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Phuket City police prepare for a motorcycle helmet crackdown from July 1

Phuket Helmet Heads Up: Now it's Safety First

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
THURSDAY July 1 brings the start of the helmet crackdown in Phuket City, with 3200 people on 1600 motorcycles making the point in a heads-up parade at 1pm.

Riders and pillion passengers will all be wearing helmets - as everyone must, or risk a stiff fine. The crackdown will spread to other parts of Phuket soon.

The penalty for not complying will require pillion passengers without helmets to attend a safety video screening (in English or Thai) and the rider will be asked to pay a 1000 baht fine.

Motorcycle taxi riders are concerned that they will have to bear the penalty both if customers ride but refuse to wear helmets, and in lost income if they decline to take passengers without helmets.

Thousands of free helmets have been distributed to ease the concerns of the motorcycle taxi riders.

If anything, the crackdown intensifies pressure for a safer, more comprehensive system of public transport that both locals and tourists can afford.

Police have said the crackdown will last from 6am to 10pm every day. Decades of ignoring the law appear to be coming to an end. Already, many more motorcyclists around Phuket wear helets where once they went without.

Based on the road toll figures for May, when just three people died on Phuket, the island's roads have probably not been so benign since the early days of the motorcycle invasion.

A monthly toll of around 15 is more the regulation figure, with young males among the most frequent fatalities. Education programs now being introduced in schools may help to keep the figures low in future.

What has not changed - and what probably will not change without safer transport alternatives - is the huge number of people who are injured or permanently disabled. In May that figure was 999.

But usually it's a larger nightmare - there were 1550 in February, for example.

Shane Free, the young British diver who suffered a coma in a motorcycle crash, and whose long and costly recovery has been regularly featured in Phuketwan, is a good-news story.

For thousands of others, there is no chance of a full recovery, only a less complete life as a permanently disabled person. The needless cost of motorcycle crashes to the public health system, to hospitals, to doctors, to nurses, to friends and to family, and to Thailand's economy, is incalculable.

About 90 percent of deaths and injuries on Phuket's roads involve motorcycles. Of 297,645 registered vehicles on Phuket's roads, 208,183 are motorcycles. People coming to work in Phuket also bring thousands of motorcycles that are registered in other provinces.

The roads are packed with motorcycles in plague proportions, and numbers are likely to grow rather than shrink. Making helmets compulsory and enforcing the law is at least a step towards a safer future.

Phuketwan supports Mothers or Motorcycles (MoM), an action group that aims to ensure all Phuket riders wear motorcycles. MoM also encourages road safety education to save lives and prevent injuries.
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Comments

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Thank you Monica and Shane, thank you authorities, thank you riders themselves. This a fantastic achievement for all. Bravo and well done.
Folks we are going modern.

Posted by Graham on June 29, 2010 12:42

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Unless they take action in the mornings and afternoons at all the schools, things will not change much. Drive by any school in the morning, most arrive without helmets.

Posted by mike on June 29, 2010 12:53

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I'm scratching my head over this helmet law....first of all, most helmets here are just cheap plastic not worthy of protecting anything...so whats the point?....secondly, if I'm getting on a motor bike taxi, do I want to put on an old sweaty, stinky helmet worn by hundreds of other people?...I don't have cleanliness phobias, but I like to draw a line somewhere...I mean, this is the tropics and believe it or not, there are people out there that pay no attention to basic hygiene....do I want any part of that???,,....Now what about the laws involving 5 or 6 people, let alone a dog riding on a bike...That's ok as long as they all have helmets??

Posted by headache on June 29, 2010 16:15

Editor Comment:

Some of the motorcycle taxi riders have been persuaded to carry plastic head caps that can go under the helmets for those who share your concern about hygiene. Some people may opt to carry their own helmets, or plastic caps. There's certainly a problem with the quality of helmets but you have to hope more people will invest in better helmets as the safety message sinks home. The law will probably continue to make allowances for families who have limited finances and only one motorcycle.

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For the sake of transparency and to ensure everyone understands the same, please someone clarify the following to all readers:
As per the authorities and this article, we can drive without helmet from 10PM to 06AM? Please confirm.

Riders and pillion passenger(s) must wear helmets as well the authorities say! Good! - However, how many people and children are actually allowed to be on one bike? I think a clear number should be used. Lets say the first 5 passengers on each motorbike must wear helmets. If it is a motorbike with side-car a minimum of 10 people must wear helmets at all times.

Kids and infants: I hope their life is equally important than the life of us adults. Any information where infant and small kids helmets can be purchased?

