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March a deadly month for Burma’s dangerous roads

File photo of traffic in downtown Rangoon, July 2014. (Photo: Feliz Solomon / DVB)

Nearly 500 people were killed in road accidents last month alone, according to figures released by Burma’s police this week.

Rangoon led the way, with 67 fatalities from 279 accidents. For the country as a whole, the number of fatalities from 1,485 recorded accidents reached 498, with more than 2,500 people injured.

Other urban centers also saw high traffic-related death rates, reflecting an increase in the number of vehicles on the road as the country’s economy rapidly expands after decades of stagnation. In Mandalay, Burma’s second-largest city, 66 people were killed in 182 accidents last month.

In Pegu Division, near Rangoon, the number of deaths from 214 road accidents was also 66.

Nationwide, Karenni State had the lowest incidence of traffic fatalities, with just five people killed and nine injured in eight accidents.

The total figure represents a dramatic increase over last year, when an average of 333 people were killed in road accidents each month in Burma. The total for all of 2014 was 4,300, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Dozens more died last month than in February, when 413 people were killed in 1,360 accidents, and April is expected to be even worse, as the country gears up for the annual Thingyan water festival, which typically results in a spike in road accidents

Burma’s authorities blame most accidents on speeding, unsafe overtaking, drunk driving and inexperienced drivers, although poor road conditions are also seen as a major factor.