Fewer deaths and accidents at Songkran this year

Fewer deaths and accidents at Songkran this year
People take part in water battles as they celebrate the Songkran festival in Narathiwat, southern Thailand

SOME 121 people have been killed and 1,281 injured on Thai roads after three of the 'Seven Dangerous Days' linked to the current Songkran break.

Second Lieutenant Cherdsak Champathet, adviser to the Justice Minister, held a press conference at the Road Safety Directing Centre yesterday to reveal the latest casualties, which came from 1,215 accidents.

Two provinces have been free of reported accidents - Samut Prakan and Amnat Charoen - while 24 provinces have reported no deaths.

Surat Thani reported the highest number of accidents - 49 - and the highest number of injuries - 59.

Nakhon Ratchasima and Roi Et have recorded the highest number of deaths so far - seven.

Drunk driving and speeding were the major causes of road accidents.

Cherdsak said statistics showed the number of road accidents over the three days was lower than last year, with 324 fewer accidents, or a 21-per-cent drop.

Motorcycles were involved in most accidents.

The period that accidents occurred most was from 1pm to 9pm.

Deputy government spokesman Maj-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the government had increased the number of buses and vans to cater for 24 million Songkran revellers.

He said the government was allowing free use of motorway number seven from Bangkok to Ban Chang for motorists travelling to Chon Buri and Pattaya.

Motorists are also exempt from having to pay toll fees for motorway number nine from Bangkok to Bang Pa-in and Bangkok Bang Phli until Sunday.

Sansern said the government had provided 200 general service centres for motorists on highways nationwide and 95 centres on rural roads. Traffic lights at intersections were fixed and more light bulbs were installed to illuminate roads.

The Land Transport Department provided 250 car services to check cars before long trips, set up 310 checkpoints to see if drivers are fit to drive and 11 centres to check the condition of vehicles.

People can report traffic accidents by calling 1365.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra said although the number of accidents over the past 10 years at Songkran had dropped to 27,000 accidents with 300 deaths in the capital, the government could not be complacent as no accidents should be reported.

"The reduction helped inspire us to work hard to reduce accidents and deaths but people should also realise that they must celebrate Songkran with responsibility and do not |things that cause road accidents," he said.

"Most accidents occur because of carelessness and drunk driving. The city administration has organised Songkran without alcohol because it leads to quarrels, fights and accidents."

Sukhumbhand presided over the opening of the three-day Bangkok Songkran Festival @Silom 2015 yesterday. The event runs from 3pm to 9pm daily and includes Buddha statue and floral processions.

The governor also anointed an 80-metre water tunnel that is supplying water for Songkran revellers and is financed by the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority.

More than 1,000 traders yesterday started erecting stalls including alcohol-free drink stalls on Silom Road.

City officials strictly checked the road to ensure it was safe, with no alcohol, no provocative dress and no powder. The road is closed to traffic from the Sala Daeng intersection to the Nararom intersection.

Security officials and volunteers set up more than 10 checkpoints on Silom to check for illegal items and weapons.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel were also on standby in case of incidents.

More than 100,000 people are expected to visit Silom Road during Songkran.

Meanwhile, outbound traffic to Nakhon Ratchasim was still congested yesterday as people continued their journey home to celebrate the Thai New Year with their families.

Vehicles moved at an average speed of 30-40km/h. Congested spots included uphill stretches in Tambon Klangdong in Pak Chong district, Tambon Kolongpai in Si Khiew district and on Mitrapab Road along the Nakhon Ratchasima city bypass.

Police opened two more outbound lanes at Tambon Klangdong and on the bypass in Nakhon Ratchasima city.

The traffic congestion on Mitrapab Road was expected to ease last night.

In Hat Yai, Thai revellers and foreign tourists from Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are celebrating "Midnight Songkran" - the only such event in the country. The Sanehanusorn Road is closed to traffic so revellers can congregate there and throw water.

The festival is carried out under heavy security with police strictly checking people and vehicles coming in and out of Hat Yai.

The atmosphere in Koh Samui in Surat Thani was lacklustre yesterday. Hotel operators said the car bomb on Friday night had had a negative impact on business.

Police are focusing their investigation on personal conflicts, business conflicts and the southern insurgency. They have not ruled out the possibility the attack was politically motivated.

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