Drivers of buses and other forms of public transport who are suspected of having consumed alcohol will be prohibited from operating vehicles in 61 accident-prone areas nationwide during the New Year period, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said Monday.
The ministry has set a target of reducing the rate of deaths and injuries on all forms of transport by at least 5% from last year's statistics, he said. Thailand has one of the world's worst road safety records.
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) will end the year observing its so-called "7-7-7" policy, he said. This refers to the ministry maximising safety precautions during a three-week period seven days before, during and after the New Year.
Ministry statistics show there were 304 transport-related deaths nationwide from Dec 29, 2016 to Jan 4. This was up 29% from the corresponding period for the year earlier, when 235 deaths were reported and 1,805 injured.
"Some 80% of the incidents occurred on straight roads, with speeding the main cause," Mr Arkhom said.
One particularly notorious stretch of road runs from Songkhla's Hat Yai to Sadao district, bordering Malaysia, he said. Seventy injuries and 11 deaths were recorded there over the last New Year.
According to Mr Arkhom, construction work on some 200 roads will be suspended from Dec 28 to Jan 3, as another safety precaution.
He said the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority of Thailand, which operates Bangkok's buses, and Transport Co, Ltd, which operates provincial buses and vans, will have to cooperate with all of the safety measures.
"We have been in discussions with public transport companies under the MOT to make sure they do not allow intoxicated drivers to operate their vehicles under any circumstances," Mr Arkhom said. "Injury and death rates from public transport must be zero."
Petrol stations such as those operated by PTT Plc could double as rest areas for sleep-deprived drivers, he said.
The MOT estimates 8.4 million cars will pass in and out of Bangkok during the New Year period.
The ministry will ramp up public transportation services for the expected surge of commutes, Mr Arkhom said.
Public transport will service over 16 million people from Dec 28 to Jan 3, he said.