The number of road accidents saw a sharp increase on the third of the “Seven Dangerous Days” of Songkran this year, as more people were found to be driving under the influence of alcohol besides being guilty of speeding.
The Road Safety Operations Centre (RSOC) on Sunday revealed that 700 accidents had been recorded in the 24 hours of Saturday, killing 67 persons and injured 733.
Drink-driving and speeding remained the biggest causes of death during the festive season.
Local authorities have been ordered to impose even stricter law enforcement to prevent traffic accidents during the rest of the Seven Dangerous Days.
Cultural Promotion Department director-general Chai Nakhonchai revealed that deaths from road traffic injuries had reached 174 on Sunday, while the number of injuries were at 1,728 from 1,665 recorded accidents during the first three days of the annual road safety promotion week.
Chai said that since people had started Songkran celebrations, traffic accidents had seen a steep spike, especially on minor roads.
He said the RSOC had identified drink-driving as the most prominent cause of road accidents, contributing to 42% of the accidents on Saturday, while speeding was the second major cause, contributing to 26% of overall accidents.
Thanapong Jinvong, manager of Road Safety Group Thailand, said on Sunday that the number of deaths from road accidents between April 11 and 13 dropped to 174, down 17% from the same period last year.
“The death toll remained high and most road accidents involved drunk drivers,” said Thanapong, who is also secretary of Road Safety Foundation.
He also raised concern over weak law enforcement by the Criminal Court. Although the government has a policy to impose heavy penalties on drunk drivers, judges think otherwise, he lamented.
Judges are worried that government guidelines may run against the spirit of law, he said.
He pointed out that the Penal Code stated an accident caused by a drunk driver that causes death is punishable with a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of 200,000 baht (RM25,771).
However, the judges often suspended the jail penalty when defendants confess to their inappropriate actions, he said.
Thanapong said Thai court practices do not meet international standards, which imposes severe penalty for drink-driving on the ground of criminal intent.
He further said that if Thai courts do not suspend a jail term, the current Thai law is quite adequate.
Imprisonment will send a strong message to the public and with awareness, it is possible to reduce these traffic crimes, he said.