Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thailand: 220 deaths and 2,658 injured

You didn't read that news about Thailand in the New York Times, did you? Or any other US newspaper or tv news?

Because this was traffic deaths during the Songkran holiday period which began as the rioting was winding down. Traffic deaths are not as important to us as rioting or terrorist deaths. (I imagine to the families they are, but not to the media or to politicians.)

There are about 40,000 annual traffic deaths in the US. That's about 340,000 people killed in the United States since 9/11. The number of people killed by terrorist attack inside the US has been about 3000 since 9/11. (A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report says 2008 was the lowest number - 37,313 - since 1961 due to more seatbelt use and less driving because of high gas prices.)

Finding figures on how much we've spent on the war on terror - including Iraq and Afganistan - is much harder on Google than one would expect, but the numbers in this March 2006 article cover the range pretty much:
within another three years, total direct and indirect costs to U.S. taxpayers will likely by more than $400 billion, and one estimate puts the total economic impact at up to $2 trillion.

So, we got lots of news about Thai red shirt demonstrators in the streets, but the reports I've read say that only two people died. But right after the demonstrations were over and Songkran festivities began, 220 people have died already in Thailand. And who is covering that?

Tourists left Bangkok because of riots. But being on the roads of Thailand is much more dangerous. Especially on a motorcycle. What we know about the world - especially places and events we don't see with our own eyes - is largely shaped by the media and what stories they choose to report and choose not to. And how they report the stories and how much time they spend on them. So the tourists came to Thailand even though traffic collisions are high because they don't pay much attention to that (until they get there.) But the visions of rioters in the street looked far more dangerous. But actually weren't.

We pay much less attention to traffic deaths than to riot or terrorist deaths. If saving people's lives were the important factor, would we have spent huge amounts of money to send soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan while spending a tiny fraction of that to prevent traffic deaths? Don't forget 340,000 in traffic deaths v. 3000 in terrorist attack in the US since 9/11. But we didn't spend 100 times as much to prevent traffic deaths. What if we did? or just 100 times more than we spend now to prevent traffic deaths?

Here's more on the Thai story from the Nation via ThaiVisa
BANGKOK: -- Road casualties climbed to 220 deaths and 2,658 people injured as 2,658 accidents were recorded nationwide in the first four of the "seven most dangerous days" of the Songkran festival.

Chiang Rai had the most accidents at 102 followed by Nakhon Si Thammarat at 94, Paichit Varachit, deputy permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry, said yesterday.

Monday alone saw 863 traffic accidents with 81 deaths and 940 injuries.

Driving under the influence of alcohol was the major cause of accidents followed by speeding.

Most mishaps involved motorcycles driven from 4pm-8pm.

The rest is at the link above.

You may or may not have noticed that I have not used the term "traffic accidents" in this post. My son has convinced me that most so called traffic collisions are preventable.

Also, doing this post brought to my attention the difficulty in getting budget estimates for traffic death prevention. Obviously there are bits of money in different federal appropriations and then each state has its own appropriations on this. But you'd think there were people specializing in this topic who would have reasonable estimates. Maybe they just don't post them on the web. Or their sites come up low on Google.


  1. I am curious, so how did u navigate around T- land,
    and decrease the odds of not being a stastistic, in some data base,
    any precautions you took ?
    Sounds like a lots of booze flowing as to people on
    Motor- bikes. Can u imagine the data in
    the U S if most traveled on motor-bikes,
    as main means of transportation ?

  2. "Don't forget 340,000 in traffic deaths v. 3000 in terrorist attack in the US since 9/11. But we didn't spend 100 times as much to prevent traffic deaths. What if we did? or just 100 times more than we spend now to prevent traffic deaths?"

    I am wondering how many more they had expected in terrorist deaths. Were they expecting more? Did our efforts reduce terrorist deaths?

    There is the provisional drivers license now that kids need to get in Alaska and I wonder if it has cut traffic deaths back. Other than DUI commercials and putting more police out on the roads, I am not sure how traffic deaths are attempted to be reduced.

    Thank you for showing us these statistics and what we look at and how we spend our money. There is less industry in preventing traffic deaths than in the military.

