Sustaining safety
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Sustaining safety

(Bangkok Post file photo)
(Bangkok Post file photo)

The past week was a long Thai New Year holiday supposed to be good for many industries, but due to the economic downturn, there was no guarantee that they would benefit from this glorious tradition. However, there is one business -- the coffin business -- that has not been harmed by the country's economic situation.

No one is quite sure when the business of selling coffins during Thai festive periods rose to its peak, but Suriya Coffin, a company in Pathum Thani known for its funeral and coffin business, recently revealed that they stay busy with work this time of the year; their orders rising from 100 a month to 300-400.

It turned out that this year's Songkran was quieter in some places than in previous years, whether that was because of the oppressive heat or water-saving awareness is not clear. Still, the number of accidents remained very high.

Every year, the government sets a death-toll goal for road accidents that's lower than previous Songkrans. In the past eight years, the reported deaths have been approximately 300 throughout the seven-day period. During New Year's, the death toll from road accidents happened to be at a similar level.

Let's take a look at the master plan the government issued for this year's festival. According to the Ministry of the Interior, two plans were implemented. The first, which will continue to the end of the year, is to strengthen traffic discipline. The second is an intensive-control period to take place from April 11-17.

In a nutshell, the first plan is to provide the tools and equipment necessary for road safety; survey and improve risky areas; boost law enforcement; and campaign for road users to drive safely. The second is to strictly implement traffic laws.

Theoretically, the plan seems reasonable and covers all important areas, though in reality it might not be so practical, since the statistics haven't shown a significant decrease from previous years.

Therefore, it's time to really learn from what's already happened, fix mistakes and not just let history repeat itself year after year.

Taking a road trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai during the recent holiday, I spotted many vehicles not respecting the laws and lots of risky traffic spots. For example, on a highway in Lamphun, the traffic lights were too close to one another, making it risky for those driving at high speeds. However, in some spots authorities did a great job, by temporarily shutting down certain areas with U-turns.

Despite these measures, the question remains: What about the rest of the year?

My suggestion is that laws must be strictly enforced. All roads should be maintained so that they're in good condition. Traffic signs should be obvious, and penalties increased to a level people would feel uncomfortable paying. Both public discipline and private law-enforcement should be improved.

It's not only road accidents on the highways that happen during Songkran, but accidents in local or rural areas.

When it comes to the festive season, alcohol consumption is common, and this is also a major cause of accidents.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has agreed to confiscate cars driven by drunk drivers, a policy that began in December before going quiet. The public heard about it again during Songkran, and it was interesting to see that there was some strict regulation. But the authorities seem to take it seriously only during the festive times. Is this temporary regulation enough to create a long-lasting impact and cultivate awareness among drivers?

To fix traffic problems either on or off holiday season, temporary safety measures need to be put into effect all year long. Songkran should be a time for happiness. Let's not give way to accidents that ruin the heart of this joyous festival.

Pattramon Sukprasert is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Pattramon Sukprasert

Feature writer

Pattramon Sukprasert is a feature writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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