209 die on the road in first four days of holiday in Thailand

After four days of the so-called "seven dangerous days" of New Year, the 2013-14 holiday period has claimed 209 lives and injured 1,931 persons in a total of 1,818 road accidents, the Road Safety Centre reported yesterday.

Nakhon Ratchasima was the top province for cumulative deaths and injuries at 13 deaths and 81 injuries - while Nakhon Sawan reported the highest number of accidents at 66.

By comparison, last holiday period's first four days had claimed 201 lives and caused 1,897 injuries in 1,826 road accidents.

On December 30 alone there were 496 accidents killing 48 people and injuring 541 others, compared to the December 30, 2012 figures of 505 accidents in which 54 people died and 536 others were hurt, Education Ministry representative Chanvech Boonpraderm said.

Drunk driving remained the top cause of accidents - 44.76 per cent - followed by speeding at 23.39 per cent.

Most traffic accidents involved motorcycles - 79.65 per cent. Police manned 2,257 main checkpoints and arrested 101,523 traffic law violators, of whom 30,491 failed to show a driver's licence and 28,275 were motorcyclists not wearing a helmet.

Chiang Rai had the most accidents on the day with 23, while Chiang Mai and Udon Thani reported the most deaths with four each. Roi Et had the most injuries with 29 victims.

Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department chief Chatchai Phromlert said the authority expected many travellers to head back to Bangkok from today onwards. Officials have been urged to adjust their checkpoints and service points accordingly as well as watching out for sleepy drivers and traffic law violators.

Permanent Secretary of the Public Health Ministry Dr Narong Sahametapat, urged the staff of all hospitals to be well prepared and rested to deal with emergencies.

He warned that the physical condition of a person failing to sleep 18 hours in a row could be equivalent to that of a drunk person with 50 milligrams per 100ml of alcohol in their blood. Such a level doubled the risk for an accident.

Drivers who stayed awake for 24 hours could be affected like an intoxicated person and face six times the risk of causing an accident.

He urged drivers to sleep 7-9 hours prior to travel, refrain from drinking booze, and take a break every 150 kilometres or after two hours of driving.

For men, the blood alcohol concentration limit of 50mg/100 ml is reached after no more than 2 standard drinks in the first hour and 1 standard drink each hour after that. For women, the limit means no more than 1 standard drink each hour.