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Songkran crackdown to battle road accidents, harsher penalties promised

STRICTER MEASURES will be enforced to boost road safety during the coming Songkran holidays, including a requirement for an alcohol test after every road accident that causes serious injury and death.

Thai Police and the Transport Ministry have also proposed harsher punishments for motorists driving without a licence, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Khongcheep Tantrawanich said yesterday. Khongcheep, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, attended yesterday’s meeting of the Road Safety Policy Committee in Bangkok to consider a master plan for road safety for 2017-20 and discuss measures for the Songkran holidays. To address public concerns following a major accident involving a double-decker coach, Prawit confirmed that starting 2015 licences for giant buses were not being renewed. The DLT was also tasked with ensuring double-decker coaches already on the road met adequate safety standards, he added. The latest case involving a double-decker coach occurred on Wednesday night in Nakhon Ratchasima province, killing 18 people and injuring 32 others.
The coach driver, Krissana Juthacheun, 44, has been charged with three serious offences: reckless driving causing death and injuries, failing to stop to provide aid to injured passengers and having narcotic substances in his body while driving.
He tested positive for drug use and confessed to having taken yaba pills during the 50-strong tour group’s trip to Chanthaburi province, said Provincial Police Region 3 chief Pol Lt-General Damrongsak Kittiprapat. The group was returning to Kalasin at the time of Wednesday’s crash. Krissana, who sustained slight wounds on his right arm, was spotted the following day in the area seven kilometres from the scene and was taken into custody. Krissana said he drove the coach downhill at a “moderately high speed” and had a brake malfunction resulting in the crash, after which he fled for fear of being punished for so many deaths. After inspection, Damrongsak said police suspected the driver did not use a low gear during the six-kilometre-long downhill road section but kept tapping on the air brake pedal for control until the system was out of air. The driver also was speeding as GPS data showed the bus was moving at 83kph in an area limited to 60kph, Damrongsak added. Police also found Krissana had been arrested for drug abuse five times in the past since 2011 – with the latest arrest in October 2013. Police will proceed with legal action against Kan Eng Tour Co for failing to submit the coach for inspection for over a year – the law requires it be inspected twice a year – and for allowing a drug abuser to drive the vehicle. Meanwhile, Kalasin Governor Kraisorn Kongchalard urged South East Insurance Co to pay Bt650,000 compensation to the families of the 18 who had died. He said trained officials would provide mental health rehabilitation/grief counselling to the affected people for two months. NTN EP

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