About 90 percent of fatalities arising from road accidents in Laos are among those riding motorbikes, according to traffic police.
The figure is hardly surprising given the lack of protection motorbikes offer their riders in comparison to larger vehicles. Those riding motorbikes are also mostly poor people or students who are less likely to be able to afford adequate medical care if they become involved in an accident.
Just last week, 31 road accidents were reported in Vientiane including five deaths. All five deaths occurred among those riding motorbikes.
The police have warned that stronger measures are needed including a road safety campaign encouraging all drivers to follow the regulations and for motorcyclists to wear their helmets. However helmets alone are unlikely to save a motorcyclist if they are involved in a collision with a speeding car or pickup truck.
Head of the Vientiane Police Traffic Advertisement Unit Major Bounmark Soundalay told Vientiane Times yesterday that most of the fatal road accidents were in suburbs of the capital and mainly happened after 8pm in the evening.
“I’m very concerned about road accidents in our country because the numbers seem to be going up not down,” he said.
The major warned that from now until New Year there will be many more festivals and parties in Laos which will encourage more people to drive home from parties and celebrations whilst they are intoxicated.
At night, many accidents occur because there are not many cars on the roads so people tend to speed, which is an especially dangerous mix when larger vehicles are mixing on the roads with motorbikes.
The enforcement of the traffic regulations is very weak in Laos with many people drinking and driving illegally.
It is common to see large vehicles travelling at high speeds and then overtaking slower traffic with little or no regard for people waiting to turn left or even those in the other lane coming in the opposite direction.
Undoubtedly many of the motorcyclists who die on the roads were also speeding or taking risks. But disproportionately, the deaths are a mongst the urban poor who cannot afford the protection that a car affords.
Despite the risk of dying on the roads being one of the biggest dangers in urban Laos the emergency rescue services seem to receive very little in the way of funding from donors despite saving numerous lives every day.
On average, 80 percent of road accidents involve people aged 15 to 44. As of September this year, the accident toll nationwide has reached 4,403 in which 734 people have been killed and 6,946 injured. Meanwhile damages amounted to over 54 billion kip.
The continuing road carnage has sparked rising concerns across society that the government needs to come up with stronger and more effective measures to deal with the problem.
Traffic police say the majority of the problem, about 95 percent, was caused by the drivers themselves with the other five percent coming from vehicle failures and poor road quality.
Last year, 873 people were killed in road accidents nationwide.
Source: Vientiane Times