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Phuket Opinion: Safer drivers on the horizon

Phuket Opinion: Safer drivers on the horizon

PHUKET: The impending introduction of the demerit points system for people with driver’s licences marks Thailand on the cusp of something great. It’s not the point system itself, it’s the fact that there will be a system in place which will automatically invalidate a driver’s licence once too many penalty points have been accrued.

opiniontransportaccidentsSafetypolice
By The Phuket News

Sunday 8 December 2019, 09:00AM


A Traffic Police officer checks a driver's licence in Patong. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

A Traffic Police officer checks a driver's licence in Patong. Photo: Tanyaluk Sakoot

Why is this so important? Because it breeds an understanding that a driver’s licence is a valuable privilege – and this on an island where there are next to no real public transport options.

The attitude of drivers in Phuket towards traffic laws is so appalling that just during the Seven Days of Danger road-safety campaign during Songkran in April this year, 1,092 people were fined for not wearing seatbelts, 328 were fined for speeding, 471 were fined for ignoring traffic signals, 533 were fined for ghost driving (driving opposite traffic flow), 325 were fined for dangerously cutting off other motorists in traffic, 472 were fined for using mobile phones while driving and 501 people were arrested for drunk driving during the period.

Yet those numbers pale in comparison to the 4,566 people fined for driving without a licence. That’s in only seven days, and during a period when everyone knew that the police were out on the streets to actually enforce traffic laws. The only moving violation that topped that was 6,955 people on motorbikes fined for not wearing crash helmets.

People just don’t care about being caught without a driver’s licence, and why should they? The fine is up to one month in prison or a fine of up to B1,000, or both – but never fully enforced unless the driver is involved in a major accident. Now it stands to become up to three months in jail or a fine of up to B10,000, or both, though The Phuket News would like to see an option of converting jail terms to community service, to keep our overcrowded prison free from misdemeanour offenders and for those convicted to genuinely help the community.

Will the new penalty stop people paying their way out of fines? No. Nothing stops a bribe – or extortion – at the scene of the crime without the intervention of a third party, just like anywhere else in the world. But the new penalty will force the price higher with each infringement, and the last thing anyone would want in Phuket, or anywhere in Thailand, is to owe someone in uniform a favour.

With the new penalty there is hope for true road safety just over the horizon. Now there’s just one more thing left make the roads safer: actual driver training before a licence is issued in the first place.

 

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Kurt | 09 December 2019 - 12:15:25

Yes, it is a big joke. The only 'enforcement' will some day happening during one of the famous thai 7 days of danger campaigns. Just for face. And don't be surprised if it will be not a thai person who gets a big fine. From a thai frock you can't pluck feathers, right?

Concerned | 09 December 2019 - 07:56:39

It seems like; an overall attitude “driving rules are here to be ignored “

seht1912 | 08 December 2019 - 19:28:09

This is a joke right?

CaptainJack69 | 08 December 2019 - 12:34:18

You're along the right lines on both points. This is a step towards the sorely absent enforcement of traffic laws but it isn't actual enforcement. People don't care because the consequences are little (500B fine) or nothing (no enforcement). The lack of driver training is of course a big problem, but if laws are enforced then people will WANT to be trained how to drive properly.

goldwing | 08 December 2019 - 11:01:17

This will not make the slightest difference, the key word is "enforcement" and that is sadly lacking with an ineffective police force

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