The shock was not that somebody had died on Phuket’s notoriously dangerous roads – on average they claim around a life a week – but that we had all lost somebody we knew, even if just from the airwaves.
His death, like everyone who loses their life on the roads, whether on a motorbike, in a car or in a tour bus, was sad, but unfortunately not all that surprising. Thailand is ranked sixth in the world for countries with the highest rate of road deaths, sandwiched between Iran and The Republic of Congo.
The situation in Phuket looks only to be getting worse as visitors to the island increase. With no real viable public transport (apart from the slow buses that head out from the bus station in Phuket Town), tourists and locals are all-too-often forced to ride scooters that are at the risk of larger vehicles.
The fact that the island’s ‘new breed’ of visitors also like to do the most of their travelling in huge buses also presents a huge, new, dangerous problem, and one that no amount of re-routing will solve.
Either visitor numbers need to reduce (unlikely) or provincial planners need to design adequate infrastructure, provide public transport, and promote road safety. Unfortunately, none are coming soon, because after all, Phuket’s sun keeps shining, its people keep smiling and the tourists keep coming.
The island’s roads were never designed to accommodate such huge buses and huge numbers of people. They are made all the more dangerous because many Thais and – lets face it, after a few months here – also expats approach driving with the same ‘laissez faire’ attitude as they might do a video game.
If they do actually get a license, they drive their cars straight to the DMV, manage three minutes around the onsite go-kart track, then drive away with a licence. If for whatever reason, like perhaps being a danger to society, they do not get issued a licence, most drive away from the DMV in their car anyway.
Speed cameras are sometimes proffered as a solution to cut speeding, but as there are currently only four on the island, it has yet to be seen if they will have any impact on the way that people drive.
The reality is that people are not really required to drive particularly well here, and in cases where they do drive poorly, incidents are rarely punished. The Phuket News offers its condolences to Mr Norris’ friends and family, but for all our sakes we need to push for a safer future. Our lives may depend on it.