The Phuket News last Saturday (July 15) launched the poll, asking the simple question, “What should Phuket do about the deadly Patong Hill road?” (See story here.)
The poll was launched after two tragic tour bus crashes on Patong Hill claimed three lives in less than two weeks.
On the night of July 10, a tour bus crash killed a 10-year-old boy and his father, both Chinese tourists on holiday in Phuket.
That accident came less than two weeks after another runaway tour bus killed a 40-year-old woman who happened to be riding a motorbike on the street where all drivers of out-of-control “brake failure” buses aim to come to a rest, instead of slamming into a concrete wall beside the entrance to the street.
Together, the two accidents left nearly 50 people, mostly tourists, injured.
In response to the poll, dozens of readers wrote directly to The Phuket News with their comprehensive suggestions of what should be done. The Phuket News welcomes such thought-out replies, and publishes the key messages, as follows:
Gary Brage wrote:
Thailand is missing a 60-year-old law used in most of the rest of the world regarding vehicles.
1) Requirement of ENGINE BRAKES on all heavy vehicles. These engine brakes close the engine valves and make the engine a retarding device to slow the vehicle. Their use saves the service brakes on the vehicle.
2) Requirement of SPRING BRAKES on all heavy vehicles. These brakes use big springs to apply the service brakes if the air brake system fails. The spring brakes also act as a parking brake when the vehicle is stopped. No more stones or blocks seen by the wheels of parked vehicles.
These two systems are relatively inexpensive and can be retrofitted to any heavy vehicle if not installed during manufacture.
Talk to any bus or truck manufacturer and you will find these devices are available and easily installed.
Now the third safety device is a driver who is schooled on the operation of a heavy vehicle and has required time with a check driver, about one month, on the road for training beyond the classroom where they learn the vehicle code and the vehicle operation, also about one month.
I don’t understand why the insurance companies don’t require vehicles and drivers to be properly equipped and trained to insure any commercial vehicle?
Mark White wrote:
The issue appears to be that drivers sit on the brakes down the hill, they overheat, and fail. The correct way to safely descend the hill is to brake hard, then roll in low gear to allow brakes to cool, then brake hard again, etc...
Speed ramps that are so severe they force vehicles to slow to walking pace every 50 or 100 meters would ensure drivers have to follow safe braking procedures. As, sadly, driver education will eventually fail.
So, big speed ramps and big warning signs about the speed ramps would be my suggestion.
Ronald Schuette wrote:
They always say: brake failure is the reason. But it’s the bus driver’s failure because they are not educated with the simple solution – use always a low gear all the way down and nearly not the brakes. Then the brakes won’t fail.
Godi (Long-time Expat) wrote:
I don’t see the option for a tunnel (on the list of responses available). Coming from a mountain country in the heart of Europe with lots of tunnels, this is my opinion the safest way to Patong.
A tunnel would save lives. It would be the safest way to Patong.
How many more ancients have to happen over the hill to Patong which most likely would not happen if there were a tunnel?
A tunnel will help most likely to assure unfit vehicles, big buses, big trucks and inexperienced steep hill drivers to arrive safely in Patong.
Patong has become a city, so logistically trucks and buses will need to access Patong with supplies adn carrying passengers.
Make sure that it is not possible to overtake in the tunnel with concrete blocks lane used to separate lanes and don’t allow unfit trucks, buses and other vehicles over the hill.
Finance the tunnel with like they do in Bangkok by charging a Highways Expressway toll.
Think about it, be wise! A straight road through a tunnel is safer to drive than a dangerous, curvy, steep up-and-down hill road.
Karl (last name not supplied) wrote:
Simply have large parking areas short of Patong Hill, for example near the Tesco Lotus near the Phuket Waterworks Authority office in Kathu, before reaching the intersection with the Caltex petrol station, therefore allowing all large buses to park and then transfer people across to minivans to ferry passengers over the hill to their hotels, etc. A “very very simple solution”.
The same applies for all the coastal roads which are now gridlocked because of one bus that can hardly move. This will also stop these buses spewing out fumes, which is not fair to the young people on bikes. Officials should consider their health.