'Mai pen rai' on our roads means death

Last weekend, I was stuck on Kanchanaphisek western ring road in the Bang Bua Thong area for almost an hour without knowing why the traffic was so terrible.

It was about 11am and the sun was very strong. I was very frustrated with this unexpected situation and saw drivers close to me were also annoyed at having to wait in the gridlocked line of cars. Finally, I was able to move a little bit further ahead until I passed the scene of an accident.

On the road was a huge pile of ceramic tiles. Nearby was a pickup truck with a blown tyre. Police and Pathum Thani rescue staff were trying to clear the mess from the road so the traffic could flow.

It was a heavy job to move away the ceramic debris in a short period of time under the baking sun. I felt sorry for these people.

When I arrived home, I looked up the pickup truck accident on the internet. I found a news report saying a pickup overloaded with ceramic floor tiles _ up to 350 boxes worth 100,000 baht from Saraburi province _ had lost its load.

Wow! I was amazed that a one-tonne pickup could carry such a heavy load.

One of the truck's rear tyres exploded under the weight of the tiles. Most of the ceramic tiles were left scattered on the ring road. It was lucky nobody was hurt. The pickup driver was fined 500 baht for reckless driving.

Do you think this driver should have been fined such a small sum of money? Shouldn't he be responsible for the expense of cleaning up the ceramic debris from the road? Shouldn't he also be responsible for the additional energy costs incurred by drivers of other vehicles caught in the traffic congestion?

I do not intend to attack this guy. I just want to point out there are similar cases like this on our roads every day. With little punishment, or none at all, many motorists do not care about the law and drive irresponsibly.

Nobody wants to have an accident. But the tyre explosion in this case came about because the 28-year-old man overloaded his pickup. He knew it was not sensible to do this _ he should have used a bigger truck to deliver his goods.

One thing I was curious to know was how he could escape the attention of the police. He was driving from Saraburi to Bangkok, which is a long journey. His final destination was somewhere on Phutthamonthon Sai 2 Road.

I guess he probably figured that if he was arrested by police, he would only have to pay a small fine and drive on. Unlike Western countries, the fines here are not high and driving laws are not strict. Moreover, the police can be persuaded to let transgressors go, often in return for a bribe.

When the road laws are not tough and the penalties not heavy, motorists are simply not afraid to violate traffic laws. Worse, police are not serious about law enforcement.

This mai pen rai attitude and lack of respect for the law helps explain why Thailand has such a high incidence of road accidents.

According to the Department of Land Transport, the number of deaths on the roads between Sept 30, 2011, to Sept 30, 2012 was 7,784. This was an improvement from the previous year's figure of 8,305.

Though the country has made progress in reducing the death toll, the number of vehicles will increase significantly this year due to the first-car buyer scheme.

As of Dec 31, 2012, Bangkok had 2.97 million personal cars, 1.08 million pickup trucks and 2.84 million motorcycles. The rest of Thailand had 2.88 million passenger cars, 4.34 million pickup trucks and 16.17 million motorcycles.

Let's look at the road accident figures during the Songkran holidays, from April 11 to 17. Three hundred and twenty one people died and more than 3,000 people were injured across the nation.

I think it's everyone's duty to help reduce road accidents. Motorists should drive more responsibly and the police should step up law enforcement. And lawmakers, will you revise the laws to improve road safety and introduce more effective enforcement?

I hope to drive on safer roads in my lifetime.

Krissana Parnsoonthorn is Deputy Business Editor, Bangkok Post.

About the author

Writer: Krissana Parnsoonthorn
Position: Reporter