The new ranking still means there are 51 other provinces in Thailand with better road-safety records, but the jump is a marked improvement, Dr Wiwat Seetamanotch, Vice President of the Phuket office of the Road Safety Policy Foundation, told The Phuket News this week.
“It is better than last three years ago, when Phuket was the ‘top rank’ (worst),” he said.
So far this year road accidents in Phuket have left 78 people dead and 8,221 injured in 7,144 accidents, according to the official ThaiRSC statistics, which are compiled from Ministry of Health government hospital reports and police reports.
A breakdown by district shows: Muang District – 42 dead, 5,288 injured in 4,592 accidents; Kathu District (including Patong) – 15 dead 1,613 injured in 1,416 accidents; and Thalang District – 21 dead 1,320 injured in 1,136 accidents.
In a further breakdown by selected tambon (subdistricts) the ThaiRSC reports shows: 1) Wichit 9 dead, 1,156 injured; 2) Chalong: 8 dead, 805 injured; 3) Rassada: 7 dead, 780 injured; 4) Koh Kaew: 5 dead, 165 injured; 5) Karon: 4 dead, 422 injured; 6) Rawai: 3 dead 535 injured; 7) Talad Yai (Phuket Town): 4 dead, 868 injured; 8) Talad Nua (in Phuket Town): 1 dead, 406 injured; and 9) Samkong: 1 dead 151 injured.
Of note, Patong was not listed in the selection, which accounts for only 42 deaths reported so far this year, thus leaving the remaining 36 deaths unaccounted for.
Overall, Phuket’s current death and injury toll compares with last year’s 93 dead and 8,512 injured, marked jump up from 2016, when the island suffered 75 people killed and 7,243 people injured in road accidents.
Dr Wiwat attributed Phuket’s improvement to ramped up efforts by police to enforce traffic laws, improvement of the roads themselves and road-safety campaigns to raise awareness of the deadly issue.
“Well, the police have been doing their work so well,” Dr Wiwat said.
“It has started changing after we urged to have safer roads within five years. This year, I believe Phuket’s road-safety ranking will be better,” he added.
However, Dr Wiwat noted that Phuket remains the worst province in the country for breaking traffic laws. “Nakhon Sri Thammarat province is the second-worst province for people breaking traffic rules,” he said.
Dr Wiwat listed the top offences as: not wearing helmets, reckless/dangerous driving, not wearing a seat belt, driving without a licence, speeding, running a red light, ghost driving (driving opposite traffic flow), dangerously cutting off other motorists in traffic, using mobile phones while driving and drunk driving.
News that police efforts have improved Phuket’s ranking among the deadliest in the country came as a surprise to Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Col Chaiwat Uikam, who’s now the top-ranking officer overseeing the Provincial Traffic Police.
Col Chaiwat took up the position only earlier this year after being transferred from his post as Patong Police Chief.
“I didn’t know what Phuket’s ranking for danger was,” he told The Phuket News this week.
However, he added, “We are going well and work hard. Phuket’s roads are safer because we do what we do so well.”
That said, Col Chaiwat declined to share specifically which actions the police have taken that have made the island’s roads safer.
Maj Gen Wisan Panmanee, who took up the post of the island’s top-ranking policeman as the Phuket Provincial Police Commander in October, declined to comment.
The news of Phuket’s improved ranking also comes hot on the heels of United Nations report issued by the World Health Organisation that branded Thailand as the deadliest country in Asean for road accidents.
The report showed the death rate per 100,000 population in Thailand was 32.7, far ahead of Vietnam which came second at 26.7. Singapore was the safest at 2.8.
The figure for Thailand was up marginally from 32.6 in the last WHO survey three years ago, when the country had the second-highest road fatality rate in the world, behind only Libya.
The road-death rate in Libya fell to 26.1 per 100,000 in the latest survey. Only a handful of countries worldwide fared worse than Thailand in the new survey, among them Liberia at 35.9 and Democratic Republic of Congo at 33.7
Only Brunei was not included among Southeast Asian states surveyed in the WHO’s Global Status Report on Road Safety, based on a comprehensive analysis of data from 2016.
The news also comes while road-improvement projects both on Thepkrasattri Rd in Srisoonthorn and on Patak Rd over Kata Hill from Chalong Circle have left dozens of people injured due to poor signage and dangerous incomplete road resurfacing, and while provincial officials draw up their battle plans for the Seven Days of Danger road-safety campaign for the New Year.
Regardless, Dr Wiwat urged people to be mindful that, “Actually the road is a danger every day, not only during the ‘Seven Days of Danger’.
“If you are drunk, please don’t drive. Don’t drive too fast, and allow enough time for your journey. Also, every motorbike rider should wear a helmet, it will save your life,” he said.