Demerits not enough
The frequency and severity of traffic accidents on Thailand's roads are not only reflective of the nation's below-par safety culture. Some accidents, like the one which went viral over the weekend, show how in the kingdom, law enforcement can still be bent to the will of wealthy individuals who are looking to get away with their crimes.
Sunday's accident involved a wealthy real-estate developer who crashed his Bentley into a Mitsubishi Pajero while travelling along a Bangkok expressway. The impact had such force that the SUV spun into another lane, where it was hit by a fire engine heading to battle a blaze along Sukhumvit Road. Luckily, no one was killed in the accident, though one person ended up with a broken arm, while several others sustained minor injuries.
A video taken by a volunteer rescue worker at the scene showed the Bentley's driver and a female passenger fleeing the scene in a taxi instead of waiting for the police to arrive. In the clip, which went viral over the weekend, the volunteer urged the driver, whom he claimed was drunk, to go to the police station. The driver insisted he wasn't inebriated, though pictures taken at the crime scene showed a bottle of wine on the Bentley's seat.
The video raised eyebrows as it clearly showed the driver leaving without undergoing mandatory alcohol breath testing, as required by the law. Under the revised traffic law, drivers who refuse to take a breath test following an accident will be presumed to be under the influence, and refusing a breath test can lead to a year in prison and/or a fine of between 10,000-20,000 baht.
There are exemptions to the rule, for instance, if the driver is unconscious and/or otherwise incapable of taking the test due to injuries. However, it remains unclear why this driver, who was apparently sentient enough to talk back to rescue workers and flee the scene, managed to skip the required testing.
Pol Lt Col Phichate Konpaeng, deputy superintendent of Expressway Police Station 1, said the driver preferred to take a blood test at the Police General Hospital instead.
As of now, the driver faces two charges of reckless driving, as opposed to the more serious charge of drunk driving. The deputy superintendent said he would wait for the result of the blood test, which is expected on Feb 1, before considering any further charges.
The police said they would not look into the claims made by volunteer rescue workers about the open bottle of wine they found inside the car when they arrived at the scene, reasoning the driver had already turned himself in and agreed to compensate the victims and buy a new fire engine.
It is worth mentioning that the accident took place just one day before the Royal Thai Police rolled out its new demerit system. The move is a bid by the Royal Thai Police and Ministry of Transport to improve road safety by assigning points to each licence holder, which will be deducted each time the holder commits a violation.
Of course, Thailand needs measures such as a demerit system to make its road safer. But without effective law enforcement, Thai roads will never be safe for motorists.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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