For decades, Thailand has been a tourist destination with extremely dangerous roads. That danger was evident yet again this week when four young Swedish tourists and their Thai driver were killed in a head-on collision on the Thai island of Phuket.
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According to the Phuket Gazette, the accident happened yesterday morning while the four Swedes and their driver were on their way to Koh Tao, one of Thailand's most famous diving spots. The compact car the five were traveling in was hit head-on by a six-wheel refrigerated truck. The five were killed instantly.
The Swedes were Johan Olof Nikolas Svensson, Frida Madeleine Falk, Anders Tobias Larsson, and Elin Marita Hedbris. They were 21 and 22-years old. Their Thai driver, Wichit Phromluang, was 26.
As often happens in Thailand, the driver of the truck escaped serious injury, and fled the scene. Phuket police are now looking for him. When caught he will likely apologize and then state he wants to become a Buddhist monk for a few months, in an effort to escape severe punishment. Again, something that happens so often in Thailand now, Thais even joke about it.
The dangers on Thailand's roads are well-known by foreigners like myself, who've lived in the country for years. Many of us don't travel long journeys on Thai roads, either on buses or in cars, as there are simply too many accidents. Flying is often the safest way to go.
Unfortunately, foreign tourists seem to be unaware of Thailand's dangerous roads, as is evidenced by the number of tourist traffic deaths every year. Due to this ignorance, there's currently a campaign in the UK run by a group of British mothers who lost their young adult children in bus accidents while on Thailand vacations, and who now want to make others aware of the dangers.
Their campaign has been so successful, even the British Foreign Office is sitting up and taking notice, and starting to warn British tourists to Thailand about the danger of Thai roads.
The cause of many of Thailand's accidents is drunk-driving, excessive speed, and a plethora of drivers who drive without licenses.
According to the British Foreign Office, more than 12,000 people are killed on Thai roads every year, an enormous amount for a country with a population the same size as the UK, where deaths caused by traffic accidents rarely reach more than 3,000. In reality, most Thais will tell you that number is a lot higher. The deaths are just not always reported by local officials.
The Thai government does run safe driving and anti-drinking-and-driving campaigns regularly but, as traffic violations are rarely ticketed by Thailand's police force, they're currently fighting a losing battle.
Meanwhile, the bodies of the four Swedish tourists and their Thai driver have been taken to Vachira Phuket Hospital. The families of the Swedes are being assisted by the Swedish Embassy in Bangkok.