They held a press conference at the Royal Thai Police Office yesterday (Aug 24) to respond to strong criticisms against legal amendments to punish unlicensed drivers with a jail term of up to three months or a fine of up to B50,000.
Kamol Buranapong, deputy director-general of the Land Transport Department, said the amendment was aimed at raising public awareness on road safety and drivers’ social responsibility.
“Research shows that 34% of unlicensed motorcyclists died in accidents. The rate is twice as much as licensed motorcyclists,” he said.
“This is to instil in drivers the awareness so they strictly follow traffic rules. It will play an important role in reducing accidents and the losses of life and properties,” Mr Kamol said.
The newly planned penalties under a merged law were actually slightly harsher than those of two present laws, he said. He referred to a jail term of up to one month or a fine of up to B1,000 under the vehicle act and a jail term of up to two years and a fine of up to B40,000 under the land transport act.
The proposed punishment was based on academic research and international standards, Mr Kamol said.
Dr Tanapong Jinwong from the Road Safety Thai organisation said 1,688 local people aged 15-19 died in road accidents yearly.
He also said unlicensed drivers faced a jail term of up to one year or a fine of up to B88,000 in Japan and a term of up to five years or a fine of up to B800,000 in the United States.
“The legal amendment is key to safe driving. Licensed drivers are those who have received safe driving training,” he said.
Assoc Prof Kanawee Kanitpong, manager of the Thailand Accident Research Centre, said about 60% of motorcyclists had no driving licences and their accident risks were twice those of licensed motorcyclists. Most unlicensed motorcyclists were below 24 years old, he said.
Maj Gen Ekarak Limsangkat, a Special Branch police commander, said that under the laws in effect today, driving without a licence was considered a minor offence with a fine of up to B1,000.
As a result, they fail to deter offenders, many of whom are willing to pay fines or even continue driving without a licence, he said.
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