  3. Anon- The US Peace Corps and other agencies sponsoring volunteers, including mine, prohibit volunteers riding motorcycles. The VSO (a non-governmental British volunteer organization on whose site I couldn't find the acronym spelled out), according to a volunteer I spoke to last year, gives their volunteers motorcycle training and requires they wear a particular helmet. A Canadian volunteer also got a particular helmet, but I don't think any training.

    We rode bicycles, walked, and took songthaews - covered pickups that have benches in the back and work like jitneys. Traffic in town was really quite civilized once we figured out the norms. On the narrow back streets I rode to get to work, cars waited patiently behind me without ever honking until they could pass safely.

    On the highways it's another story where people are driving fast and passing in questionable places.

    Kellie, It's always hard to calculate what didn't happen. Without the efforts of Homeland Security would there have been more attacks? I'm sure some where deflected, but given that we have so many vulnerable targets - particularly utilities or any large gathering of people - that were not attacked, I question how much of a threat there really was. Yes, there was a threat, but the only airports I had to remove my shoes at were US. I think the administration used the terror fear to do a lot of other things on their agenda. And how many Iraqi and Afghan civilians died to save American civilians from terorists? And what costs will America bear over the years with all the military returning with buried traumas lurking in their psyches? I'm hoping to do a post soon on the Israeli movie Dancing with Bashir which is about Israeli veterans dealing with dreams and suppression of memories of war.

  4. Well, in Hungary Budapest is fat the greatest city and there are some cities which are above 10 000 but most of them are under 10 000 so from that view these are serious numbers.

  5. Oh Oh, a can of worms, Vets returning from Iraq, Afghan, and what is indeed in their pshyches. Tim McVeigh, his response on killing kids at at a day care center, OKC, just "collaterial damage".
    However, the highest suicide rate in America is Vets returning from Iraq, and Afghan.
    Of course, in any data base it is hard to compare numbers, & in the car death rate, it is spread over so many areas of a large nation.
    Teenagers drinking has been put in the insurance premium rates, which are very high to insure teen drivers--of cars.
    I don't think some( e. g lower 48) realize there are limited roads in Alaska, and how isolated so many areas are.
    Not to digress, but the Governor(Sarha) has pointed out, she can see Russia, from her Vally House, which became part of a Saturday Night Live Skit.(foreign policy experience---stretch).
    Which brings us, to the paper by Nick Marsh on the Russian Mafia....
    So, how does the USA compare to other places in safety, health, living conditions ?
    The USA consumption of oil/ hydrocabons is much higher than T -land,as it is visa via most other places(all in fact on the earth).
    I think some can really tell a lot about a Nation by how they treat their most powerful, like Ted Stevens, and the double standard in the justice system.
    Yet, many in Alaska don't see it as being in the USA(its whole) as being part of, except some money flows for select groups, making Alaksa the biggest per capita drain on the U S treasury. That dividend check all get, think what it could have done on public works projects. But instead, there is a different mindset in AK.
    Like it is Ak v the USA, Joe Volker mentality, at large, still.
    This Stevens thing is going to have some blow-back, in some unintended consquences, as citizen are fed up, with the sense that Ted Stevens clique is just a feeding farm for the rest of America, to suck out large wads of money, and cavort with the Allen's of the world, and then be totally unaccountable.
    But, then the only constant is change, and it is accelerating, indeed.

  6. From afar, the number of dead, seems to have no meaning, to some who use some metric of comparison in some cold lab or room, of number runs.
    Would that be liking counting up all the dead in Russia, in WW-II, and comparing, and then discounting.
    To each person who died, there is some relative, some daughter, some son, some somebody, who the death of a human has great meaning/ impact.
    All that comparative data churning, obscures so much.
    It is like the auto maker, who sees that it would cost more for a fix, so he puts the cost of some dead bodies in some spread sheet calculus, to cheapen life.

  7. DOes anyone knows any website that contains data on Songkran deaths on the 7 days of Songkran for the past 10 years. I have to do a group presentation on Songkran. THen I also have to make 10 interesting questions about Songkran. Like does most of the deaths occur during the day or at night etc.


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