30 April 2016
Bangkok – A seminar held by the Independent Organization for Consumer Protection Committee and the network of consumer organizations demanded all double-decker buses in service must pass tilt tests. The event is part of the National Consumer Assembly 2016 titled “Consumer Protection in Aging Society” to mark Thailand’s Consumer Rights Day at the Best Western Plus Wanda Grand Hotel, Nonthaburi.
Kongsak Chuenkrailars, coordinator for Bus Safety Project at the Foundation for Consumers, said double-decker buses were 6 times more likely to have accidents and according to the Department of Land Transport, there were between 50 to 60 accidents involving double -decker buses each year. The situation was probably one of the reasons why Thailand is the country with the second-highest road fatality rate in the world, he said.
Drivers may have been known to be the main cause of accidents; however, safer design and structure of buses can substantially help reduce the damages. It’s time we seriously considered factors other than human, such as the condition or structure of the buses. Driving a double-decker bus at a high speed on accident-prone parts of the road may result in accidents. While driver’s inexperience, dangerous roads, and ill-conditioned buses contribute to accidents, unsafe bus structure such as painted-over rusty structure or unavailability of seat-belts are direct causes of death.
Asst. Prof. Thaweesak Taekratok, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering, Naresuan University, said the problem was consumers had no way of knowing if the bus met any safety standards because the bus service operators never inform them. “If they are able to choose, they will choose to travel with buses that pass tilt tests.”
“Some people are arguing that double-deckers are still used in England. However, they are only used in city areas. In northern Thailand we see more accidents because of sub-standard buses and sub-standard roads. There may be human errors but those errors should never result in deaths. We should not tolerate multiple deaths from road accidents,” said Prof. Taekratok.
Assoc. Prof. Saiprasit Kerdniyom, lecturer at King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, said a lot needed to be done to upgrade Thailand’s safety standards. “Accidents are not the results of what we did in our past lives. It’s how we take care of our vehicles. Even without human errors, accidents are still going to happen because of unfit vehicles,” he said.
Wasan Yitan, a representative from Department of Land Transport, said the department refers to European standards and has been conducting research in conjunction with universities on passenger safety. At present, double-decker buses that do not pass tilt test at 30 degrees cannot be registered.
“According to the new regulations to be announced in 2017, double-decker buses cannot be higher than 4 meters while single-decker buses can only be 3.80 meters high. Besides tilt tests, we will conduct tests on braking system, center of gravity, black smoke, and safety system. The department will protect the rights of consumers,” he said.
Dr. Wasuchet Sophonsatien, president of Thai Transportation Operators Association, said double-decker buses have been in service in Thailand for more than 10 years now. The association has been trying to minimize the number of accidents by controlling both human and bus factors.
“If we look at the overall figure, we will see that it is not that high. But we all need to make sure that there will be less or no accidents. In the future, safe buses will require new regulations for (1) bus owners or operators (2) bus structure; and (3) drivers. The regulations should be finalized by the end of this year,” said Dr. Sophonsatien.
By Sasiwan Parinyart and Smart Sarovat
Photo by Mallisa Kamfoei
Foundation for Consumers (FFC)