Highway Deaths on the Rise

By Moe Myint 1 November 2016

RANGOON – A traffic police official told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that—ten months into 2016—the number of car accidents and resulting deaths on the Mandalay-Rangoon highway are already higher than statistics from last year.

According to police officer U Soe Win, at least 120 people died on the road in 2015, but by the end of October 2016, 134 people had already been killed in motor vehicle accidents.

One reason for the significant increase, he said, is a jump in the number of people using the road. During 2015, an estimated 16,000 vehicles used the highway daily. However, in 2016 this number has climbed to between 20,000 and 23,000. U Soe Win speculated that around 70 percent of the vehicles are private cars.

On Tuesday, state-run media reported that from January to October, there were 633 accidents on the highway in which 134 people died and 1,074 were injured. Of these cases, 287 were attributed to speeding, 135 due to flat tires, and 90 were blamed on motorbikes interrupting the flow of traffic. Careless driving was blamed for 47 accidents and 38 occurred when drivers fell asleep at the wheel. The remaining accidents were reportedly due to mechanical difficulties or animals on the roadway.

The report stated that although traffic police officials are trying to enforce rules and regulations—particularly by apprehending high-speed drivers—they have not been able to reduce the number of accident-related deaths.

Due to the frequency of flat tires as a cause of accidents on the highway, U Soe Win said cars should be inspected by drivers before traveling.

“Maybe [these accidents are] because of poor quality tires or bald tires,” he said.

Many drivers on the Mandalay-Rangoon highway have also complained about the construction of the road, which was carried out under the military junta. The road was built with concrete blocks and not carpeted with a layer of protective tar, eventually leading even new tires to wear down and become heated, making them tear more easily.

On Monday, the government-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported that more than 3,400 lives had been lost over the last nine months, due to road accidents throughout the rest of Burma.

The report also stated that a total of 11,375 accidents had occurred across the country over the same nine-month period of 2015, leaving 3,062 people dead and 19,194 people injured.

According to the state media, the number of registered motor vehicles nationwide has reached over 5.9 million. Currently 2,853 traffic policemen are on duty to enforce safety rules and regulations across the country.