MOTORISTS FAILING to make way for ambulances may face harsher punishments in addition to social ostracism for “endangerment to others” as netizens join with the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and the police to get tough on offenders.
The fine for blocking an ambulance could be raised from the current Bt500 to Bt10,000 or as high as Bt20,000 if the NLA passes legislation being called for by two Facebook-based campaigners for changes to the Land Transport Act.
NLA First Vice President Surachai Liangboonlertchai yesterday collected the petition demanding an open passage for ambulances and emergency vehicles from “Street Hero Project” administrator Weerakij Akaracho-tewit and “Mor Lab Panda” administrator and medical technologist Phakphum Dejhasdin.
Surachai said he would forward the petition to the Royal Thai Police, along with recommendations by the NLA committee on integrating and coordinating emergency rescue services, which he chairs.
Surachai said the committee had discussed how to hold accountable and punish drivers who intentionally failed to make way for emergency vehicles causing an on-board patient to later die.
The panel decided that the authorities should ask a doctor to determine whether delay had contributed to the death. The accused person’s intention and behaviour could also be factors for determining a punishment beyond the normal fine, he said.
The move followed several incidents in the past month where cars blocked ambulances from passing.
On April 24, a social media user named “Weera Boonjit” posted a video clip of an ambulance with a patient on board being blocked by a pickup truck that refused to move out of the right lane in Phetchabun’s Nong Phai district. The post, which received 644,000 views and was shared by 1,700 others, attracted a lot of criticism of the truck driver.
Weera said that because an ambulance usually drove at high speed to save lives, it requires the right lane and so others should move to the left and let it pass.
Another caught-on-camera incident took place on April 6. Social media user “Kenzaa Standby” posted the video clip of a Suzuki Swift sedan sticking to the right lane despite the tailing ambulance’s lights and blaring siren.
Prasit Raemkhonburi, 61, who was being transported by ambulance from Lat Krabang Hospital to Nakhon Ratchasima’s Khon Buri Hospital, was pronounced dead later that day.
His daughter, Saijai said Prasit suffered oxygen-deprivation to his brain, and was being sent to be treated at his hometown hospital nearer to relatives as there was a chance he would be in coma after surgery. She said the family forgave the sedan driver and didn’t wish to press charges because they wished Prasit’s spirit to be at peace.
The sedan belonged to Panuwat Sricharoen, an official at the National Institute for Emergency Medicine (NIEM), who allowed his girlfriend, Jiraporn Juisa-ngiam to drive while he slept in the car, according to NIEM chief Dr Atchariya Paengma.
Panuwat claimed that the driver was shocked to see an ambulance tailing behind and she was not a good driver.
The agency gave him a warning and a probe is to be launched.
Panuwat apologised to all sides and offered his condolence to Prasit’s family in a video clip posted on the “Street Hero Project” page on April 10.
National police deputy chief Pol General Weerachai Songmetta, said Jiraporn was summoned by police on April 10 to hear the charge of failure to make way for an ambulance, which is punishable by a Bt500 fine.
This incident prompted national police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda to order that police help accommodate emergency vehicles at intersections.