Police and the Land Transport Department have come out to allay motorists' worries about harsher penalties for driving without a licence or an invalid one.
Pol Maj Gen Ekkarak Limsangkat, who sits in a police panel to solve traffic issues, said on Wednesday here was no need for panic as the new penalties were not yet enshrined in law.
The department also issued a statement explaining the process.
Drivers have cried foul on social media about the huge increase in fines or jail terms since the move was unveiled by the department.
At present, driving without a licence carries a maximum penalty of 1,000 baht and/or one month in jail.
Motorists face a maximum fine of 2,000 baht if they drive when their licence has expired, been seized or withdrawn from use.
The penalties are set down in two laws -- the Vehicle Act BE 2522 (1979) and Land Transport Act BE 2522 (1979).
The department has proposed the cabinet merge the two laws into one, with stronger penalties.
Under the proposal, the maximum fine for driving without a licence would be increased 50-fold to 50,000 baht and the maximum jail term from one to three months. Driving with an invalid licence or when the licence has been seized or withdrawn by authorities would be hiked to a maximum 50,000 baht from the current 2,000 baht, with the added option of a three-month jail term.
The department hopes the increased penalties would make drivers better behaved on the roads, and reduce accidents and loss of lives.
But the new draft law must be sent to the cabinet for approval first. The National Legislative Assembly would also have to pass it into law, the department statement said.
Thailand has the second highest annual road traffic fatality rate in the world, at 36.2 per 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organisation. The kingdom has 66 roads deaths a day on average, it says.