Editorial: Make roads safer in Thailand by making the driving license test harder
This article was published in the Bangkok Post (PDF version), in response to the opinion piece “Speed focus not making roads safer” (24 May 2017). The original article describes the writer's angst at being pulled over for speeding as she drove long distance to Chiang Mai. She argues that unlimited speed should be implemented in Thailand, using the German autobahn as an example. My response disagrees with this premise.More speed is not the answer to making our roads safer. Even now where people can drive as fast as they want with a low chance of being booked, Thailand has the world’s second most dangerous roads, only one above war-torn Libya. On average, 80 people die from road accidents every day, with speed being a key killer.
Unlimited speed on the German autobahn is the exception rather than the rule, as every other country in the world has speed limits. Even in Australia, there are limits in the Outback (where there is endless road), because even out there, speed kills.
Bad drivers are the root cause of our poor safety statistics. In Germany, people are generally disciplined drivers. This is because obtaining a driver’s license is not easy, requiring a would be candidate to undergo training and a multitude of written and practical tests. This is designed to drill proper and safe driving into them, before being granted the privilege of a license.
Compare to Thailand, where it is extremely easy to obtain a license. The practical test for example, consists of one drive around an obstacle course.
Thailand can replicate the success of developed countries and make the driving test comprehensive, harder and introduce a practical test where you are examined by a tester while driving on real roads. Also, introduce an Australian-style probationary licensing system where new drivers are gradually given the right to drive on their own.
This needs to be combined with consistent, strict and effective enforcement of traffic laws, to send a signal that the habits of yesterday are no longer acceptable. The increased use of automated enforcement tools will also help to ensure the system is fair, accurate and not susceptible to corruption.
In Thailand, more speed is a recipe for continued disaster. Focus on making drivers disciplined before they earn their first license.