Thailand worlds deadliest country for motorcycle accidents

Published:  24 May at 6 PM
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Motorcycles are the Thai choice for personal transport, but the country’s annual total of accidents and fatalities involving two wheels is the highest in the world.

For the majority of Thais as well as a huge number of tourists and expats, motorcycles provide a practical, inexpensive mode of transport both in the countryside and in the cities. In 2016, 1.74 million motorcycles were purchased, with 461,783 bought during the first quarter of 2017. Affordability, cheap maintenance costs and low fuel costs are the main attractions, and it’s not unusual to see a couple and up to two children mounted on a Honda Dream or other low-powered machine.

Children of 15 years of age and over can legally drive motorcycles, and younger children are seen riding them to school, usually without wearing protective helmets. They’re also popular with expats as well as being easily rented by tourists, many of whom have never ridden a motorcycle in their home countries.

According to the Thailand Accident Research Centre, some 16,000 children are involved in accidents annually, with around an estimated 700 deaths as a result. Although in recent years local police have begun to crack down on non-helmet wearing motorcyclists, pillion riders rarely comply, with a survey revealing that only 19 per cent wore helmets against over 50 per cent of riders. Most deaths are due to head injuries amongst pillion riders.

Driving licenses are easy to obtain and loose laws relating to either riding or driving lessons are often ignored. The issue hits the headlines regularly, with two recent accidents killing a pregnant British tourist in Phuket and seriously injuring another British visitor. On average, a total of 5,500 motorcyclists are killed annually, equating to 15 deaths every day of the year. Road safety videos go the rounds, but seem to fail to deal with the problem.

Every expat community across the popular country has tales of friends or acquaintances losing their lives or being seriously injured, and places which rent out motorcycles to foreigners rarely if ever check on their ability to ride them safely or even offer helmets. According to the World Health Organisation, if all Thai motorcycles were taken off the roads, the country would be as safe for motorists as the UK, the USA and Switzerland.
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