Speed up road safety
A fatal crash involving a 15-year-old boy who jumped a red light while driving a luxury car and rammed into another young man on a motorcycle in Nakhon Ratchasima's Muang district highlights the perils of underage driving as well as flaws in the road safety laws due to widespread reckless behaviour and people's willingness to flout the rules.
The teenager, whose name was withheld due to his age, was with some friends when his BMW struck the victim -- engineering graduate Thanapol Kaewmoon -- late on the night of Sept 30. Thanapol, the family breadwinner, was killed instantly.
The BMW driver met with the police on Tuesday and was charged with reckless driving causing death, ignoring a red light and driving without a licence. After the boy turned up at the police station, the investigator told the media he was not driving under the influence of alcohol.
However it remains unclear whether or not he underwent a breathalyser test immediately after the crash, or days later at the station -- which would obviously render the results useless.
This information gap has sown doubts as to whether the police are being over gracious to the young driver, who comes from a well-off family.
The case is reminiscent of another crash in Bangkok in 2010, when a young teen's car struck a passenger van on an expressway, killing nine.
The girl, better known in the media as "Praewa", was only 16 at the time. According to the Land Traffic Act, the legal age at which one can apply for a driving licence is 18.
Experts noted that drivers aged 16-19 have a far higher risk of crashing their vehicles, and are more likely to flout the traffic laws, such as speeding or running red lights, compared to older and more experienced drivers.
Of course, a lack of strong road skills exacerbates matters when these young drivers encounter unexpected situations or emergencies.
Not all crashes involving young drivers are reported by the media, but statistics involving underage driving in Thailand are nonetheless shocking.
According to data released by the Road Accident Victim Protection Co, crashes involving underage drivers, especially on motorcycles, have claimed more than 1,000 lives this year as of end-September and caused over 95,000 injuries.
The figures include both victims and perpetrators.
While the traffic law has been revised to increase the penalties for reckless driving resulting in death, in reality, the authorities tend not to be tough enough with such drivers.
Moreover, it's not unusual for young drivers to be spared jail time as most judges tend to put them on probation.
The Praewa case confirms this: she has never been imprisoned, only required to attend a community service programme.
While underage driving is dangerous, the penalties for driving without a licence are also far too light, as they only result in a fine.
It's time for the state to toughen the law in cases involving young drivers -- similar to its approach to drunk driving -- and consider imposing penalties on parents who allow their kids to drive, knowing full well the risks involved.
The authorities should intensify the law without delay. When it comes to road safety, there can be no compromise.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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