The news follows new national police chief Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk last Friday (Oct 2) ordering the suspension of drink-driving checkpoints until the transparency of the tests can be ensured.
“There must not be roadside tests. They must be carried out at a hospital, so that people can feel confident that they are accurate. Until we can do that, we will set them at zero for now,” Gebn Suwat said.
In response to Pol Gen Suwat’s directives, Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau chief Pol Lt Gen Phukphong Phongpetra ordered a halt to all checkpoints including alcohol testing and crime-prevention stops.
In Phuket, all checkpoints were cancelled last weekend through to Tuesday (Oct 6). However, from Wednesday on (Oct 7), police resumed their stance on drunk driving, Col Arayapan confirmed.
“Police across Phuket will check for alcohol, but no longer at checkpoints as standard procedure. We will conduct anti-drunk driving campaigns when [the provincial police commander] issues a special order, and any officer who believes that the driver may be under the influence of alcohol will have the driver tested,” he assured.
Officers who believe a driver may be over the legal limit will be taken to the relevant police station and initially tested there, Col Arayapan explained.
If the officer believes that the driver warrants further testing, the driver will be taken to a government hospital to have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) conducted by medical personnel.
Col Arayapan told The Phuket News that Provincial Police this week met with Region 8 Police, based at the northern end of the island, to start drafting new standard procedures for officers to follow.
“Right now we still have not finalised what the standard procedures will be, but if any officer has reason to believe a driver has been drinking, they will be tested and charged,” he repeated.
Col Arayapan also confirmed that the new traffic penalties published in the Government Gazette in August, which will come into effect on Nov 1, have seen the minimum penalties raised for a host of minor traffic infractions, but the penalties for drink driving remain the same as those brought into law in 2015.
Since 2015, the BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) limit for professional and commercial drivers, and drivers under 24 years old, remains zero, and the legal BAC limit for all other drivers is 0.05%.
The penalties for drunk driving are:
Drunk driving: Up to one year imprisonment or a fine of B5,000 to B20,000 or both, and driver’s license suspended for six months.
Drunk driving causing bodily or mental harm to others: One to five years imprisonment or a fine of B20,000 to B100,000 or both, and driver’s license suspended for up to one year.
Drunk driving causing serious injury to others: Two to six years imprisonment or a fine of B40,000 to B120,000 or both, and driver’s license suspended for up to two years.
Drunk driving causing death: Three to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of B60,000 to B200,000 and your driver’s license will be cancelled. Whether you will be allowed to apply for a driver’s license again during your lifetime is up to the court.
Dr Wiwat Seetamanotch, Vice President of the Phuket office of the Road Safety Policy Foundation, welcomed the police focus on drunk driving, but said that more needed to be done to tackle the deadly practice on the island.
Alcohol is a major contributory factor in road accidents nationwide, he said, noting that alcohol is a factor in “20-40%” of all road accidents in Phuket, he said.
As of Tuesday (Oct 6), 54 people have died and a further 5,461 people have been injured in 5,515 accidents in Phuket so far this year, according to the Thai Road Safety Committee (ThaiRSC).
Despite campaigns to reduce drunk driving, “The number of drunk drivers in accidents in Phuket this year is nearly the same as last year,” Dr Wiwat said.
“I understand that police are now in a position of having to change their standard procedure for checking for drunk drivers, but they need to come up with a clear procedure as soon as they can because accidents happen every day,” he urged.