My Thai Road Accident Experience
After living here for over 5 years I have heard all the stories re accidents, i.e. it's always your fault “because if you didn’t live here it wouldn’t have happened scenario”. Well here’s a new slant on this (urban)
On 10th October 2009, at 7:09 am I was involved in an accident. I was driving to a golf course (hence the early morning), on a road I was familiar with, a journey I have done every 2 weeks for the last four years. I consider myself to be a safe driver with an accident free life in the 25 years I have been driving. On the morning in question I was not drowsy, was not drunk, was not fiddling about with radios / telephones and was concentrating on the road and had 2 hands on the steering wheel.
I had just turned on to the frontage road beside the Bangna Trad highway. Due to the condition of the frontage road, high speed is not an option. It's bumpy, has numerous pot holes and is not in a great condition. At the time I believed I was travelling at 50 – 60 km/h. I was not late and would be arriving at my destination (less than 5 minutes away) ahead of time. As I was driving I noticed a bus driving along the Bangna Trad (not on the elevated section). I saw it stop and saw 4 people exit the bus.
Between the frontage road and the Bangna Trad are a series of concrete dividers. One of these has a gap in them to allow passengers to easily alight from the bus, and as I drove all the passengers went through this gap. 3 people stopped and looked, one did not, and walked straight out onto the road. It’s difficult to say how far away I was, I think less than 15 feet and needless to say a collision was inevitable.
I braked and swerved at the same time but due to the distance / speed the lady in question was hit and carried for approximately 20 meters before my car came to a stop. I immediately exited the car and ran to see how she was. Upon arrival, blood was exiting a head wound at the back and coming from her mouth. However, not from internal bleeding but from her teeth being smashed on impact. I quickly administered first aid, a golfing towel was applied with pressure to the head wound, and her body was checked for broken bones. At this stage a number of motorcycle taxi drivers came rushing over, one calling for an ambulance and one calling the police. At this stage I was as white as a sheet, visibly shaking and feeling very sick.
Within 5 minutes the ambulance was there where they strapped the lady onto a stretcher, immobilizing both her neck and an arm. She was put in the back and driven away.
The next thing that happened was a bus driver wanting me to move the car. I moved the vehicle (just plain forgot about the rule of not moving anything) and a taxi driver came up to me, put his arm around me and said in very bad English, “No problem, don’t worry, police come.”
The police arrived within about 15 minutes. They duly walked up to my car, took pictures and spoke to everybody but me. Eventually an officer wanted all my documents, license, insurance etc. This was examined very, very carefully and only after a thorough examination of my documents did he ask me what happened. I explained in English and mime what had happened. Another police officer was busy measuring all the distances on the road from where I had hit her to her eventual landing spot. Incredibly where I had started braking was at the start of a large (3 metre long by 1.5 wide) puddle, where rain water had accumulated due to the unevenness of the road. This would no doubt effect the braking distance versus speed travelled.
It was during all this that I was in contact with my insurance company who kept on ringing up and asking a number of questions in Thai. No English speaking people were available. The police officer also talked to the insurance agent and informed them on no account could the car be driven. It would need to be towed. The police took my license and informed me that I would need to attend the station and sign a statement. All through this, the policemen re-assured me that “no problem, accident”.
The insurance man arrived, took one look at the car and told me to drive it to the police station. I informed him that there was no way I was driving it and I had been told by the police not to drive it. Eventually he agreed. All of a sudden a young man arrived on a motorbike, spoke to the insurance guy and he was introduced to me as the husband of the women I hit.
Call me cynical (5½ years living here, possibly) but my bullshit antennae went up. This guy was a good 15 years younger than his wife, and if his wife was at the hospital, WTF was he doing here? Anyway, his first words to me were that he wanted my phone number. I didn’t want to cause trouble but I also didn’t want to give him my phone number, so I gave him a phone number that was a derivative of mine that was tucked away and put in his pocket. He then spoke to the insurance man. I couldn’t understand all of what he was saying but it involved money – who from and who to I didn’t know. This guy was to stay at my side through the whole incident.
He then wanted a copy off my license and documents. Unbelievable! But the insurance man gives them to him. I snatch them back and look at him with a quizzical look
Why do you give him my documents?
Insurance Man “He wants to make copy.”
Insurance man “we need copy for police.”
“Fine, we will copy at police station.”
Into the insurance man’s car to drive to the police station (followed by husband on his motorbike). At the police station, the original two officers were not there so it was a case of waiting around. “Husband” handed me a piece of paper with a telephone number on it. “Hospital” he said… Great, it went into my pocket.
There then followed a bizarre number of conversations. It was at this point I decided to keep to English so there was no confusion.
Insurance man “You need to pay 500 baht.”
Me “who to and why.”
Insurance man “Your car have accident, you hit somebody, pay 500 baht.”
Me – “no.”
10 minutes later, his phone starts ringing and he passes the phone to me. A friend of his is on the phone.
