Motorcycles are one of the most popular forms of transport in Southeast Asia and a particularly appealing way to get around for visitors in holiday destinations like Phuket, Bali or Koh Samui. Renting a scooter can be a fun and convenient way to travel, but safety on the road should always remain a priority, even when enjoying a relaxed island environment.
You don't see many local people walking anywhere in Thailand
, except perhaps around the Kingdom's many markets and shopping
malls. Despite the addition of an efficient Sky Train and MRT subway system in the last decade, Bangkok had more than 7 million registered vehicles driving around the city last year, which according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is around 4.4 million more that the capital was built to accommodate.
A popular way to avoid traffic jams in Asia is to travel by scooter. In fact, even families with cars often have one for local jaunts to the shops, and savvy commuters in Bangkok take motorbike taxis to and from their house to the nearest public transport stop rather than getting stuck in the traffic.
On holiday islands like Phuket
scooters are often used by local people for shorter journeys, although delivery staff and hotel employees may also travel much longer distances on a moped during the course of their working day. Holidaymakers also understandably enjoy the freedom to explore their locality on two wheels, and with road rules and restrictions somewhat relaxed, it's not uncommon to see a shirtless foreigners in shorts and flip flops whizzing along the beach road between day-time sun sessions and party nights.
Although renting a scooter definitely adds a convenient dimension to the vacation, high accident rates on holiday islands mean that despite the freedom motorbikes offer, a responsible (albeit often self-imposed) approach to road safety is definitely advisable. Statistics show that on average only around 50 per cent of people killed or injured in motorbike accidents on tourist islands are wearing helmets. The hot sun and sea breeze may make such head gear seem cumbersome, but the consequences of a crash are much more serious without this essential form of protection.
In recent years, Phuket has become one of the top three provinces in Thailand when it comes to riders wearing helmets. Increasingly frequent checks by the police have helped reduce the number of deaths in traffic accidents on the island by 40 per cent compared with five years ago. Over on Samui, the rules are still more relaxed and serious injuries therefore more common, while on Bali its a similar story, with reports suggesting that at least three people die in crashes every day and 150 accident victims are admitted to hospital.
The local government on Phuket now runs an annual "Seven Days of Danger" campaign over the New Year period, setting up checkpoints around the island and handing out pink helmets from a motorcade of “safe riders” to encourage riders and passengers to wear helmets every time they get on a motorbike. Although the campaign has yet to achieve its goal of zero road deaths during the New Year festivities, awareness has definitely approved among local people as a result, and widespread publicity also reminds visitors that roads can be just as dangerous in paradise as they are anywhere else in the world.
If you do decide to rent a scooter to nip around your chosen island destination
, make sure you stay safe by following a few common sense rules. If you choose to leave your road sense at the airport, you could quickly ruin your entire holiday, or even worse, the rest of your life.
Safe rider tips
1. Don't rent a scooter if you have never ridden one before.
2. Always wear a helmet as head injuries are the most common in scooter accidents.
3. Proper footwear and long trousers may prevent burns and grazes in the case of minor scrapes.
4. Drive slowly and be aware of sand, stones and stray dogs on the road.
5. Keep your eyes on the road — cars and motorbikes often stop suddenly or pull out without warning.
6. Avoid driving a scooter at night.
7. Don't drive drunk — other people might, so keep a safe distance.
by LVH Marketing