Seizure of drunks' cars may become official policy in Thailand

Seizure of drunks' cars may become official policy in Thailand
Mae Thai Police Station in Lampang province launches the Seven Dangerous Days campaign yesterday to help cut road deaths from December 29-January 4.
PHOTO: The Nation/ANN

THE SPECIAL New Year measure to seize vehicles from drunk motorists might be made permanent if it proves successful.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said yesterday that he would consider whether it should be continued after seeing the results.

Since Friday, the Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) has already confiscated 116 vehicles - 24 cars and 92 motorcycles - nationwide under the new policy.

Of the drivers, 82 also had to give up their driver's licences.

Colonel Sirichan Ngathong, deputy spokeswoman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said 667 checkpoints had been set up - 361 in the North and 195 in the Northeast - by the POMC, officials and police.

The officers manning checkpoints on secondary roads notorious for accidents were instructed to use "reasonable discretion in assessing motorists and seizing their vehicles", while those at arterial checkpoints would focus on speeding public transport for travellers' safety, she said.

Colonel Winthai Suvari, another deputy NCPO spokesman, said the owners could start recovering their vehicles on January 6.

The checkpoints will be maintained until the end of the New Year holidays.

The special measure was announced to the public by all Army area commands and provincial administrations.

Villages and communities are also cooperating and helping to implement this measure, along with the Land Transport Law, Winthai said.

The Third Army Area, covering 17 northern provinces, has commandeered the most vehicles at 65, followed by the Second Army Area with 35 motorcycles from 20 northeastern provinces.

Colonel Chatchai Meechanchung, deputy director of the Second Army Area's Operation Division, told The Nation via phone that more than 100 checkpoints were operating to prevent accidents.

The officers will stop any drivers who appeared to be under the influence and test their sobriety with breathalysers or by smelling their breath. Until after January 4 when people can reclaim them, police will take care of the seized vehicles, he said.

Maj-General Tana Jaruwat, spokesman for the Third Army Area, told The Nation that his office's co-operation with officials at checkpoints had resulted in the detention of 40 motorcycles and 38 cars.

The assessments of drunk drivers were performed by breathalysers and officials at their discretion.

"This measure was adopted for its psychological impact to tackle rising accident cases, as last year's measures did not work very well," he said.

The "seven dangerous days" for the New Year holidays start today, with the launch of the Road Safety Centre this morning.

The centre will issue its final report and close on January 5, according to the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department's website.

Nakhon Ratchasima, a strategic crossroads as the Gateway to the Northeast, saw the annual send-off ceremony of 1,200 rescue workers, 250 highway patrol cars and 160 emergency trucks to 96 service points along main and back |roads.

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