Tougher van rules to see bad drivers fined

Tougher van rules to see bad drivers fined

Drivers of passenger vans who exceed the passenger limit of 13 as stipulated by a Section 44 order will face a fine, says Department of Land Transport chief Sanit Phromwong.

The regulation on limiting passenger capacity takes effect today and will last until the vans are phased out and replaced by small 20-seat micro-buses, a form of transport the government believes will be a safer alternative to the vans.

Mr Sanit said drivers who fail to follow the regulation will be fined by authorities.

The department has given operators time to adjust their vehicles and improve their services to comply with the stiffer rules. It has also publicised the new regulation and educated operators about the need for improvements, Mr Sanit said.

Under the new regulation, passenger vans are not permitted to carry more than 13 people, excluding the driver. The space between the last row of seats and the boot must be at least 20cm wide to allow passengers an easy escape in case of emergencies.

Passengers must be able to open the boot from the inside of the van, and drivers must also keep an emergency hammer on board should they need to break a window.

Drivers are also required to place an "emergency exit" sign in red above the vehicle's door or on the door's edge, he said.

The government is tightening van safety after a fatal van collision killed 25 passengers on Road No.344 in Chon Buri's Ban Bung district on Jan 2.

The rules were aimed at reducing the number of road accidents during the Songkran festival, a time when many people travel home to celebrate the Thai New Year.

In March, however, passenger van operators threatened to stop their services if the government did not relax the new traffic rules.

They had called for leniency on passenger seat limitations as well as seat belt requirements.

The group wanted the government to allow operators to keep the number of passenger seats at 15, not 13.

Operators complained they were concerned that they would not be able to shoulder the higher expenses required to adjust their vehicles.

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