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Drunk driving ‘a major cause’ of Thai road accidents

Police to look for more safety measures; may seek higher budget

DRUNK DRIVING is seen as a major cause for fatalities after 323 people were killed and 3,140 others were injured in 3,001 crashes during the first five days of the Songkran seven-day accident-monitoring period (April 11-17), the Road Safety Center announced yesterday. On Sunday alone, drunk driving was the cause of 42 per cent of 552 road accidents in which 69 people were killed and 589 injured, Damrong Limaphirak, the Education Ministry adviser on policy and strategy, said at the center’s press conference.
All the figures for the five-day period were an increase over numbers from last Songkran, which saw 283 people killed and 3,087 wounded in 2,985 road crashes. Chiang Mai continued to chalk up the highest number of accidents, at 119 cases and 136 injured over the five days. At 19, Nakhon Ratchasima recorded the highest accumulated death toll. Only seven provinces – Yala, Ranong, Satun, Samut Songkhram, Nong Khai, Nong Bua Lamphu and Angthong – did not report any deaths from road accidents during Songkran. Damrong said 21,829 drivers were arrested at checkpoints nationwide for drunk driving.
He conceded that although more drunk drivers were caught and taken off the streets, road accidents continued to increase. The Royal Thai Police committee to beef up road safety measures will consider additional actions, including heavier punishments for repeated offenders and increasing the budget for purchasing breathalysers and speed radar. Meanwhile, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and related authorities have seized a total of 10,099 vehicles (7,372 motorcycles and 2,727 cars and trucks) from drunk drivers from April 11-15, said NCPO and Army deputy spokeswoman Colonel Sirichan Ngathong. On Sunday alone, the authorities seized 2,069 motorcycles and 814 cars from drunk drivers, she said.
Chiang Rai, Maha Sarakham and Surin topped the list of provinces for most number of drunk drivers caught in the first five days of Songkran. Thousands of offenders were immediately slapped with probation and dozens had monitoring devices attached to their ankles to keep them off the roads. Probation Department director-general Prasarn Mahaleetrakul said the five days saw 3,460 motorists arrested and placed on probation across the country. In all, there were 6,707 arrests, of which 97.5 per cent were for drunk driving. The remain der were for reckless driving (21 cases), street racing (two) and driving under the influence of narcotics (143), Prasarn said. Chiang Rai clocked up the most drunk-driving cases with 455, followed by Maha Sarakham at 394 and Surin at 313.
Since April 13, the department had attached electronic monitoring devices to the ankles of 37 drunk drivers placed on probation, in accordance with court-mandated conditions. The devices prevent them from leaving their homes between 10pm and 4am for 15 days. Given one year’s probation, they must report four times to probation officials and do 24 hours of community service. NTN – EP

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