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39 killed on roads on day one of Songkran holidays

Number of accidents and injured people well above figures from first day last year; drunk driving the major cause

Some 39 people were killed and 402 others injured in road accidents nationwide on Friday, the first day of the Songkran holiday period from April 11-17, according to the Road Safety Centre. Drunken driving was the major cause at 31 per cent, followed by speeding at 22 per cent.

Transport Ministry deputy permanent secretary Teeraphong Rodprasert said that the 379 crashes on the first day and 402 injuries were 53 and 60 more, respectively, than the first day of last year's Songkran, while the number of deaths on Friday was the same as last year.

Chiang Rai reported the highest number of accidents at 17 and also the most number of deaths at four, while Phrae reported the most injuries at 19, he said. Chachoengsao, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Nayok, Pathum Thani, Mae Hong Son, Rayong, Sukhothai, Nong Khai and Bangkok did not report any accidents on Friday, he added.

Most accidents - 81 per cent - involved motorcycles, followed by pickup trucks at 8.5 per cent, Teeraphong said. About 62 per cent accidents happened on a straight section of the highway while most accidents occurred between 4pm and 8pm and over half (53 per cent) of the people killed or wounded in road accidents were in the working age group (20-49 years old), he said.

The 2,268 checkpoints nationwide, manned by 64,985 officials, arrested 75,630 traffic law breakers, including 23,265, who failed to present a driver's licence and 21,601, who did not wear a helmet while riding motorcycles, Teeraphong said.

In a separate event, Royal Thai Army deputy spokesperson Colonel Sirichan Nga-Thong said 237 Army checkpoints on highways and at tourist attractions would accommodate travellers between April 11-17, while Army hospitals would prepare supplies and manpower to take care of those injured. The Army would also strictly scan for drug or smuggling of illegal items along the borders, she added.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) secretary-general Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen inspected three houses in Bangkok's Lat Phrao area that were placed under the police's project to guard residential houses during Songkran. He said 2,003 homes nationwide were placed under police guardianship during April 8-17. In Bangkok, where 731 homes are in this project, Chokchai had the highest number of participant homes at 45, followed by Hua Mark (25) and Lat Phrao and Bang Na (22 homes each). Among other provinces, Samut Prakan saw the most participation at 120 homes, followed by Nonthaburi 73 homes and Pathum Thani 32 homes, he added.

A nine-vehicle pileup occurred at 5.40am yesterday on Asia Highway in Ang Thong's Muang district but no one was injured. It was reported that a pickup truck, heading northwards, suddenly slammed the brakes leading to a pileup of eight tailing vehicles. The pickup truck fled the scene.

Meanwhile, a 10-wheel truck carrying workers from Myanmar, who were returning to their hometown for Songkran celebrations, yesterday lost control while going downhill and plunged into a ravine in Myawaddy province, about 63 kilometres from the border to Tak's Mae Sot district. Six workers were killed while 39 others were injured. The truck driver jumped out of the vehicle and fled. It was reported that 10,000 Myanmar workers a day returned from Thailand to visit their hometown for Songkran.


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