April 11, 2018 / 8:00 AM / 16 days ago

Water hazard: Thailand rolls out 'Seven Deadly Days' road safety campaign

BANGKOK (Reuters) - The video opens with revellers throwing water by the side of a road as they celebrate Songkran, the festival that ushers in the traditional Thai new year.

Then the camera pans to a horrific road accident and the group are seen trying to douse flames engulfing the vehicles.

This is one of several public service announcements being aired ahead of the new year holiday, when Thailand sees a spike in road deaths as many people exit cities bound for their homes in the countryside.

Dubbed the “Seven Deadly Days”, the days before, during and after the Songkran holiday see accident rates soar, with drunk driving accounting for many crashes.

The seven days began on Wednesday this year and will end on Tuesday.

The holiday is often referred to as the world’s biggest water fight, with revellers throwing water at passing cars and motorbikes that sometimes swerve to avoid getting doused.

Elephants and people play with water during the celebration of Songkran Water Festival, to commemorate Thailand's New Year in Ayutthaya, Thailand April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

Thailand’s roads rank among the world’s deadliest, according to the World Health Organization, and there has been little improvement despite safety campaigns over the years.

On Tuesday, six migrant workers from Myanmar were killed when their double-decker bus crashed into a ditch near the border town of Mae Sot, the second fatal accident in as many weeks involving migrants.

Thailand’s transport ministry said it aimed to reduce the number of road accidents by 7 percent during this Songkran festival.

Emergency responders doubt the latest safety campaign will have much impact.

Elephants and people play with water during the celebration of Songkran Water Festival, to commemorate Thailand's New Year in Ayutthaya, Thailand April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

“These campaigns are quite isolated and mostly for show only,” said Marko Cunningham from the Bangkok Free Ambulance Service, a volunteer ambulance organization.

“Thai people know the laws and yet continue to break them,” he said. “I have always said the main problem lies with enforcement.”

Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Darren Schuettler

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