PHUKET: The recent death of a ‘ghost riding’ Thai motorcyclist along Thepkrasattri Road in Thalang (story here) should serve as a sobering reminder to all motorists of the need to be on full alert during the upcoming Songkran holiday period.

As noted in this space numerous times in the past, Phuket seldom experiences the kind of spikes in road accidents, injuries and fatalities that some other provinces suffer over the Songkran period.

The reason for this is pretty obvious when one breaks down annual statistics, both for regular reporting of road accidents as well as during the two annual ‘Seven Days of Danger’ road safety campaigns. These campaigns are mounted during both the western New Year period in Thailand and the highly traditional Songkran holidays in mid-April.

Unlike other more rural provinces, which experience annual spikes during these periods, the numbers for Phuket differ little from the rest of the year. This is likely due in large part to the fact that much of Phuket’s huge migrant workforce returns to home provinces to celebrate the holidays – with some inevitably contributing to the statistics in those locales. Of course, their absence is compensated for in part by an influx of tourists, both Thai and foreign, a percentage of whom are just as inevitably involved in accidents here.

The operation of these road safety campaigns, which rake in huge amounts in fines paid at road checkpoints, probably accounts for a much smaller reduction in accidents than the fact that there are just fewer ‘local’ people on the roads in Phuket during these periods; let’s not forget that the vast majority of serious accidents involve young males on motorbikes, many of them drunk and without helmets.

Thai traffic laws are as well-thought-out and comprehensive as many western countries with far safer roads. The difference, as noted in this space ad nauseam, is in the enforcement. The sad fact is that ‘ghost riding’ (riding on the wrong side of the road against traffic, for newcomers) is common here and often done in full view of police.

For these reasons, the Phuket Gazette advises all motorists to be on full alert, not just during the designated ‘days of danger’, but all-day, every day. Your life could literally depend on it.