Motorbikes are everywhere in Chiang Mai! I've never seen so many on a regular basis as I see here. What's interesting to me is that young and old, male and female and even whole families ride on these motorbikes, as they are commonly called here. There are rental shops for the bikes on every block, and usually more than one. Many also purchase motorbikes, if they are locals or planning to live here for an extended stay.
I've found it fun to watch with wonder the people as they are darting in and out of traffic, and seemingly fearless as they do so. Many of the drivers are tourists, and I'm guessing that many are not familiar with Chiang Mai roads. Yet, most of the motorbike drivers navigate around the city, using the bikes as their main means of transportation. It's quite a scene to behold.
Being that I've been mostly a day time observer of the drivers, and while I've noted huge numbers of bikes on the roads as nighttime draws nearer, I was falsely lulled into a view that the whole scene was quite fun and safe.
I've not witnessed or even heard sirens from one accident in the 2 months I've been here. In Chicago, fender benders and full out accidents were a daily occurrence. Sirens were part of the usual din of the city. Thus my assumption was that while the roads look really chaotic here, and the traffic at times is extremely congested, somehow people managed to safely drive from place to place and have fun while doing so.
I usually take the hotel shuttle, Songtaews (red trucks with bench seating for about 10 at a time) or Tuk Tuks (open air seating for 2-3 people vehicles with drivers), and I decided to inquire about the number of accidents. While not having an in-depth conversation, due to language barriers, the two drivers I asked said that there were many accidents when I asked if there were any accidents in Chiang Mai since I'd not seen any.
Doing some online research, I discovered that the statistics are pretty grim and there are many accidents and many deaths each year. There is a festival in April where the accident and death count is particularly high, especially in Chiang Mai, but all year accidents are a problem.
In a recent article in the Bangkok Post, a respected news source in Thailand, World Health Organization (WHO) is quoted as stating that 24,000 people die each year in traffic accidents in Thailand. 80.67% of the accidents were motorcycles and Thailand is ranked 2nd in the world for traffic fatalities in terms of per capita deaths, according to WHO. Libya is #1.
While burying my head in the sand is not what I'm advocating, I really preferred having less information in this case. While riding in my relatively safe vehicles, it has been a favorite past time of mine to watch all the motorbikes and the people driving them. They usually make me smile and often are a funny sight, causing me to laugh. I now will pray for them that they stay safe, in order that they can have another fun drive on another day.
Sending You Love from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Thank you for taking this journey with me!
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