Don’t drive when you drink - a responsibility to yourself and other road users

As Lao New Year approaches, the time of festivities and merrymaking should not be marred with calamity. Refrain from driving when drinking alcohol, and don’t speed!

Mr. Khamsouk Xayadeth is an office worker, living alone after his wife passed away six years ago, with a son who has his own family. But an accident on 4 March 2016 drastically changed his life. He remembers the day vividly: “That evening on my way home from work by motorbike, a car drove very fast, hit me and practically tore off my left leg. The driver of the car had been drinking. I cannot tell you how depressed I am after the accident.”

Every year, 337,000 people are killed in the Western Pacific Region as a result of road traffic crashes. Road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged 15–44 years, and 3 out of 4 road traffic deaths victims are males. Many million more people like Mr. Khamsouk suffer non-fatal injuries, incurring a disability as a result of their injury.

Mr. Khamsouk at the National Medical Rehabilitation Centre where he attends physiotherapy sessions

In Lao PDR, 5,616 road accidents are reported in 2016, killing over 1,000 and injuring approximately 9,000 people. Of those injured, more than 1,000 were left in a critical condition. The Traffic Police Department confirmed that the number of road accidents has been increasing as motorists violate the traffic rules. About 90 per cent of accidents involved drink driving and speeding, and many accidents occur during festive occasions when people get together to drink.

Road traffic injuries are preventable

Road traffic injuries are not “accidents”. “Accidents” are defined as unexpected outcomes that occur by chance. Road traffic injuries are results of well-established risk factors like speeding and driving when drunk. Wearing motorcycle helmets and seatbelts can reduce the risk of fatality by 40 per cent and risk of severe injury by over 70 per cent.

Avoid using your mobile phones while driving can also contributes to making the roads safer, since texting, calling or taking your hands off the wheel will distract the driver from the road visually, manually and cognitively.

Drinking and driving increases both the risk of a crash and the likelihood that death or serious injury will be the result.

Speeding

Pedestrians and motorists have a higher chance of surviving a car crash at 30 km/hour or below. This speed is recommended for areas with vulnerable road users, near schools and residential areas.

The 4th UN Road Safety Week held between 8 and 14 May, will focus on speed and what can be done to address this key risk factor. Many countries have successfully reduced road traffic deaths by enforcing speed limits and raising awareness of the dangers of speeding.

WHO Representative to Lao PDR Dr. Juliet Fleischl shares the road safety message “Save lives #SlowDown”

Dr Juliet said “We have seen the number of road traffic accidents and injuries increasing in Lao PDR. As a road user, it is your responsibility to fellow road users to drive safely, slow down, do not speed and to refrain from driving if you had been drinking alcohol.”

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