Death on Two Wheels: Thailand most lethal nation for motorcyclists

At least these guys are wearing helmets. Photo: Coconuts
At least these guys are wearing helmets. Photo: Coconuts

Almost three quarters of road deaths in Thailand involve motorcycles.

Last month, a survey from the World Health Organization (WHO) said that 5,500 motorcycle riders die each year in the country. That equates to almost 15 deaths daily and the number is getting higher, not lower.

The shocking statistic makes Thailand the most deadly country in which to get around on two motorized wheels. The issue of motorcycle road safety hit international news again two weeks ago when pregnant British mommy vlogger, Sophie Anderson, died after getting into an accident on the back of her boyfriend’s motorbike

And it’s not just motorcycle deaths. Thailand is also the second deadliest nation in the world for all road fatalities.

In Thailand, a full 73 percent of traffic deaths have motorcycles involved. Dr. Liviu Vedrasco, of the WHO’s Bangkok office said, “If you take motorcycles out of the equation, Thailand’s roads will be as safe as Switzerland, the United States, and the United Kingdom.”

Unfortunately, there is little that can be done about the proliferation of motorbikes in the country. Most families can’t afford a car, and motorbikes are the main form of transport. In 2016, Thais purchased 1.74 million motorcycles but just 768,788 cars, reported The Straits Times.

Another shocking statistic is that only 53 percent of motorcycle drivers in Thailand wear helmets, and only 19 percent of pillion passengers wear them. Young children also often ride with their parents, and only 7 percent of them are fitted with helmets.

Not only do young children ride motorbikes, they also drive them. Though they are supposed to wait until the age of 15, they are often seen driving much younger. This is more prevalent in the provinces, where the nearest shop or neighbor’s home may not be in walking distance. Children also routinely drive to school or for enjoyment.

Due to this, 15,800 youths are involved in motorcycle accidents every year and 700 of them meet their death this way.  

The reasons given for the high number of accidents include: sleepy drivers, drunk drivers, low awareness of road laws, and speeding. Most motorbike fatalities were due to head injuries sustained by pillion passengers.

The WHO suggested that Thai officials better enforce helmet laws in the provinces and especially for young and pillion riders. Other steps to reduce these road deaths could include better and more training for drivers, and possibly placing motorcycles in their own lane on roads.

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