Thailand road accidents hit 58; alcohol biggest cause

The News Desk in Bangkok/The Nation
Asia News Network14 April 2012

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Drunk driving has been the cause of most of the road accidents during the Songkran festival in Thailand so far. Thursday, the second day of the holiday, saw 481 road accidents, which killed 58 people and injured 515 others, bringing the total Songkran road toll so far to 88 deaths and 890 injuries in 824 accidents, Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri said yesterday.

Police have arrested 30 people for breaking the Alcohol Beverage Control Act 2008.

Witthaya announced the figures at a news conference yesterday at the Road Safety Centre. For comparison's sake, he said that on April 12 last year, 528 accidents killed 30 people and wounded 576.

This year, Chumphon, Nakhon Nayok and Phichit have recorded the most deaths at five each. Officials at 686,758 checkpoints on Thursday stopped 169,118 vehicles and arrested 74,538 motorists for violating traffic laws, he added.

The cumulative statistics from Wednesday and Thursday showed 88 deaths and 890 injuries in 824 road accidents, compared with last Songkran's April 11-12, which saw 59 deaths, 976 injuries in 893 road accidents. So far 38 provinces remain fatality-free.

The main cause of accidents was drunk driving at 39 per cent, followed by speeding at 21 per cent, while most accidents - 84 per cent - involved motorcycles.

Given the role of drunk driving, Witthaya said, the centre had urged all provinces to enforce the Alcohol Beverage Control Act strictly. This led to the arrest of 30 people for selling alcohol at a prohibited time and place, out of 188 roadside shops checked.

The centre also instructed police investigating deaths or injuries of persons under 20 in road accidents involving alcohol to trace the alcohol vendor, who would face punishment.

Public Health permanent secretary Dr Paijit Worachit said the ministry's emergency medical service hotline received 5,494 calls on Wednesday and Thursday. Emergency medical units were dispatched 5,560 times to treat 5,729 injured people - 2,625 on Wednesday and 3,104 on Thursday.

He urged the public to call the 1669 hotline promptly for emergency medical services, which he said reduced an injured person's chance of dying by 97 per cent.

Among various measures to manage traffic nationwide during these key holidays, the Highway Police have launched a mobile-phone application to warn travellers about 97 deadly curves and inform them about the nearest police stations, hospitals, petrol stations and hotels. It also updates them on accidents and congestion on key routes.