He rejected the theory posed by some pundits that lower petrol prices and more cars on the road caused the spike in the road toll.
Despite tougher measures taken by the military and police, such as confiscating vehicles from motorists found to be drink-driving, the death toll from this year’s Songkran festival, from April 11 to 17, was 442 compared with 364 over the same period last year.
More accidents were also reported this year, 3,447 compared with 3,373 last year.
Some commentators say the larger number of cars and a recent drop in petrol prices were the main contributing factors but Dr Tairjing disagreed.
“Thai people do not take interest in accident issues... they usually relate the issue with fate or karma,” he said.
He added: “If people care then we have a better chance at fighting this problem.”
The Ministry of Public Health said the road toll figures, collected from April 11 to 19, which includes traffic coming back late from the holiday, showed 504 people died in road accidents during the period.
There were also 28,241 injuries resulting in about 200 people becoming handicapped. The estimated cost to treat motorists involved in Songkran accidents stands at more than B1.4 billion, according to the permanent secretary for public health Sopon Mekthon.
The Interior Ministry said alcohol is still the No. 1 cause of accidents followed by speeding.
Figures from the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation listed alcohol as being the cause of 40 per cent of the accidents, driving over the speed limit 24%, and careless driving 16%.
The top three types of vehicles involved were motorbikes at just more than 80%, pick up trucks 10% and sedans/taxis 4%.
More than 30% of motorbike drivers didn’t wear helmets, which contributed to the high death toll.
Chiang Mai recorded the highest number of accidents at 164, Nakhon Ratchasima came second at 128, and Udon Thani third at 111.
Dr Tairjing suggested authorities campaign year-round for safer driving rather than launching an intensive campaign covering the “seven dangerous days” of Songkran, which appears not to work.
He also said authorities needed new ways to tackle the problem because he had seen little change over the past 10 years.
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