Injured in a road traffic collision: May 2004
My motorcycle collided into the rear of the motorcycle in front of me. I was driving at about 80 km/hour. I was thrown forward and landed on the pavement hitting my head and left shoulder. Luckily I was wearing my helmet.
Satien Luangpitak, injured victim
I am 28 years old and I work as a motorcycle taxi driver. Many people in urban Thailand use motorcycle taxis to get around. I was involved in a crash in May 2004. After dropping a passenger off, I drove in heavy traffic and tried to overtake someone from the right, which is the correct way to overtake in Thailand. Another motorcycle taxi in front of me spotted a passenger and stopped short. My motorcycle collided into the rear of the motorcycle in front of me. I was driving at about 80 km/hour. I was thrown forward and landed on the road with my head and left shoulder hitting the pavement. Luckily I was wearing my helmet. I lost consciousness for about half an hour. Another motorcycle taxi driver stopped to help me.
He was worried that if he called Emergency Medical Services they would take at least 10 minutes to come. He removed me from the roadway and took me to a nearby hospital. We later learnt that lifting a crash victim without immobilizing him or her can cause a spinal cord injury. When we got to the hospital we found out that it did not have a trauma centre. We were sent to another general hospital with a trauma centre, 3.5 kilometres away, where they treated me for trauma to the head and shoulder.
I was discharged from the hospital after six hours. I had to wear a neck brace and partial body brace. I could return to a full work schedule after one month. Aside from my loss of consciousness immediately after the accident, I haven’t suffered any ill effects from the trauma to my head. My shoulder is 100% functional. But I still have pain in my neck and shoulder when I use my left arm to lift heavy things.
The police temporarily impounded both motorcycles. They decided no traffic rule violations had occurred and returned the motorcycles. My treatment costs were paid for by Thailand’s mandatory third-party liability insurance coverage. It cost me 15 000 baht to repair the motorcycle and my lost income added up to 10 000 baht.
I have an uncle who was involved in a similar accident. His head injury required operations and resulted in some disability. I worry that I may eventually be involved in a crash that will be debilitating. I am afraid to drive at higher speeds and I find it very stressful when my passengers refuse to wear helmets. I am much more worried about road safety now than I was before the accident. I used to wear my helmet only in the vicinity of the Ministry of Health because it is an area of no tolerance and strict enforcement. Now I always wear my helmet. I bought disability insurance.
I feel very strongly that helmet use should be more strongly enforced by the government. A combination of social security and mandatory disability insurance would recover the lost income of injured drivers.
I am upset that no one, not even the medical staff especially trained to deal with motorcycle crash victims, advised me to replace my helmet. No one told me that a helmet that absorbed the impact of a crash is no longer protective and must be replaced.
I am very concerned about the safety of motorcycle taxi drivers. In my area alone, there are 300 active motorcycle taxis. In one year, one motorcycle taxi driver was killed and six drivers were seriously injured. Families also suffer emotionally when husbands and fathers are involved in crashes. My accident was very stressful for my wife. Now she is constantly worried about my being involved in another crash. Drivers run the risk of losing income, or worse, of losing their lives.
Satien Luangpitak, injured victim
Most motorcycle deaths are a result of head injuries. Wearing a motorcycle helmet correctly can cut the risk of death by almost 40%, and the risk of severe injury by 70%.