BANGKOK – Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan is preparing tough new measures against drunk drivers – making the seizure of their vehicles a permanent law.
Prawit said yesterday “I will have discussions with the Transport minister on the issue and will ask the National Legislative Assembly to expedite the case.”
Despite major campaigns against drunk driving, consumption of alcohol remained a major cause of road casualties over the Songkran holidays.
Between April 9 and April 17, some 443,937 motorists were found to have driven while drunk.
Over the period, authorities seized 6,613 motorcycles, cars and pickups because of drunk driving. The measure was possible through a National Council for Peace and Order initiative.
“We have seized these vehicles to prevent road casualties,” Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said yesterday.
As many as 3,447 road accidents took place during the ‘Seven dangerous days’ of the Songkran break.
Some 442 victims died on the roads, while 3,656 others were injured. Only four of Thailand’s 77 provinces were free of road fatalities. They were Trat, Yala, Ranong and Nong Bua Lamphu.
Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasima had the highest death tolls from road accidents, with 19 victims killed on roads in each province.
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department director-general Chat-chai Promlert said drunk driving and speeding were blamed for two-thirds of road accidents over the seven days.
“We will study what happened so as to improve road-safety measures,” he said.
Statistics show drunk drivers caused 34 per cent of road accidents between April 11 and April 17 while speeding accounted for about 33 per cent of the accidents.
About 81 per cent of all accidents involved motorcycles and nine per cent involved pickups.
Anupong, who chairs the Road Safety Thailand Centre, said more |than half the victims were of working age.
Several agencies worked together under the banner of the centre to prevent or minimise road accidents. The centre is very active during the long holiday period such as New Year or Songkran because millions of Thais usually take to the road during the period.
Officials from these agencies checked 4.43 million vehicles during the holiday. As many as 730,271 motorists or passengers were charged with violating traffic laws. Common offences were failing to wear crash helmets and driving without a licence.
Overall, the number of road accidents during the Songkran period rose by 2 per cent when compared with the same period a year earlier.
However, the number of deaths rose significantly – by 21 per cent, apparently because of the severity of accidents.
By Wattana Khamchu, Chitraporn Senwong – The Nation