(10 April) Officials have warned motorists to take extra care on the roads as the Thai traditional New Year festival kicks off on Saturday.
Millions are thought to be traveling on the roads throughout the long holiday period of Songkran, which spans from 12 April to 15 April this year, such as families leaving the cities for vacations in outlying provinces, and urban immigrants returning to their rural hometowns.
The annual exodus from Bangkok metropolis is so large that many parts of the usually-busy capital city will appear deserted. Even the anti-government protest movements have agreed to enact a sort of truce during Songkran holidays, indicating that no major demonstration or rallies will take place until the holiday period is over.
A high number of road accidents and fatalities accompany Songkran each year, partly due to exhausted or drunk drivers during the holiday season.
This year, the government has urged each provincial authority to curb the problems by, among other procedures, setting up checkpoints to deter drunk-driving, placing traffic police officers at important chokepoints along the highways, and launching campaigns to inform motorists of the risks associated with commuting during the Songkran holiday period.
The government previously initiated a PR campaign called "Zero Death Songkran" to set up an ambitious – some would say virtually impossible – goal of achieving no road fatalities throughout the Songkran holiday season this year.
In Pitsanulok province, where highways connecting the northern region of Thailand with Bangkok meet, Mr. Wattana Kannapat, the provincial governor, opened a ceremony to raise awareness to motorists along the local roads today at a bus terminal in Mueang district.
Mr. Wattana said the authorities will double their vigilance to maintain road safety from 11-17 April, under a campaign called "Build Culture of Safety, Reduce Accidents Across Thailand For Songkran".
The governor added that he hoped the campaign would help Pitsanulok lessen the number of injuries and deaths resulting from road accidents this year; the previous year's record for Pitsanulok stood at 64 injuries and 7 fatalities.
Speaking at the bus terminal today, Mr. Wattana also assured the public that police officers will administer breathalyser and urine tests on a daily basis to public transport staff in the province to look for any trace of alcohol or narcotics consumption.
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