Thailand tackles its 'Seven Deadly Days'

The Thai government is trying to secure some of the world’s deadliest roads, but faces an uphill battle.

by
    Thailand tackles its 'Seven Deadly Days'
    Thailand has a road fatality rate of 36.2 deaths per 100,000 people, according to World Health Organisation [Christophe ARCHAMBAULT/AFP]

    At no point did I lose consciousness.

    Instead, I remember the confusion with clarity. One minute, everything is normal - the next, the world is turning upside down at such a pace that my brain can’t keep up and everything starts to swirl around.

    The collision came out of nowhere. One of Bangkok’s commuter minivans - notorious death traps - ran a red light and smashed into the taxi I was in.

    Our car skidded onto a curb then flipped over. Looking at the crushed remains a few minutes after I crawled out of a shattered window, I could barely believe I’d survived.

    I was truly lucky - in the streets of Thailand, the second deadliest in the world, many don’t.

    According to a World Health Organization (WHO) survey, Thailand has a road fatality rate of 36.2 deaths per 100,000 people - coming second to only Libya.

    The accidents come to a climax during the week around New Year’s Eve - appropriately dubbed The Seven Deadly Days by local media.

    Those seven days, which have just ended, have seen over 340 people killed this year, with over 2,000 accidents and 2,000 injuries.

    The reason for this annual apex? The heavy abuse of alcohol and drugs that take place during this week, and the relaxed attitude towards it - a live and let live stance that often amounts to live and let die.

    But there is cause for optimism. This year the Thai government made a concerted campaign to change this, with heavy penalties announced for drink driving.

    Most importantly, they are actually enforcing these penalties. Over 3,000 vehicles have been confiscated from drink drivers.

    If the government keeps this up, then over time the warnings should start to be heeded by the general population.

    Despite these commendable measures, the current rules are still too narrow.

    I escaped my accident with a broken clavicle - my friend who was with me had been slammed onto my shoulder by the force of the collision. He was knocked unconscious, eventually recovering.

    He didn’t have a seat-belt on, neither did I. Many vehicles in Thailand, especially taxis, remove or hide the seat belts in the back seat - they’re seen as inconvenient.

    They can get away with this because the law requires seatbelts be worn only by drivers and front passengers.

    Bloodied and bruised, waiting outside the taxi for the paramedics to come, my friend and I started to wonder where the driver was. Because it looked like the minivan hit the taxi on the driver’s side, we worried he might have been badly hurt.

    Just then, he popped out of his car, not a scratch on him. He’d been trying to get his seatbelt off.


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