Regime looks for silver lining in dark Songkran death totals

Regime looks for silver lining in dark Songkran death totals

Claims anti-drink-driving campaign was 'productive' in raising awareness

Trying to put a positive spin on the country’s worst-ever holiday road-fatality totals during the Songkran festival, the junta on Monday said its campaign to reduce road accidents and casualties caused by drink-driving proved “productive” in raising awareness of the problem.

Col Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokeswoman of the National Council for Peace and Order, said checkpoints across the country cited 277,055 violations of the drink-driving ban from April 9-17, involving 153,626 motorcycles and 123,429 cars and public-transport vehicles.

Of those, 83,697 drivers of motorcycles and 16,541 of private cars and public vehicles were charged with reckless driving. Altogether 17,449 drivers -- 908 of motorcycles and 16,541 of other kinds of vehicles -- had their driver's licences confiscated.

Police impounded 4,963 motorcycles and 1,650 other vehicles. The owners are able to reclaim their vehicles after the Songkran festival.

Col Sirichan claimed the measures taken by the military were welcomed by the public and had raised awareness about the problem of drink-driving. She said the NCPO continue its campaign throughout the year to reduce road accidents caused by alcohol intoxication.

Yet despite the military and government's efforts, drink-driving remained the biggest single cause of road crashes during the "seven dangerous days" of Songkran that ended Sunday. Booze was blamed for 34.1 of the 3,447 wrecks recorded by the Interior Ministry's Road Safety Directing Centre.

During the week, a record 442 people were killed, up 21.4% on last year despite the government's efforts.

The number of accumulated road accidents, fatalities and serious injuries across the country this year was higher than the same period last year. In 2015 there were 3,373 road crashes, 364 deaths and 3,559 serious injuries during the same period.

Backing up the military's assertions, Chatchai Promlert, director-general of the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, claimed on Sunday that road crashes caused by drink-driving showed signs of being reduced, while accidents caused by speeding and cutting in front increased.

Col Sirichan also asserted that the campaign had also indirectly deterred crimes involving drugs, illegal weapons, contraband and illegal migrants.

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