State agencies and security forces to go all out in bid to cut Songkran fatalities, accidents
STRICTER TRAFFIC enforcement will be implemented over the Songkran break in an effort to cut the number of road deaths and injuries, authorities said yesterday.
With the ultimate goal of reducing the death toll to zero, police and military agencies, plus public and private sector groups have joined forces to campaign for safer roads for the “7 dangerous days” from this Tuesday until midnight on April 17 – to set up more traffic checkpoints and tighter traffic law enforcement, especially against drunk and speeding drivers.
After a deadly New Year festival, which saw a national death toll of 478 and some 3,919 accidents, the government aims to slash the number of deaths and accidents for the upcoming Songkran holiday.
Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department deputy director-general Kobchai Boonyaorana said the reason for ramping up traffic law enforcement was because statistics showed that the main cause of road accidents in Thailand was lack of traffic discipline.
“We have learned from previous traffic accident monitoring periods that we have a problem in our traffic law and law enforcement. So, this Songkran Festival, we had to come up with many tighter measures, such as requiring all passengers in the car to wear their seatbelts all the time and forbidding passengers to sit in the back of the [pickup] truck,” Kobchai said.
He cited an example of the horrendous accident on January 2 when a passenger van collided with a pickup truck loaded with passengers, killing 25 people in two vehicles and injuring two others. “Therefore, we aim to cut the death toll and accident count for this year as much as possible,” he said.
The Road Safety Directing Centre also reported that drunk drivers, speeding, and improper driving manners were the top three reasons behind most accidents during the last New Year and Songkran Festival.
Pol Col Weerawit Wachanapukka, deputy head of the Traffic Police Division, said that to efficiently enhance traffic law enforcement, police would set up regular traffic checkpoints across the country during Songkran.
“Police will set up more than 120 checkpoints in Bangkok and even more in other provinces to boost traffic discipline among road users, to check for drunk drivers, and facilitate transport vehicles during the rush period, when a large amount of people will return home and come back to Bangkok,” Weerawit said.
“The police will also work with the local authorities and let them set up local traffic checkpoints on local roads to increase road safety in local areas.”
Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda said the government was concerned about the safety of people who will travel during Songkran, so there would be stricter road-safety measures to enhance law enforcement and let officers from relevant agencies work together to ensure convenience and security for drivers transporting people this festive season.
“We are encouraging people to follow the traffic rules and drive safely from this Songkran Festival onward. I am sure that these measures will make the roads safer,” Anupong said.
He said he had ordered local officials to set their own goals and measures to prevent road accidents in their areas. There would also be inspections in all areas to make sure there is an adaptation of the Pracha Rath – public/private partnership – scheme.
Kobchai said private vehicles used to transport people would be closely monitored, and drivers of public buses and passenger vans would also be strictly examined before and during their duty.
“There will be an inspection of every driver of a public transport vehicle before they start their journey to check that they are in good condition – well-rested and not drunk – before driving,” he said.
While there had been many complaints about stricter enforcement of traffic rules, Weerawit said the measures were meant to ensure the safety of road users, so that drivers and other people on the roads can get to their destinations safely.
“We understand that it was quite sudden when we announced stricter law enforcement during this period. But if we consider the truth – that we have the second highest death toll from road accidents in the world – I think this can be our fresh start to solve our chronic road accident problems,” he said.
In 2016, 3,373 road accidents happened during the seven dangerous days associated with the Songkran Festival.
What are the common causes of accidents?
-Drunk driving 34%
-Sudden overtaking 18.5%
-Poor visibility 13.7%
-Falling asleep behind wheel 3%
-Ignoring traffic lights 0.5%
-Ignoring traffic signs 0.5%
-Driving against designated traffic direction 1%
-Overtaking via left lane 1%
-Using cellphone while driving 0.3 %
Source: Road Safety Directing Centre