Cyclists equate drink-driving, murder

Cyclists equate drink-driving, murder

Tougher penalties could lower road toll

Cyclists performs a mass death planking to symbolise their demands for safe ride on the streets at Sanam Luang on Saturday. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)
Cyclists performs a mass death planking to symbolise their demands for safe ride on the streets at Sanam Luang on Saturday. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Road safety and anti-drink-driving advocates are calling for tougher punishment for drunk drivers who are involved in fatal road accidents.

The government should urgently consider amending the law on drink-driving in cases of deadly road accidents, to make punishment equivalent to premeditated murder instead of reckless driving causing death, said Dr Thanapong Jinwong, manager of an advocacy group called the Academic Centre for Road Safety.

Speaking Sunday at a seminar entitled "Drunk + Drive = Murderer: A lesson learnt from the recent drink-driving that killed three cyclists", he discussed the recent accident in Chiang Mai where a car driven by a drunk university student crashed into a group of five cyclists and killed three of them. A cyclist who witnessed the crash also spoke at the seminar.

The prison sentence of 10 years for a convicted drunken driver who caused deaths and injuries should also be changed so the sentence cannot be suspended, said Dr Thanapong.

As for law enforcement, officers should be required to promptly conduct a test on the blood alcohol levels of the drivers involved in any accident. The government should ensure that law enforcement against drink-driving is done stringently and on a regular basis, he said.

Each year there are more than 370 road accidents in which vehicles hit bicycles, which on average resulted in at least two injuries or deaths every day, he said, adding that drink-driving is a major cause of these accidents.

About 26% of Thais believe accidents are a matter of destiny and karma, while in reality accidents are often the consequences of recklessness — especially in case of ones caused by drink-driving, he said.

For example, Japan decreased the rate of road accidents associated with drink-driving by 10% after changing the law from regarding drink-driving in a fatal road accident as an act of recklessness to an act of intentional killing, according to Dr Thanapong.

Thaejing Siripanich, secretary-general of the Don't Drive Drunk Foundation, said the number of road accidents involving drunken motorists claiming the lives of innocent people has increased in the past 20 years.

It's time for the public to join hands to call on the government for measures to ensure road safety for all types of vehicles, he said.

Those who do not cycle tend to think of cyclists as obstructions, while in reality roads are public spaces for any type of vehicles, not only cars and motorcycles, said Narong Thiammek, a representative of a network of cyclists' groups.

The bicycle is a type of vehicles friendliest to the environment and that explains why the government is promoting travelling by bike either for the sake of exercise or to replace the other types of vehicles, he said.

However, he said, the government has not done enough to ensure road safety for those travelling by bicycle — the most fragile type of vehicle on the road. 

Ekachai Kaewkiat, a cyclist who survived a recent road accident in Chiang Mai, in which a drunken motorist slammed her car into a group of cyclists travelling together in the northern province, witnessed the deaths of three in the group, while two more were injured.

Road safety measures for cyclists need to be improved and more bike lanes should be built, he said.

Meanwhile, a group of cyclists in Nakhon Ratchasima has called for the zoning of roads in the province, as it is popular with cyclists.

Ruangrat Thapanakul, president of the cyclists' club said road zoning should be introduced alongside the installation of more traffic signs to alert motorists to watch out for cyclists while travelling in the designated zones.

This should help improve road safety for cyclists, he said.

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