Thailand Takes Aim at Double-Decker Buses to Cut Road Deaths

By Nattasuda Anusonadisai 8 January 2016

BANGKOK — Thailand will install GPS systems in public buses to monitor reckless driving and ban the registration of new double-decker buses in an attempt to curb traffic accidents and road fatalities, the transport minister said.

The New Year’s holiday, also known in Thailand as the “Seven Dangerous Days,” ended with the highest number of road deaths in five years. Motorcycle and car accidents left 380 people dead from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4, despite a crackdown on drunk drivers by the country’s ruling junta that led to thousands of vehicles being impounded.

Thailand has the second-highest traffic fatality rate in the world, according to a 2013 survey done for the World Health Organization.

In response to the recent increase, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered the Transport Ministry on Tuesday to enforce the new measures before the next expected seasonal surge. Another “Seven Dangerous Days” comes during the Buddhist New Year in April.

The measures include banning new operating licenses for new double decker buses, said Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith.

Road safety groups have repeatedly called for stricter standards on double-decker buses, saying the buses are improperly built without regards to engineering safety and should be barred from hilly, winding roads where many accidents occur.

Prayuth also instructed the ministry to strictly enforce a tilt test for all buses over 3.8 meters (12.5 feet) in height, whereby the buses are placed on a 30-degree slope to measure whether they would tip over on a road.

All public buses will also be required to install GPS technology so drivers’ speed and location can be monitored, the minister said. The Bangkok Post reported that the GPS-equipped buses will be linked to the Department of Land Transport and tracked at all times.

In December, 11 Malaysian tourists died in a bus crash when their driver lost control on a downhill mountain road.

The Thai Transportation Operators Associated urged the government to reconsider its ban on new buses, saying “human error” is the problem not the vehicles.

“Double-decker buses are not the real cause of road accidents and the ban on double-decker buses doesn’t mean the death toll from road accidents will be reduced,” said Wasuchet Sophonsathien, the group’s president, who said the 20,000 buses currently in operation meet safety standards.

More than 100 new double-decker buses are awaiting registration and 600 others are being assembled, he said.