“Hello, my friend is the insurance man; I speak to you because he can’t explain in English.”
“Your car have accident, In Thailand, Thai law says you must pay money.”
“So you pay 2000 baht.”
“No, because 5 minutes ago, it was 500 baht, go away.”
Phone handed back to insurance man, a long phone call ensued, and all in Thai but the basis was “Why did you ask for 2000 when it's 500 baht you stupid….”
Phone handed back to me.
“I’m sorry, it's 500 baht to the police, not 2,000, but you must pay police to release your car after an accident.”
“My car isn’t here! It’s on the way to the garage, so it doesn’t need to be released.”
“Ah, but you must still pay police.”
30 minutes later, my mobile goes.
Hospital “Hello is that Mr. XXXXX.”
Me – Yes.
Hospital “You need to come to hospital.”
Me – Why?
Hospital “Bring passport.”
Me – Why?
Hospital “You knock somebody over.”
Me – No, a person walked out in front of me.
Hospital “Ah, in Thailand, Thai law says you have to pay.”
Hospital “well she had operation, so you need to pay.”
Me – “No, you need to talk to my insurance company.”
Hospital “Is he there, can I talk with him?”
Phone is passed over to Insurance man, a few minutes of talk and then.
Insurance man “where you from.”
Me – Why?
Insurance man “where were you born.”
Me – Why?
Insurance man “hospital needs to know.”
Me – OK, Cyprus.
Insurance man with lots of ehhhhhhh, mmmmmmm and confused look, talks back to the hospital and no mention of Cyprus is made. Phone is handed back, no further conversation.
Husband is now joined by another person. I’m not introduced to him, but looks like his brother.
The policeman is now at the desk and begins to write a statement and my license appears. The insurance man takes possession of the license and now hands it to the “husband”.
I quickly snatch it out of his hand, and ask “Why do you give my license to him?”
Insurance man “ah, he is boyfriend of women you hit, we need copy, he will do for us.”
“Boyfriend, I thought you said husband, and no, he can’t make a copy.”
License handed back to the police, they are now enjoying the show. Lots of talking and laughing. I don’t know why they're laughing! My first thought is they are thinking “Wow this is one cynical person, he doesn’t trust anybody!”
or “I think he has been here a long time and you will get no money from him.”
Eventually, I asked to sign the statement. It was all written in Thai, so I have no idea what it says, so I am reluctant to sign it. I try and explain to the policemen that due to the nature of what has happened I feel very reluctant to sign. He tries to explain that I need to sign.
I sign, but write underneath, “This signature in no way constitutes an understanding of what is written above as I do not understand Thai” and this was signed as well. The police looked at it, laughed, told everybody else in the station. Everybody else laughed, a copy was made, and given back to me.
I am allowed to leave.
My friend comes to pick me up, and as soon as I’m in the car, the mobile goes off again.
“You forgot to pay 500 baht, you come back now.”
I return to the station, pay 500 baht, and ask for a receipt. Cannot he says, as the 500 baht is slipped into the smiling policemen’s pocket.
Afterwards and thoughts
All through this bizarre and unfortunate situation, not once did I raise my voice or lose my temper. I was proper and respectful to all the policemen I came in contact with and although the whole incident (accident to me leaving the police station) was 5 hours, I didn’t moan or complain. I firmly believe that if any of my documents / license were in the slightest bit flaky, the outcome would have been different. I was very fortunate in that 3 motorcycle drivers witnessed the incident and gave a true account of what happened. The lady in question did have a broken wrist, cuts on her face, a smashed mouth and a rather larger crack in her skull. The document handed to me by the police (I had it translated) stated that I was travelling at 51 km/h upon impact, (I’ve always been led to believe that if you hit somebody above 30 mph, they are pretty much dead, so she is fortunate to be alive). Also, I drive a Toyota Soluna. Had it been something like a Fortuna or other 4WD, the outcome may well have been different. My personality is one that I want to call the hospital and find out how she is and why she didn’t look, however my instincts say “Stay Away”, so I’ve stayed away.
There have been no contact from the police, the insurance (other than to let me know where and when I can pick the car up) hospital or from the family of the lady that I hit. The lessons learned, make sure you are 100% legal in all areas of documentation, stay calm and respectful and no matter how safe you drive, accidents do happen
Very nicely put together story. It sure does sound like a stressful situation and for sure, you're lucky her injuries, as bad as they were, weren't worse. Had she died, well, I'd hate to think what might have followed, even though it really does seem you weren't in the wrong.
For sure, other drivers might not have stopped, especially if the damage to the car did not prevent it from being driven away.
What I find most disappointing in this story is the insurance man. If you have fully comprehensive insurance then you should be covered for everything. That 500 baht farce should not have happened.
Oh, and for sure, you're VERY wise that you were legit. All these idiots driving around on dodgy drivers' licences – and that is many foreigners here – are really pushing their luck!