problem if motorists still have bad driving habits,” he said.

“I have discussed this issue with Phuket Provincial Commander Maj Gen Theerapol Thipjarorn, and he said that there were not enough police officers, who already have lots of other duties to perform, to keep an eye on road users 24 hours a day.

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“This is about the each person paying attention and using the roads together responsibly. If they follow the traffic rules they will be safe. This problem must be fixed by improving driving habits,” Mr Patiwetwoottisak said.

Meanwhile, the central lane will remain closed until further notice.

“We will continue to have only the two lanes open until we find another way to solve the problem. I will have to discuss this with Phuket Traffic Police,” Mr Patiwetwoottisak explained.

“Also, we know that these changes that have other effects,” he added. “People entering the underpass will now have to slow down before entering the tunnel,” he said.

“We want drivers to not exceed 60kmh when driving the through underpass,” he said.

Meanwhile, the UK Government has upgraded its travel advisory for British tourists travelling to Phuket, noting that Thailand is the world’s deadliest country for riding motorcycles.

“There are a high number of road traffic accidents in Thailand. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 14,059 people were killed in 2012. In the UK in 2015 there were 1,732 fatalities.

“In any comparison of these statistics, you should note that there is a difference in the method of calculating statistics for road deaths in Thailand (at the scene of the accident) and the UK (within 30 days of the accident).

“The risk of death or injury on the road increases if you travel at night,” the advisory warns.

“With motorcycles so widely used in Thailand, most road traffic accidents involve motorcycles The WHO rates Thailand as world’s deadliest country for fatalities on motorcycles, citing an average of 5,500 motorcyclist deaths annually.

“If you’re riding a motorcycle take extra care and make sure you have appropriate insurance. According to the law, safety helmets must be worn,” the advisory notes. (See advisory here.)



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Comments Here:
    Forget your password? | 11 June 2017 - 15:55:19

It's official, most dangerous place in the known universe for driving. IMO  Having a cop at either end will not help, unless they monitor CCTV. Blocking a lane will somewhat buffer the worst drivers..somewhat.

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Pauly44 | 11 June 2017 - 08:45:47

The design of the underpass is wrong, they should have 2 lanes in each direction with a separation barrier between the two directions, no  barrier separating Phuket drivers is a disaster waiting to happen.

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Timothy | 11 June 2017 - 08:21:42

It's because of these dangerous driving habits that a light rail system would not work here. Anything with wheels would be cutting across the tracks. Probably even parking on the tracks if it suits them, like those idiots who like to leave their car in the middle of the road while doing a bit of shopping at their favorite 7-11. The light rail would have to travel at a very low speed to avoid all these obstacles. Phuket is not ready for light rail. They can't get past the songtaw, which travels at about 20 kilometers per hour. 

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Kurt | 10 June 2017 - 20:38:26

When you read this article than the contents of the other article about 5E's, smart stuff and Thailand 4.0 is just something to laugh about as long they not even can handle simple underpasses. Many underpasses in future, all not under control, not very promising.

By the way, cleaning of the underpass near Central Festival was not real cleaning, just cutting the wild greenery only that grown for many months, but no cleaning/washing of the black/white fences. Still dirty gutters, soon blocking the pump system when we get heavy rains.
Pure laziness, sloppy job.

5E's, smart, Thailand 4.0?  Give me a break.
Handle the simple normal things first, if you can.

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Jome | 10 June 2017 - 19:46:26

This is a bad joke....or....?????
I think the problem can only be solved by enforcing the law!!!!

Strict enforcement of laws would not work, Mr Patiwetwoottisak added.

“Strictly enforcing the rules cannot solve the original problem if motorists still have bad driving habits,” he said.

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Foot | 10 June 2017 - 18:57:33

I guess having police at both ends never occurred to him.
Eliminating a lane may work, but, it reduces the capacity severely.
Why not elimate all accidents and just close it entirely?

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mangosteen | 10 June 2017 - 18:33:31

Permanent speed cameras as everywhere in Europe in tunnels! 50 speed limit and high penalties for offenders. Someone who tries to double should loose the driving license for 3 months, pay at least 10.000 Baht and have to pass the test again to get the license back. There really is no excuse for such stupid behavior other than stupidity.

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Concerned | 10 June 2017 - 18:21:37

No wonder
As long there egoistic reckless traffic rules ignoring motorists on the road. 
There will be chaos and traffic jams.

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skip | 10 June 2017 - 18:13:27

And his statement was ...
Strict enforcement of laws would not work...WHY NOT ?
“Strictly enforcing the rules cannot solve the original problem if motorists still have bad driving habits.
so closing off a lane is the solution...NOT !!
Next they will be building 2 lane tunnels.
The solution is SIGNS & FINES... 
You have laws, police and a judicial system...use it !

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lizardofoz | 10 June 2017 - 17:51:14

That's amusing. A bus broken down the yesterday around 4.30 in the northbound lane and due to the centre lane being blocked there was a traffic jam up. So the shut Central Tunnel x 1 lane but leave the idiots are open game at the Tesco tunnel just a kilometre away and I do no recall seeing no bikes signs for that tunnel only for the Central tunnel. Safest would be to make it one way only
! But the local drivers would still find a means to have a accident

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