According to the national Thailand Road Safety Committee (ThaiRSC) Phuket has already suffered eight road deaths this month, and that is with the tourism ‘high season’ just starting. So far 103 people have died on Phuket’s roads this year, with a further 16,365 injured.
Phuket officials, despite all their rhetoric, are doing nothing to curtail the killing on our roads. There have been so many serious, and deadly, accidents in Phuket in the past two weeks that Rewat Areerob, President of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO), has made an urgent call for foreigners to donate blood.
There is currently a “Massive shortage of Rh Negative Blood” on the island, “due to the increasing number of foreigners who suffer from accidents in Phuket”, Mr Rewat said in his appeal.
Yet not one of these life-taking accidents have been reported by police. They have not been recognised at all by any Phuket officials. Right now they are busy putting a shining smile on the rising number of foreign tourists to the island.
Vincent Modell, founder of the Rescue Team Volunteers Phuket, this week went public with an urgent appeal for people to make road safety a personal responsibility. “Vinnie” to his friends has spent years working with Kusoldharm rescue workers. He has scraped more than enough bodies from Phuket’s roads.
“You have people hiring motorcycles here in Thailand, hurting themselves even killing themselves. But now the blame is being passed to the motorcycle rental companies, why?” Vinnie posed.
“They [the tourists] went to the motorcycle shop hired the bike knowing they’ve never ridden a bike before, or riding like complete buffoons with no helmet, insurance or care.
“I agree a level of responsibility for the companies to check licenses etc… These companies are simply supplying to demand like alcohol… There is a culture now of passing the blame to others … not accepting responsibility for their actions,” he wrote.
He’s right. There is very little anyone can do about people intent on placing themselves in danger, even at risk of losing their lives, or the lives of others. The Phuket News begs each and every person to tell every foreigner you meet – especially tourists – to be careful riding a motorbike here, especially if they have never ridden one before. Make it a personal responsibility.
Yet The Phuket News cannot ignore motorbike rental shops renting motorbikes out to people with no experience or a licence to ride a motorbike in their home country. The law is there, but as we have pointed out time and again it is enforced only after someone dies – or as a photo opportunity to make police and officials look good.
The public appeal by Vinnie Modell came after a video circulated showing a motorbike accident on a coastal road involving two young foreign women, whose physiology suggested they were Russian. No other vehicles were at the scene.
The body of one of the women lay crumped in the small space between the road and the guardrail. The surviving friend was sitting beside the motorbike in the small space, slumped in devastation at the loss of her friend. The video was emotionally devastating. The Phuket News was told the woman killed in the accident was just 20 years old. Neither of the women were wearing helmets.
In all its promotions, and the glory it basks in for the revival of tourism, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) does not carry any campaigns urging potential visitors to beware the dangers of our roads. That must change.
No one is expecting the TAT to lead the charge in law enforcement to help save lives. Keep in mind that the TAT’s solution to tourists being killed in jet-ski accidents was to have jet-ski rental operators carry mandatory insurance and for tourists by law sign a form confirming the danger they are about to undertake – a solution that blatantly ignores the law that in Thailand any person must have a special licence in order to operate a jet-ski.
Yet the TAT and tourism operators must start warning tourists about he deadly dangers of our roads before they get here. By the time tourists arrive it is likely too late, with the arrivals having nothing more than their holiday on their mind. If we may suggest a campaign slogan, the TAT might want to consider: ‘Welcome to Phuket – Don’t kill, don’t die’.