Readers' Submissions

Speedeyeometer

  • Written by Anonymous
  • October 4th, 2008
  • 5 min read



Speed limit in most of the main highways in Thailand is 80 k/h, but you can drive up to 90 k/h without any problems, since a cushion of 10 k/h is allowed. Of course, if you have to drive a long distance, this maximum permissible speed is unrealistic; your trip will never end. Besides, it is not safe, as you will be driving at a much lower speed than the average traffic speed. If you drive on the right, faster lane, you will have exasperated drivers just behind your bumper, turning the lights on, doing all kinds of crazy dangerous maneuvers, zigzagging and performing risky acrobatics to overtake you. If you drive on the slower left lane, you will get all the time behind slow moving trucks, which would further make your trip still longer; you will be forced to change lanes at all times, which is not the most prudent driving. As a result, practically nobody respects the speed limits on the road. Thai drivers just hope to be lucky and avoid the men in brown clothes stopping them, with the consequent less than agreeable encounter. These devoted knights of the law and order, can really get unpleasant at times, particularly when they are in need of fresh cash.

If you get caught speeding, you have two options for paying the speeding ticket. First option, you pay in the police station. The police officer who stopped you writes the ticket and withholds your driver’s license; you go to the nearest police station, which is often located tens of kilometers away, pay the contravention, between 200 B and 400 B, (I never understood clearly the law), and rush back to the point where you were pulled out, hoping that the policeman is still there to return your driver’s license; otherwise, you’ll have to overnight there and wait until next day to retrieve it. The second option is paying “on-site.” You just slip a 100 B note under his notepad and go away, no questions asked, no ticket written. Sometimes they may try to get smart with farangs, requesting 200 B, but you must remain firm maintaining that the rules of the game stand as 100 B for everybody, regardless of ethnicity. For that reason, all Thai drivers always have a 100 B note separated in their pocket to cover that eventuality.

I have a radar detector that I brought from the USA. It saved me a lot of money already. As a radar beam is pointing to my car, the radar detectors beeps; I have a few seconds to reduce the speed before the police radar can measure my speed. Radar detectors are almost unheard of in Thailand. I have many Thai friends that already asked me to order one for them. The story I will tell happened five times to me, in nearly identical ways.

Three times on route 32, driving north from Sin Buri to Nakhon Sawan and two times on route 1 between Nakhon Sawan and Kamphaeng Phet. A police officer orders me to pull off the road. I know that he doesn’t have a radar gauge because my radar detector did not beep. And if they don’t have radar, they can’t charge you a fine regardless of how fast you are driving. I stop my car. A second policeman approaches and says “reu reu” (too fast). “Mai chai” (no) I respond emphatically. Don’t even think a Thai policeman would speak a word in English, so our conversation goes on in Thai. He shows some surprise by the assertiveness of my response but still persists. “You were driving at 130 k/h.” I must agree that it was a pretty good guess from him, since I was driving at about 140 k/h.

“No sir, I was driving at 90 k/h,” I respond with equal poise.

He gets increasingly uneasy by my self-confident responses, yet he insists “You were driving at 120 k/h,” this time showing some hesitation. Good, I think, he already made me a discount of 10 k/h.

“OK, you say that I was driving at 120 k/h and I say that I was driving at 90 k/h, on that case I want you to show me the actual speed of my car recorded in your radar.” This is your right, in case of disagreement, they have to show the speed recorded in the radar if you request, a device he doesn’t have.

Then his attitude changes completely. He smiles, becomes friendly (in one of the occasions he even shakes hands with me), and starts an amicable conversation, asking all the very same questions that Thais always ask farangs. “Ja pai nai? Pai tio mai? Yuu Muang Thai naan mai? Mii mia kon Thai mai? Chop Prattet Thai mai? (Where are you going? Are you going on vacation? How long have you lived in Thailand? Do you have Thai wife? Do you like Thailand?”

I respond “yes, sure” to this last question, which happened to be truth, except for Thai police and other annoying inconveniences that eventually may occur at times.

After a couple of minutes of a nice chit chatting he pronounces probably the only one word he knows in English, “go, go,” and continues in Thai, “but please, drive safely and do not speed too much.”

“Sawasdee krup,” and I continue my way at 140 k/h, leaving the guy scratching his head. May he have committed such an error of assessment?

Stickman's thoughts:

Funny story. So long as you are polite this approach should work.

What I have experienced is that the police on intercity roads seem more interested in pulling people over who were driving in the right lane and failing to keep left as opposed to drivers speeding. That's one infringement they can get you for without a radar gun!