The Irrawaddy

Accidents Decline on Myanmar’s ‘Death Highway’

NAYPYITAW — Sixty people were killed and more than 570 others were injured in traffic accidents in eight months on the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway, according to the expressway traffic police force.

There were a total of 297 road accidents from January through August and as in previous years, most involved private cars, traffic police said.

Last year, the highway saw a total of 555 road accidents in which 116 people were killed and 863 were injured, a decline from 2016, which saw 774 road accidents in which 170 died and 1,304 were injured.

“We use speed radar guns to measure the speed of vehicles. Speeding is the main cause of road accidents,” police officer Soe Win of the highway traffic police told The Irrawaddy.

As of June 1, 2017, drivers and passengers traveling the highway in either private vehicles or express buses are required by law to wear seat belts.

Since then, the highway traffic police force spotted that 1,055 cars did not wear seatbelts. “Many have started to wear seat belts because of the fine. We impose a fine of 50,000 kyats for speeding and 30,000 kyats for failing to wear seat belts,” said police officer Tin Maung Shwe of the highway traffic police force.

More than 20,000 vehicles ply the roughly 644-km highway daily and there are about seven road accidents a day, according to highway traffic police.

“The number of road accidents and casualties has declined thanks to traffic law enforcement,” said lawmaker U Than Soe Aung, a member on Lower House Transportation, Communications and Construction Committee.

The highway connects the country’s commercial hub, Yangon, with its administrative capital, Naypyitaw, and second-largest city, Mandalay. It came into service in 2009 and has been dubbed the “death highway” due to the high number of accidents.

The government is still considering the offer of the Asian Development Bank to provide a loan of more than $100 million to upgrade the route, according to deputy construction minister U Kyaw Lin.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.