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New Year road deaths surge in Thailand despite safety campaign
January 4, 2017 / 5:09 AM / 9 months ago

New Year road deaths surge in Thailand despite safety campaign

BANGKOK (Reuters) - More than 400 people died in road accidents in Thailand over the New Year period, statistics released on Wednesday showed, despite a government road safety campaign in one of the most dangerous countries in the world to drive a car.

The Department of Land Transport said 426 people died in 3,327 accidents between Dec. 29 and Jan. 3, up from 340 in the year-earlier period.

Thailand’s road death rate is the highest in the world apart from war-ravaged Libya, according to a 2015 World Health Organization report.

The mounting figures come despite a government campaign to make Thailand’s roads safer, including an increase in police presence and public information campaigns.

Laws that mandate the use of seat belts and crash helmets are rarely enforced while drunk driving is common.

“Unfortunately the number of fatalities has increased despite a campaign from the government and law enforcement to increase safety,” government spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak told Reuters.

“Road safety is something we will have to continue working on continuously and not just during the new year period.”

On Monday, 25 people died when a van collided with a pick-up truck in Chon Buri province south of Bangkok - the highest death toll in a single incident over the holiday period.

Excessive speed is the top cause of road death, according to the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

Road and boat accidents involving tourists are common in Thailand, where safety standards are sometimes well below international norms.

Despite its woeful road and sea safety record, Thailand remains a magnet for foreign visitors.

The tourism ministry had forecast a record 32.4 million arrivals in 2016. It has yet to release final figures for the year.

Reporting by Cod Satrusayang; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie

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