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in-focus

Road carnage claims 116 lives in two days


Most accidents blamed on speeding, drunk driving; offenders may be asked to do public service.

THE SEVEN days of the Songkran break entered the second day with the number of road fatalities standing at 116, a 97-per-cent increase from the same period last year, the Road Safety Directing Centre said yesterday. 
So far, there have been 907 road accidents, which injured 981 people, higher than last Songkran’s 723 accidents and 765 injuries. 
Drunk driving and speeding were the two biggest factors leading to the road carnage, at about 33 and 35 per cent respectively, while 80 per cent of the accidents involved motorcycles, said Dr Sopon Mekthon, permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry. 
Buri Ram province recorded the highest number of fatalities at eight deaths, followed by Prachin Buri with seven and Phichit with six. Chiang Mai had the highest number of casualties at 48, followed by Udon Thani at 37 and Phitsanulok and Lampang at 32 each. 
Chiang Mai had the highest number of incidents at 45 cases, followed by Udon Thani at 34 and Nakhon Si Thammarat with 32. So far, Samut Prakan is the only province that has not reported a road accident, while 23 provinces have not reported any deaths from road accidents.
On Tuesday alone, there were 520 road accidents killing 64 and wounding 550 others, Sopon said. Officials at 2,125 checkpoints arrested 104,484 law violators – most of whom were nabbed for not wearing a helmet (30,201) or failing to present a driver’s licence (29,747).
As to whether the centre would adjust its plans considering that the death rate has almost doubled, Sopon insisted that the authority’s plans were perfectly fine. 
Chatchai Phromlert, chief of the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department, said April 13 usually saw the highest number of deaths through road accidents every year. Since more than half of such deaths involved locals, he said the centre had instructed provincial authorities to have local administrators warn motorists to be more careful and refrain from traffic-law violations. 
Meanwhile, Pol Colonel Narat Sawetanant, director-general of the Probation Department, said yesterday that his agency was coordinating with hospitals to have people caught for drunk driving during Songkran to provide public service at hospitals as well as to work at morgues and intensive-care and emergency units. He said the court would order drunk-driving offenders to perform at least 48 hours of public service in these areas. 
He said such public work would help the offenders become aware of the consequences their actions can have and also reduce drunk-driving-related accidents by 10-20 per cent. 
A source said the number of Songkran drunk drivers under probation was high and that Bangkok had the highest number of such parolees. In 2011, there were 6,032 drunk-driving offenders on probation nationwide, compared with 5,005 in 2012 and 4,691 in 2013. The number of cases dipped to 3,826 in 2014 and rose to 4,051 in 2015.
As for the agency’s moves to apply “social measures” to punish probation-breaching individuals, Narat said his department was officially cooperating with two agencies. 
From December to February, the Land Transport Department, which screens driving-licence applicants, found that 570 of the applicants were term-breaching parolees. The National Office of Buddhism found 108 parolees trying to be ordained as monks
So far, this Songkran has seen many drunk drivers and speed-limit violators have their vehicles impounded by the authorities. 
In Phitsanulok, 29 vehicles have been seized over the past two days, and they will be kept at an Army camp until April 19, when the motorists can come and reclaim them. In Phuket, a total of 34 vehicles including six cars and a public transport truck were seized from drunk drivers.
In related news, Chana Silpa-acha, 23 – a distant relative of former prime minister Banharn Silpa-Archa – was hit with an additional drunk-driving charge yesterday after tests found him intoxicated with an alcohol level of 0.77 milligram per litre. He had crashed his Toyota Harrier into a Bangkok food shop on Tuesday night, injuring four people. He was initially charged with reckless driving resulting in others’ injury and property damage, but was released on a bail guarantee of Bt20,000, though his vehicle has been impounded. 

Published : April 13, 2016

By : THE NATION