The recent death of a 12-year-old boy and injury of a 14-year-old boy in separate incidents highlights yet more of the glaring issues contributing to Phuket’s appalling road-safety record.
These two most recent instances involved young boys illegally riding motorcycles, as they were both too young to obtain a license, and colliding with large tour buses. These accidents represent a “perfect storm” of negligence resulting in devastating consequences.
First, these young boys should never have been riding motorcycles in the first place, so why were they? A fair proportion of responsibility must rest with the boys’ parents, who for whatever reason allowed their children to be in control of a motorbike. Where would young boys get the money to buy a motorbike?
Or if it was borrowed, then any adults that lent them the motorcycles must also shoulder a fair part of responsibility for the accident. That they were able to get their hands on a motorbike can be put down to the pervasive attitude that it is fine to ignore road laws because it’s unlikely that you will be caught or face any financial penalty for doing so.
Second, a share of the responsibility must be put on police and their lack of willingness to enforce road laws that encourages the widespread attitude that they are just silly rules that you needn’t pay attention to.
In any place that takes road laws seriously, these boys would have been stopped within minutes by police who could clearly have seen that they were too young to be riding.
Sadly this rarely, if ever, happens in Phuket and you just have to stand out the front of any school at the end of the day to see how common it is too see young children riding motorbikes, often with two or three of their friends along for the ride.
Third, some portion of the blame must be put on the government officials who have failed to provide adequate public transport to schools, making it all the more tempting for parents to let their children ride to school.
Teachers at government schools should also be directed to monitor students who ride to school without a license and report them to police, their parents or take whatever steps needed to stop it from happening.
It is time for parents, police, teachers, officials to uphold their responsibilities to the children they should be protecting from harm. It’s time to change attitudes, treat this issue seriously and take concrete steps to stop underage children from riding motorbikes.