Dr Wiwat Seetamanotch, Vice President of the Phuket office of the Road Safety Policy Foundation, told The Phuket News today (June 29) that the combination of factors this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak had greatly reduced the number of drivers on Phuket’s roads.
However, the number of deaths and injuries had not even been halved compared with the Phuket road-accident death rate for last year.
As of this morning, 34 people had died and 3,828 people had been injured in 3,862 accidents in Phuket from Jan 1 to June 29, according to the official ThaiRSC statistics, which are compiled from Ministry of Health government hospital reports and police reports.
In comparison, 92 people died and 10,113 were injured in 10,206 accidents throughout all of last year. In 2018, 92 people died and 9,514 were injured from 9,606 accidents.
ThaiRSC gave a breakdown on the deaths and injuries so far this year as follows:
- Muang District – 16 dead, 2,116 injured in 2,442 accidents
- Kathu – 8 dead, 651 injured in 753 accidents
- Thalang – 10 dead, 569 injured in 633 accidents
“We know that there was much less traffic on the roads in the past three months, and this overall saw a decrease in the number of accidents. The curfew and alcohol ban also affected people’s behaviour a little bit, but it did not help much in preventing the number of deaths,” Dr Wiwat explained.
Dr Wiwat flatly attributed the continuing high road-accident death rate in Phuket to recklessness and speeding.
“Think about it, the roads have been very clear, so drivers like to drive faster because they see nothing in their way,” he told The Phuket News..
“This is plain recklessness, and when an accident happens, the people involved suffer much greater injuries as a result of the speed they were doing,” he explained.
“The speed involved makes it much more difficult to survive the impact injuries, and this factor has even affected the Accident Severity Index for Phuket,” Dr Wiwat said.
About 80% of the deaths so far this year that involved a motorbike involved the rider not wearing a helmet, Dr Wiwat noted.
“And the main reason for the accidents clearly has been speeding,” he said.
Dr Wiwat maintained that road-safety campaigns would continue to raise awareness of the deadly issue.
“I still urge all drivers to improve their driving behaviour, to obey the traffic rules and to not exceed the speed limit, to make our roads safer,” he said.
The Phuket Highways Office last week unveiled four new overhead signs installed mostly on Thepkrasattri Rd that have been fitted with speed cameras in the hope of getting motorists to slow down.
The project cost B6,556,000, explained Phuket Highways Office Chief Somwang Lohamut.
In addition to being fitted with speed cameras, the overhead signs also display the speed of vehicles as they pass underneath, he added.
One of the overhead signs has been installed at the 13km milestone marker on Thepkrasattri Rd (Route 402) northbound at Baan Maak Prok in Mai Khao.
Two others have been installed on Route 402, at the 21km and 31km roadside milestones between Maak Prok and Klok Koi in Phang Nga.
The fourth has been installed on the “Airport - Muang Thalang Rd”, at the 26km milestone.
“We will start to record data of drivers exceeding the speed limit from July 1 [this Wednesday],” Mr Somwang told The Phuket News.
The data will be sent to the Highways Department in Bangkok so they can use the information in making policy decisions, he explained.
The speed cameras are not yet in use, he added, noting they will come online soon.
“I am coordinating with police in Phuket so that they can be provided the photo taken, the license plate details, and the time and date of the person caught speeding.
“The delay is that we need our system to be connected with their network. I expect this to be done by August,” Chief Somwang said.
“I want to stop drivers speeding. I have received many complaints from local residents saying they are afraid of the accidents caused by people speeding.They fear that their lives and their property are at risk from these drivers,” he added.
“Also, it costs time and money to repair the damage these drivers cause. They hit and damage light poles and traffic islands,” Chief Somwang said.
“One light pole costs B30,000 to replace, and it costs B6,000 per metre to replace a damaged guardrail. The driver that causes this damage must pay for this, but it wastes time for officials to keep fixing these things,” he added.