Songkran death toll sets a record

Songkran death toll sets a record

Rescue workers and passers-by work to free the injured from this auto that turned turtle. Some 3,000 accidents killed 400 people in the first six of the 'seven dangerous days' of Songkran. (Post Today photo)
Rescue workers and passers-by work to free the injured from this auto that turned turtle. Some 3,000 accidents killed 400 people in the first six of the 'seven dangerous days' of Songkran. (Post Today photo)

The first six days of the "seven dangerous days" of Songkran has already set a record number of deaths, with yet another reporting day to go on Monday.

In just six days, 397 people lost their lives through Saturday in road crashes across Thailand, a 30% jump from last year. Drink-driving was the major cause of accidents.

A total of 3,104 road accidents occurred nationwide from April 11 to 16, with 3,271 people suffering injuries, said Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith during a press briefing on road safety measures.

The number of accumulated road crashes, deaths and injuries this year all are higher than last year, with Sunday reports still coming in. Last year, there were 2,915 road accidents, 306 deaths and 3,070 injuries during the same period.

The highest one-week traffic toll was 364 dead and 3,559 injured, a record set just last year, when there were 3,373 collisions in the military regime's first effort to reduce the Songkran highway slaughter.

This year, as the regime announced new measures, the toll was the highest in national history.

On Saturday alone, there were a total of 380 road accidents which claimed 59 lives and 380 injuries.

Speeding was blamed for the major cause of Saturday’s crashes at 31%, followed by drink-driving at 28%. Most accidents, more than 80%, involved motorcycles . Pick-up trucks were the second most deadly vehicle, involved in 10% of crashes, said Mr Arkhom.

Official reports are from the Road Safety Directing Centre of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation. However, the centre's figures have clashed dramatically with other reports during the past week.

For example, while the centre reported 3,271 injuries in the highway crashes, Dr Pranom Khamthiang, deputy permanent secretary for the Public Health Ministry, said 25,516 people injured in road crashes had received treatment at public hospitals during the Songkran period. These included 3,815 were seriously hurt.

Neither of her figures jibed with the Road Safety Directing Centre. There was no explanation from the military government on the wildly different reporting figures from the two ministries.

Dr Pranom ordered all public hospitals to prepare medical teams, emergency and operation rooms, blood storage and patient wards around the clock during the Songkran period.

The Road Safety Directing Centre said 69% of road accidents in the first six of the seven dangerous days occurred on main roads, and the peak time for crashes was between 4pm and 8pm.

On the accumulated road accidents over the past six days, Chiang Mai had the most accidents at 158 as well as the most injuries at 166. Nakhon Ratchasima had the highest number of fatalities at 18.

Five provinces - Trat, Phrae, Yala, Ranong and Nong Bua Lam Phu - reported no road deaths.

A total of 110,909 people have been arrested and 5,772 vehicles impounded at road safety checkpoints across the country between April 9 and 16 as part of the National Council for Peace and Order’s unsuccessful anti-drinking campaign over Songkran, said the transport minister.  

Authorities had seized 16,346 driving licenses from drunk drivers as of Sunday morning. The impounded vehicles included 4,353 motorcycles and 1,419 cars.

There were heavy traffic jams on main roads heading into Bangkok on Sunday, as holidaymakers returned home on the last day of the Songkran holiday.

Chayapol Thitisak, the interior deputy permanent secretary, said the road safety centre has ordered provincial authorities to deploy more police and volunteers to facilitate traffic as people headed back to Bangkok. Special traffic lanes were opened in areas where traffic was congested.

Despite the record highway tolls, Chatchai Promlert, director-general of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, claimed road crashes caused by drink-driving showed a sign of reducing, while accidents caused by speeding and cutting in front increased.

He has instructed provincial authorities to increase the number of road checkpoints on main roads to prevent motorists from travelling at high speed.

Three traffic lanes of a main road in Buri Ram's Nang Rong district are clogged with vehicles as Songkran revellers return to Bangkok on Sunday, the last day of the Songkran holiday. (Photo by Surachai Piragsa)


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