Driving Habits on Thailand Roads
"Life isn't about weathering the storm, but learning how to dance in the rain."
This page isn't about the Thai traffic laws, or Thailand driving rules, nor the license requirements, unless they are the "Rules of The Road Thai Style" and are related to the Thailand driving habits.
Inequality of the Thai society in general, partly based on a deeply rooted patronage system (refer to the Modern Thai History and Thai Ladies titles), have its influence on the "Rules of Engagement" on Thailand roads. Thus, if you're driving a new model of the Mercedes Benz - you are the King of the road, and all other less expensive cars as well as pedestrians have to give way. Pedestrians, BTW, give way to cars most of the time. Elephants are the main exception of the right of way rule, and the largest vehicles (mostly 12-wheel-trucks) come close second. Notwithstanding the meddling as a swarm of flies motorcycles (motosai in Thai) that get everywhere.
Motorcycles on Thai Road
Add to this that according to the Thai Law, the legal age for riding a small motorcycle is 15 y.o. In practice, the age for driving a motorbike on Thai roads is quintessentially governed by the child's ability to walk. Not surprisingly, they are quite irresponsible and totally ignore the most basic and simple safety rules.
In contrast to the Thai’s polite and non-confrontational manner, many motorcyclists become suicidal with no regard whatsoever for other drivers, especially the youngsters on motorcycles, as if they have an apparent deathwish. Irrespective of the road-signs, motorbikes often ride in any direction that suit them, let alone riding on pavements or sidewalks. There are more motorcycles in Thailand than any other vehicle type. And they are widely used as taxis as well.
Just imagine how many more children, adults & pets can sit on this motorbike.
There is an extensive network of excellent highways and roads throughout Thailand especially in and around major tourist destinations from Chaing Mai in the north to Phuket in the south. Roads range from multi-lane freeways around Bangkok to tiny lanes of small side-streets (soi in Thai).
Despite the rather hectic traffic, especially in Bangkok, most Thai drivers are well mannered and polite. You'll hardly ever hear a honking car and anger is never displayed publicly. By the way, one of the fastest ways to travel around Bangkok is to ride a motorcycle taxi with their ability to zip in and out of traffic. Although it will require to take one's courage in both hands.
Actually driving in Thailand isn't quite so bad as its reputation would have you to believe. Here are a few simple things to remember:
- Drive on the left. Although others seem to drive anywhere they like, on the dot they meant to be on the left
- Thai drivers are always manage to find more lanes on the roads than I can ever see
- People flashing their headlights means 'Don't Go'
- When overtaking someone, a car behind you may overtake also, while you're overtaking
- Although drinking and driving is illegal in Thailand, some drivers still may be intoxicated
- If there's an accident it's your fault - no, really
- Get stopped by police for doing what everybody else is doing - pay up and live with it.
- And most importantly, regardless of circumstances, avoid confrontations with the taxi drivers
Deviating Traffic Scene
Degenerating Road Lanes on the Go
Driving in Thailand is not recommended for those who:
- Are timid
- Adapt slowly
- Are impatient
- Have low frustration thresholds
- Have orientation difficulties
- Expect the driving rules to be abided by
- Expect to be able to stop and ask/get directions and distances
- Detest traffic jams
- Expect to find parking easily
- Wish to retain their sanity
Driving Thai Style
Many Thais like the thrill of riding quick motorbikes and racing rally cars, some other enjoy fast driving 4 X 4 vehicles in a wild cross-country terrain or just seeing how fast a 10-year-old car can go. While others prefer a complicated game of Mah Jong or chess, maybe even an occasional round of Russian roulette. The psychology of Thai drivers includes all these traits and more.
Anticipate the impossible and unexpected is the name of the Thai Road game. Don't be surprised to bump into some Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche, Maserati, Ferrari and other luxurious sport cars, bikes and sedans on the heavy-jammed Bangkok streets, in Pattaya or in countryside.
To be continued...