March 06, 2018

Analysts warn economic losses from road accidents are immense

By:  Somsack Pongkhao, Vientiane Times, March 1, 2018

VIENTIANE - While road accidents have become the main cause of fatalities in Laos, the economic losses resulting from these tragedies are massive, analysts say.

Every day at least three people are killed in road accidents, mostly because of speeding, drunk driving or similar irresponsible behaviour.

According to police reports, the number of people killed in road accidents across Laos dropped marginally from 1,086 in 2016 to 1,053 in 2017, but the number of accidents increased from 5,616 to 5,868 in the same period.

The number of people injured rose from 8,912 in 2016 to 9,640 in 2017, while the number of vehicles damaged increased from 10,305 in 2016 to 10,379 in 2017.

The cost of property damage in these incidents increased from more than 81 billion kip in 2016 to more than 91 billion kip in 2017.

In January this year alone, 595 road accidents took place nationwide, killing 105 people, and the cost of property damage was as high as 10 billion kip.

Experienced independent economist Dr Mana Southichak told Vientiane Times on Wednesday the value of economic losses could be far more than the initial statistics reported by police.

He stressed that every accident involved an economic cost, not to mention the social burden placed on the families of the victims.

 “Road accidents hinder national development and cause enormous harm to our country. The total value of economic losses from road accidents is uncountable,” Dr Mana said.

He gave an example of one family that was involved in a road accident. The family not only lost money by paying hospital bills but also lost time in running their business. 

Many people spend millions of kip to settle legal cases after disputes with other motorists involved in accidents.

Another economist, Dr Leeber Leebouapao, observed that accidents have an adverse impact on the country’s human resources, particularly when essential members of the workforce are involved.

Dr Leeber said accidents also affected the livelihoods of impoverished families, particularly if the victim was the household breadwinner, while an accident could also cause a well-off family to slip into poverty.

According to the Asean Regional Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan (2005–2010), over 75,000 people were expected to have died and over 4.7 million were crippled or injured annually in road accidents across the region, which could cost the Asean economy about US$15 billion each year.

It was projected that a further 385,000 deaths could be reported which might cause the region to lose around US$88 billion from its economy by 2015.

One of the most effective ways to reduce the accident toll is to enforce the law. All drivers must be held responsible for their actions while the police need to work harder to control traffic and take disciplinary action.

The police also need to educate members of the public and warn drivers not to violate the traffic regulations, aiming to change motorists’ behaviour and attitude in the pursuit of road safety.

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