Can we still use the construction helmets as we did the past 10 years to avoid any fine?

Sorry for being negative, but i actually want to say that again everything is too 'gray' and it still does not make sense to me. The fact is that it does not make sense to announce new laws as long as the existing laws are not enforced!

Posted by Observer on June 29, 2010 16:28

Editor Comment:

You can go without a helmet any time, but you run the risk of a heavy fine if you happen to greet a late-night checkpoint. The crackdown hours of 6am to 10pm appear to be an improvement on the previous situation, when many people removed their helmets after nightfall, knowing there was little chance they would be caught. We have seen smaller helmets - we'll try to find out where they are available. As far as we can tell at this stage, the type of helmet does not appear to be a consideration. Given the small number of police on Phuket, enforcement is likely to remain an issue.

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Damned if they do and damned if they don't as usual based on the above comments. Any improvement is better than none. I was in Pattaya the other day and was going to scrounge a ride back from Jomtien on a motoci. The guy said he'd rather give me B10 for the bus than risk a fine - that speaks volumes to me.

If you're that worried about a 'stinky helmet' first I'd suggest an STD clinic, then a baseball hat or bandana to wear underneath the communal helmet. I know middle aged men and bandanas look ludicrous but they won't see it under the cover.

Bearing in mind the local hygiene standards they're probably more concerned about the state of a helmet after a tourist has worn it!

Posted by Mister Ree on June 29, 2010 19:45

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The whole discussion is just wasted time. If you don't know what a helmet is good for and you just wear a plastic shell for avoiding the ticket, then you deserve an accident with broken skull or whatever. There are good helmets for sale here, but you cannot get 'em for a lousy 300 baht.

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on June 30, 2010 00:19

Editor Comment:

You certainly have a point about the quality of the helmets. Bear in mind, though, the carnage on Phuket roads of just a few years ago, especially before motorcycle lights were switched on during the daytime. Any move to create awareness of the need to obey road laws (and promote safely) is good. Any move that encourages enforcement of existing laws (and justice for all) is good. To many living on or below the basic wage, quality helmets remain a dream. That ''lousy 300 baht'' feeds a poor family for a week. Does anyone ever deserve a broken skull? I don't think so. If the result of this crackdown is that people ride more cautiously and deaths and injuries are reduced, then the quality of the helmets is a secondary issue that can be dealt with - after poverty is eradicated.

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Take a look in the ICU, all you negative people. Any helmet is better than none. Dirty helmet: wash your hair after wearing it. Better to wear one than be six feet under. My son pulled through, but he has brain damage. His recovery is going to take years, if he ever recovers fully. I am very lucky he is alive, he reads, writes, walks, and still has his wicked sense of humor. But even he knows it was silly for him not to wear a helmet. Looking at his accident site, he was not traveling any speed. Very little damage to the bike, which makes the whole incident specious. Fell on his head, fractured it, only little skin scrapes. If MoM can save one mother from going through what I am going through, Shane has inspired a brilliant action group. We start at the beginning, and soldier on. And if it doesn't sink in the first time, we go back and start all over again until it does. At the end of the day there are people that do something, and there are people that don't. No one deserves to lose their life, or be maimed.

Monica, Shane's Mother. (MoM)

Posted by monica on June 30, 2010 06:25

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anyone worried about dirty helmets can carry a shower cap in their pocket!!
you can actually also buy disposable helmet liners from big c and tesco lotus!!
nice green highlighting, ed!!

Posted by another steve on June 30, 2010 08:07

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"The roads are packed with cars in plague proportions, and numbers are likely to grow rather than shrink".

There........fixed it for you.

Posted by Sir Burr on June 30, 2010 10:39

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F1 Drivers wear helmets. How many needless deaths in cars do we have every year because drivers and passengers do not wear helmets? We need to start the movement and require all passengers in cars wear helmets.

Posted by Larry on June 30, 2010 12:04

Editor Comment:

If the number of deaths from head injuries in vehicles was great, then Western countries would be insisting on this measure. Seatbelts and airbags have helped. F1 drivers are encouraged to race at great speed. No excessive rush, no real case for helmets. Riders on motorcycles are far more exposed.

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Right on, Monica (Shane's Mum)!

Posted by D on June 30, 2010 13:36

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Nice reporting as ever. Can't see the average Thai or foreigner taking any notice so hope a pain in the pocket will make all of us comply and become safer I am happy it will go island wide.

Out to buy more helmets today for the people I support. Will they wear them ???

Posted by tony pope on July 1, 2010 10:07


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