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First road death recorded in “Safe Songkran’

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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First road death recorded in “Safe Songkran’ | Thaiger

PATONG: Within minutes of government officials urging people to ride safely, Sarawuth Kohavee became the first road fatality in Songkran week in Phuket. About noon his motorbike, bound for Phuket City, slammed into the rear of a six-wheel truck as it turned into a soi in Chalong, near the entrance of Phuket Vanich Company. K. Sarawuth was not wearing a helmet. In Patong, the “ride safe” speeches that began at 11 am to mark the opening of Bike Week had just concluded. Most telling of the points made were that Thailand has a high and costly road toll and that, statistically, Phuket rates as the worst province in the country. Bhokin Bhalakula, the Minister of Interior and Chairman of the Songkran Safe Riding Campaign, told a gathering at Patong’s football field that the government now realized the seriousness of Thailand’s road toll, which costs the country 100 billion baht a year – equivalent to more than 2% of GDP. Governor Udomsak Usawarangkura said that statistics showed there were two road deaths in Thailand every hour. If that were not bad enough, he added, 4,000 people each year are left with lifelong handicaps – including lost arms, legs and eyes, or permanent brain damage. “In addition, there are costs in social terms and to the country’s development that cannot be calculated,” he said. During Songkran, the toll is as much as four times the average level. He revealed that in Phuket, 137 people died on the roads in 2003, which represented 50.26 people for each 100,000 of the population – the highest death rate in the country. The tragic forecast is that as many as 157 people will die on the roads in 2004 unless driving habits and abilities can be improved, Gov Udomsak said. As a result, this Songkran officials in Phuket are working hard to preserve lives, he said. Some 40 checkpoints have been set up, manned by about 500 police and government officers, and Songkran waterplay – frequently blamed for causing accidents – is limited this year to major zones at Saphan Hin, Suan Luang, Patong, Rawai and Nai Yang as well as smaller local zones. The Phuket Provincial Office reported today that checkpoints established on Friday had, in the first three days, netted 359 people without motorcycle or car driving licenses, 86 people who were not wearing helmets, 54 who were not wearing seat belts, 20 who were driving drunk, and six riding motorcycles modified in an unsafe fashion. In that time, there had been 85 accidents, with 96 people injured, in addition to the death of K. Sarawuth, Metha Mekarat, Chief of the Phuket Office of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (ODPM) told the Gazette. Meanwhile Minister Bhokin, having urged people to drive safely during Songkran and Bike Week in Phuket, headed for Pattani and a forum seeking peaceful ways to resolve the violence in southern provinces. Asked about the Australian government’s travel advisory warning citizens to avoid Phuket and Pattaya as well as the South, he said, “Phuket still looks good and normal. Many tourists still come to Phuket, I see. “People who stay here will feel that it’s okay while some people may have concerns about events in the southern provinces.”

 

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