Police seize more than 5,000 vehicles from drink drivers
Strict law enforcement to keep drink drivers off the streets during the Songkran festival led to the seizure of 5,212 vehicles in four days, the National Council for Peace and Order says.
The numbers are "just a start" as the NCPO, which intends to reduce high road tolls during long holidays, vowed Sunday it will further tighten legal measures against traffic law violators.
It will consider reinstating the controversial ban on passengers travelling in the tray of pickups.
Despite heavy criticism of the ban that led to the government rolling back its planned enforcement during the long holiday last week, authorities still have in place a requirement for belting up and curbing drink driving by means of car seizure.
From April 12 to 15, the peak of the Songkran festival, many drivers who drank alcohol had their vehicles temporarily impounded by police.
The seized vehicles included 3,969 motorcycles and 1,243 cars, deputy NCPO spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong said.
The impounded vehicles are being properly cared for, she said.
Owners can contact officers to take them back at a specified time.
Drink driving was found to be a major cause of road fatalities during the festival.
Government statistics showed that on April 15 (Saturday), drink driving accounted for 269 of a total of the 600 accidents recorded, followed by speeding with a share of 149.
Cars that cut in front of other vehicles caused 88 accidents, said highway police chief Somchai Kaosamran, citing the figures compiled by the Interior Ministry's Road Safety Directing Centre.
The government was concerned about accidents involving pickups as they are not designed to have passengers sitting on their cargo bed.
However, a final decision on this issue has not been reached, said Col Piyaphong Klinphan, who works with the NCPO Secretariat.
He said the agency needs to wait for joint talks among state agencies on unsafe travel.
Though the ban on sitting on the trays of pickup trucks is believed to be well-intended, critics wanted the government to allow for a reprieve during the Songkran festival because people, mainly from poor families, needed to use the trucks for their homeward trips.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon asked people to understand the government has a role to enforce strict laws to curb the road toll, defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanit quoted Gen Prawit as saying Sunday.
Gen Prawit, who is also the defence minister, wants members of the public to give more weight to safety than to convenience.
Authorities will continue to keep an eye out for wrongdoers who violate traffic laws during the last two days of the "seven dangerous days" of Songkran which began on April 11, Maj Gen Kongcheep said.
The period has been under close watch because of the high road accident rate.
Despite the stricter legal measures, most people said that they are optimistic about the state's attempts though they felt "unhappy" during last week's festival due to the various improper acts of some revellers, said Super Poll director Noppadon Kannika.
The pollster interviewed 1,455 people and found 68% support the government's efforts to curb the death toll during the celebrations, he said.
However, just over 50% of interviewees listed activities they said destroy the good atmosphere of Songkran.
They ranged from drinking alcohol which often caused brawls to break out, to splashing dirty water, and throwing bags of engine oil at people.