PM Prayut Chan-o-cha Does A U-turn As Road Safety Rule Postponed
Just hours after the new strict road safety regulations were put in place under Article 44, the prime minister relaxed enforcement of a ban on travelling in the cargo bed of pickup trucks until after the Songkran break, although implementation of the seat belt rules began yesterday.
Police across the country began fining commuters and passengers between 100฿ and 500฿ for violating the new regulations as people prepared to travel to provinces to celebrate the holiday.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to delay the implementation because he did not want people to be troubled during the traditional New Year as people needed the vehicles to travel during the festival which would end on April 17, Assistant Police Commissioner General, Pol Lt-General Wittaya Prayongpan said.
The strict enforcement regarding travelling in the cargo bed of pickup trucks would return after the festival, he added.
The premier instructed police to use other measures to provide safety for commuters during Sonkran, he said. “We would enforce the traffic law strictly such as speed control and ban drunk drivers to ensure that people would travel safely.”
The order issued under Article 44 of the interim charter last month bans passengers from riding in the cargo bed of pickup trucks and orders that all passengers travelling in a vehicle must wear a seat belt. Yesterday was to be the first day of enforcement.
The new rules were widely criticised in Thai social media, as many disagreed with the strict enforcement which left them “too little time” to adjust their holiday travel plans to comply with the restrictions. Thailand is one of a few places in the world where the pickup truck is used to carry everything from farm products to passengers in urban and rural areas.
The most popular type of pickup truck in Thailand is the extended cab, where a few passengers can sit behind the driving seat, which has bench seats. However, there are no seat belts in the extended space, which is a contravention of the new regulations.
Police in some provinces were seen yesterday strictly checking drivers and passengers to see if the seat-belt rule was being followed and imposing fines starting at 100฿.
Nong Khai police served fines in 50 cases. Facebook user Araya Japakdee posted a traffic ticket issued in Maha Sarakham for misusing her truck by having passengers in the cargo bed.
In Bangkok, city police deputy chief Pol Maj-General Jirapat Phumjit admitted that in practice officers could not stop every car to check them, so fines would be served if violations were visible to officers. Jirapat said the fines would depend on the vehicle type and the period of their registration.
Vehicles registered under the Automobile Act – such as personal cars, pickup trucks and taxis – would face a fine of up to 500฿, while those under the Land Transport Act – such as public transport vans, inter-province buses and cargo trucks – would face a fine of up to 5,000฿ per head, he said.
Down South, many Narathiwat residents took their old cars and pickup trucks to have seat belts repaired or installed and some garage owners, such as Saen Thongkhampong from SV Pradapyont shop in Sungai Kolok, waived the labour fee to lessen the burden on customers. A set of seat belts can cost between 380฿ and 550฿.
A Ratchaburi native, identified only as Somsri, 46, said she disagreed with banning passengers from travelling on the cargo bed and the extended cab because that was how her family travelled everywhere, especially for Songkran.
A Suphan Buri construction contractor identified only as Yod, 48, said the new rule affected him as he used a pickup truck to transport tools and workers around.