Authorities to get tougher on drunk driving in the run up to New Year

Photo shows a recent accident in Prachuap Kirikhan that claims 4 lives and injured 8 passengers.

With road accidents soaring at this time of year, more random checks and stricter penalties are to be introduced

In the hope of reducing the number of road accidents during the upcoming New Year holidays, the Thai authorities have vowed to get tough on law-breaking motorists with fines as high as 200,000 THB (in the case of drunk driving causing death) and the indefinite suspension of the driver’s licence.

Long holidays in Thailand such as the Songkran festival in April and New Year holidays in December-January are notorious for a spike in road accidents and casualties due to the higher volume of traffic on the roads and consumption of alcohol at parties and family gatherings.

Department of Disease Control (DDC) director-general Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai said that the number of road accident deaths had increased exponentially since 2011 and had now reached nearly 20,000 fatalities a year or about 55 deaths a day, and that drunk driving was a major cause.  During the New Year holidays over the past five years (2015-2019), drunk driving accounted for more than a third of road accidents resulting in many deaths and injuries, he said.

To solve the problem, the DDC, the Royal Thai Police and the Department of Land Transport with sponsorship from the Road Safety Thailand Fund have conducted year-round alcohol blood tests on drivers involved in road accidents causing serious injuries or deaths in a campaign dubbed “driving safe and alcohol-free”.

As drunk driving is punishable with a jail terms ranging from 3-10 years and/or a fine between Bt60,000 to Bt200,000, a drunk driver involved in a fatal crash may be subjected to a jail term and the maximum fine plus the revocation of his/her license, Suwannachai warned.

The campaign result from December 17, 2018 through September 30, 2019 showed that, out of the 11,849 drivers involved in accident who were submitted to alcohol tests, 55.06 per cent had blood alcohol levels beyond the legal limit of 50 mg/dl of blood, Suwannachai said.

During the New Year 2019 holidays, the authorities conducted blood alcohol tests on 1,449 drivers and found that 57.07 per cent had blood alcohol levels beyond the legal limit of 50 mg/dl. In addition, about 44 per cent out of  motorists under the age of the 20 whose legal limit is 20mg/dl were above that, he said, adding that teens drank alcohol during festival time and got reckless while driving/riding resulting in crashes.

The Public Health Ministry also found many shops violating the Alcohol Beverage Control Act by selling alcohol outside of licensing hours as well as  selling alcohol to persons under 20, so this New Year holiday period the agency and network members would enforce the law strictly, he said. Teams of officials would be dispatched to conduct random checks to ensure shops only sell alcohol during the permitted time periods of 11am-2pm and 5pm-midnight and refrain from selling booze to persons under 20.

By Premyuda