It’s the same macabre procedure as every year: Songkran, the traditional Thai new year and the longest public holiday period, hasn’t even officially begun and the media have already started to count the number of daily road deaths and people injured in traffic accidents over the so-called “seven dangerous days” of Songkran.
Any other time of the year, roads in Thailand are certainly not particularly safe either. But with millions of Thais on the road over Songkran traveling to meet family members in the provinces, this is naturally the time of the year when road accidents and fatalities shoot up just as dramatically as over the equally “dangerous seven days” of the new year period.
Only last year, a whopping 364 people were killed in 3,373 road accidents nationwide over the Songkran festival period. To make things worse, these numbers only include victims who die at the scene, not those who die later in hospital as a result of fatal injuries.
This year, the Thai government has revived the harsh anti-drink driving campaign of the past New Year holiday period to reduce the number of traffic accidents over Songkran. The renewed crackdown on drunk driving again included nationwide checkpoints and allowed for authorities to temporarily seize vehicles and driving licences of offenders, as well as arrest and detain drunk drivers for up to 15 days.
So has this year’s ambitious road safety campaign yielded any results? Don’t hold your breath.
Songkran Road Accident Statistics 2016
|Monday, April 11||52||431||387|
|Tuesday, April 12||64||550||520|
|Wednesday, April 13||65||796||754|
|Thursday, April 14||78||601||555|
|Friday, April 15||79||513||508|
|Saturday, April 16||59||380||380|
|Sunday, April 17||45||385||343|
Only on the first of the “seven dangerous days” (April 11), 52 people were killed and 431 injured in a total of 387 crashes. As usual, nearly two thirds of the accidents were caused by speeding and drink-driving. The death toll more than doubled to 116 on the second day, with 64 people killed and 550 injured in 520 crashes. The third day of the seven-day monitoring period saw another 65 people lose their lives on the spot. 796 more were injured in a total of 754 accidents. But the daily death toll would climb even further.
Day Four claimed a total of 78 lives, with 601 people injured in 555 crashes. A sad record of 79 people were killed a day later, with 513 hurt in 508 accidents. The major cause of the crashes remained drunk driving and speeding.
Only on the sixth of the “seven dangerous days,” the number of road deaths somewhat declined, with 59 people killed and “only” 380 injured in “just” 380 accidents. With the number of fatalities in just six days having already outpaced last year’s total figure, another 45 people were killed on the spot and 385 injured nationwide on the last of the seven-day monitoring period.
So no, with the number of road deaths up 21.4% on last year, the government’s intense road safety campaign has unfortunately not just utterly failed – this year’s death toll of 442 killed in seven days also marks a new record.
In spite of more than 100,000 people arrested for drunk driving at road checkpoints nationwide in a week, drunk driving remained the single biggest cause of accidents (34.09%), closely followed by speeding at 32.93%. One must obviously wonder whether the real major cause of all these horrific crashes isn’t in fact plain stupidity and lack of basic driving skills.
For comparison, here’s the Songkran death toll of previous years: