Buses and their drivers must be fixed, retrained or replaced if they are not fit for travel, Gen Prayut said during his visit to Nong Bua Lam Phu yesterday (Mar 22).
Kritsana Chuthachuen, 45, the driver of the bus involved in the latest tragedy, was tested and found to have used methamphetamine (ya bah).
The deaths, which alerted authorities again to the country’s notorious road accident toll, dominated parts of the speech the prime minister gave to villagers who had received farmland assistance.
He also expressed concern over next month’s Songkran holiday, when road accidents and fatalities typically spike as vacationers take to the roads and alcohol consumption rises.
“The government won’t set a target for reducing the number of casualties this Songkran. Rather, we’ll monitor the situation throughout the year,” Gen Prayut said.
Authorities will examine changes in accident figures in each province, find their causes and plan better solutions, he said.
While the accident took place around 7pm on Wednesday and Kritsana fled, he turned himself in to the police yesterday afternoon and blamed brake failure for the accident.
The driver, who sustained several injuries, said he decided to surrender because he felt guilty about the casualties and his injuries were worsening. The crash also hurt 32 people.
Kritsana told police he failed to slow the vehicle in time as the bus, which was at capacity with 50 passengers, made its way down a mountain slope. A global positioning system reported the bus was travelling at 80km/h. This part of his account matched earlier interviews given by Nakhon Ratchasima Governor Wichian Jantaranothait, who said the braking system had apparently malfunctioned as passengers reported a burning smell about 3 kilometres before the crash occurred.
Also yesterday, a second double-decker bus carrying about 50 students and teachers from Kamphaeng Phet careered off a road about 4am and hit a roadside rest stop in Ayutthaya as they headed for Chonburi during a study trip.
The accident injured 39 passengers, The 45-year-old driver, Chaowalit Yuteun, suffered severe injuries.
Police suspected the vehicle skidded because the road was slippery following heavy rain.
On March 19, 2017, the Department of Land Transport reduced the legal height of double-decker buses from 4.30 metres to 4m. In January 2016, Transport Minister Arkom Termpittayapaisith said the premier had ordered a ban on registering new double-decker buses. At the time, there were 20,000 such buses in operation. The government said it did not expect to see many more double deckers on Thai roads.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin said after a road accident involving a school bus from Khon Kaen that the ministry had prohibited school trips that were too long or involved night travel.
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