King alarmed over road deaths

King alarmed over road deaths

HM urges govt to up efforts to reduce toll

His Majesty the King has expressed concern after the number of road deaths climbed to nearly 200 halfway through the Seven Dangerous Days of the Songkran festival.

His message, given to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, encouraged police, military officers, state agency officials and volunteers to step up efforts to reduce accidents and facilitate safe road travel across the country, deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said yesterday.

Authorities set the seven-day period, which started last Thursday and will end on Wednesday, for stricter law enforcement, including pressing murder charges against drink-drivers, as statistics show deaths and injuries on the roads surge during the Thai traditional New Year.

The annual carnage began in earnest on the first day this year, with 46 deaths and 482 injuries, including a head-on collision in Bangkok's Thawi Watthana district which left a 16-year-old severely injured and her parents dead.

The King urged the government to ramp up its campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries to zero. This has so far only been achieved in Samut Prakan, Lt Gen Werachon said yesterday.

The King wants the government to ensure authorities and volunteers receive all the help they need, the deputy spokesman said.

Gen Prayut said while the government and civic groups are working well to curb accidents, what they need most is full cooperation from drivers.

"Safety must begin with drivers themselves. They have to think of their own lives and those of their families," Gen Prayut said.

"Families can also help by warning them against violating traffic laws," he added.

However, no matter how many legal measures are launched, "if drivers ignore them or find ways to escape punishment, the campaign cannot bear fruit," according to Gen Prayut.

An apparent setback to the government's campaign followed an accident in which a Mercedes-Benz slammed into a vehicle driven by a family of three in Thawi Watthana on Thursday evening.

Police say Somchai Werotepipat, 57, owner of Thai Carbon & Graphite Co, was well over the legal alcohol limit for driving.

They charged him with premeditated murder, in line with the government's get-tough directive.

However, the Taling Chan Court rejected the charge on Saturday, accepting only traffic-related offences including drink-driving causing death.

Though a high number of road accidents have been reported over the holiday so far, national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda was optimistic when he looked at the figures from April 11 to 13.

Compared with last year's toll, deaths have fallen by 17%; injuries by 9.4% and accidents by 9.7%, he said.

Over this three-day period, authorities have taken court action over nearly 10,000 traffic offence cases, mostly for drink-driving, Suriyan Hongwilai, spokesman for the Courts of Justice, said yesterday.

Several thousand offenders were prosecuted, with their cars and motorcycles impounded, Mr Suriyan said.

A total of 1,685 motorcycles and 609 cars were seized from drivers who tested positive for drink-driving, Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokeswoman for the National Council for Peace and Order said yesterday. Legal action was taken against more than 27,000 drivers and over 44,000 motorcyclists, she said.

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