First came speed cameras, now Chiang Mai will become the first province in Thailand to install “helmet cameras” in the biggest effort yet to reduce deadly motorcycle accidents.
Pol. Lt. Col. Supachai Chantra, deputy cammander of traffic police in the northern province, and accident-prevention project chief Thirawut Komutabut announced the pilot project that begins Dec. 15 was more about education than fines, although they couldn’t deny that traffic-ticket revenue would explode, at least at first.
Just as CCTV cameras that catch lead-footed drivers drastically cut the number of speeders, Supachai said it’s hoped that cameras, persistent fines and education will cut road fatalities involving motorbikes by 80 percent.
Under a grant from the Safer Road Foundation, two “Smart AI Cameras” will be installed in each of Muang, San Sai, Saraphi, Mae Rim and Hang Dong districts. Signs also will be posted warning motorcyclists about the cameras and explaining the risks of not wearing helmets. “AI” stands for “artificial intelligence, referring to how the camera’s software will use machine learning to determine which motorists are wearing helmets or not.
Thailand has one of the highest road-fatality rates in the world with motorcycles involved in more than 80 percent of those deaths. In Chiang Mai, 504 people have been killed in road accidents this year, 398 of them on motorcycles. In the five targeted districts alone there have been 243 deaths, 204 of them riding motorbikes.
Police in each district will review the photos of offending motorcyclists and deliver tickets in person to the owner’s home to explain the risk of driving without a helmet.
Of course, drivers and passengers also will be fined 800 and 400 baht, respectively. It’s hoped education and repeated fines wil result in an 80 percent reduction in fatalities in the five districts.
The original version of this story appears in the Chiang Mai Mail, a Bangkok Herald partner.