Thailand says Songkran holiday road deaths rose 21 percent

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BANGKOK (AP) — Authorities in Thailand said Monday that 442 people died in traffic accidents during the just concluded traditional New Year holiday — a 21 percent rise over the same period last year despite stern efforts to curb drunken and unsafe driving.

It was the highest number of Songkran holiday deaths since 476 were reported in 2006. The weeklong holiday has been dubbed the "Seven Days of Death," though Thailand has the second-worst record in the world for annual traffic fatalities.

There were 3,337 accidents during the week ending Sunday, with motorcycles accounting for more than 81 percent of the total, followed by pickup trucks, the Road Safety Directing Centre announced. Drunken driving was blamed for just over one-third of the accidents, and speeding for just under another third. Road injuries for the week totaled 3,656.

The government had sought to curb accidents during the holiday by deploying 20,000 officials to checkpoints and ordering drunken drivers' vehicles to be impounded and their licenses revoked. Rewards were also offered to police making the most number of drunken-driving arrests.

Deputy Government Spokesman Weerachon Sukondhapatipak blamed the high accident rate on unsafe road design and lack of discipline among Thai drivers.

"Not only villagers, but educated people, who have been to developed countries, they obey laws in those countries but they don't do it here no matter how strict the laws are, how many officers were patrolling or doing their jobs at checkpoints," he said.

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