Stickman Readers' Submissions July 3rd, 2023

Thai Driving Makes Life A Lottery

Stick’s comment about the rising standard of Thai driving in Bangkok surprised me. I am very conscious when I go out that I could be seriously injured or killed at any moment, I’ve long felt that, and it hasn’t changed. And it doesn’t matter how good a driver you are. If someone hurtles at you across the divide because they’ve taken a bend too quickly or fallen asleep or have lost concentration then there is nothing you can do about it. You are at the mercy of anyone who doesn’t really have a clue about how to drive safely. True, things might not be as risky in Bangkok as they are outside of any urban area, due to congestion and less opportunity to speed, but even then there are other dangers to contend with such as running a red light.

And you aren’t really safe anywhere. Not so long ago I was standing at the entrance to the driveway to my house, about a foot or so off of the road surface, looking down the road for my dog. And with no warning, speeding down the wrong side of the road behind me as he raced another, a pickup came within inches of hitting me. He was so close I felt the heat of the engine.

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There are many reasons Thais drive as they do.

1 – I have never detected any sign of common sense in a Thai, and I’ve been living here for around 27 years. I am not sure how you teach that, but anyway there is no movement to do so.

2 – The Thais have a Me First mentality that is deeply ingrained, and that is the last thing you want to see in a driver.

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3 – The education system demands that you do not think for yourself but listen and obey, so Thais do not develop the necessary skills to actually think. That may result in my first point above.

4 – Learning to drive in a proper and responsible manner is quite difficult, and Thais do not do difficult. Thais do ‘near enough’, but on the roads that isn’t ‘good enough’. One mistake can cost lives, so being lucky enough to get it right most of the time isn’t good enough either.

5 – They have absolutely no concept that the vehicle they are attempting to operate is a potential killer. No concept at all (as my experience above demonstrates).

6 – Along with inadequate teaching of all things about how to drive properly and safely, there is no test to determine if you have reached a standard where you are not a danger to yourself and others before you take to the road.

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7 – Thais do not seem able to join the dots, and realise that if, for example, they drive at 120 kms an hour five metres behind the vehicle in front, they would have no time to react if the vehicle in front brakes suddenly. Or that driving at night with no rear light (or a front light if they are driving on the wrong side of the road) is a very dangerous thing to do.

8 – There are zero police patrols to help prevent accidents by pulling aside selfish and stupid drivers. Their only presence is setting up road blocks which seems in my experience to have only one purpose – to check your tax disc is in the window and up to date.

9 – Police have absolutely no interest in enforcing the law even when they are static beside the road, watching kids three or four on a bike go by with no helmet, no license, no ability to properly control the bike they are on. And that goes also for the parents and schools who allow Thailand’s future to play Russian Roulette every time they go out. The police know they get paid anyway, so why work?

10 – The government does nothing to resolve the road death / accident toll as nothing practically can be done. The problem began decades ago when Thais first began to drive in numbers. No meaningful test was introduced and enforced, and now it is far, far too late.

It would mean retraining every driver (and who would do that – it would be similar to those who teach English not being able to speak the language themselves). And it would mean the drivers having to take a proper western-style test before gaining a license. And it would mean police patrols to catch those who drive as if they are playing a video game.

Now, anyone can drive as they like and put themselves and others in danger as they know they have zero chance of being caught. They can drive that way with total impunity. And it would require said (non-existent) police to actually enforce the law. And not one of those things is possible in Thailand.

And that is why the government does absolutely nothing to address the problem, as it is out of control and without a fundamental change in the whole of Thai society and culture it cannot be remedied. The government knows that but can’t say it. To finish, nothing can or will change and survival on Thai roads will continue to be a lottery. All we can do is remember the words that were used in the 70s police drama Hill Street Blues as the force were sent out on patrol – ‘Let’s be careful out there’.

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