Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thai Drivers - worst in the world

Let me start by making something very clear from the start. I love Thai people. I frequently find myself saying to myself “I love this place”. Whether I am riding my motorcycle through throngs of market goers or walking through a market or visiting a famous temple or even driving on major highways through Bangkok, i find myself spontaneously saying under my breath “I love this place”.

That being said let me now deliver the point of this post. Thai drivers are not very good.

Ran into a big truck full of earth and rock? Going to fast?
Neither: LPG system blew up.

Of course that does not mean all Thai drivers. Not infrequently I recognise in a Thai driver all those things that I count highly as attributes of a good driver.

And I'm not asserting that “farangs” are better drivers. No. In Thailand the farangs are frequently as bad or worse than Thai drivers. I recall just recently in Chiang Mai sitting in a big 4WD driven by a farang who did not even see the two girls caught on the center line between fast moving cars begging to be freed from their trap. He simply did not register that they were there. He exhibited the very essence of what I now assert is at the heart of the atrocious driving in Thailand – lack of empathy. Or tunnel vision. Or lack of training. Unaware.

sometimes it's just inexperience and an old car

I read once that the Buddha defined compassion as the act of “seeing” others. Not "looking at them" but not being blind to them. Being blind to others is what all those neuroscience and psychology studies tell us that the rich do. They quite simply do not “see” those who are “lower”. You walk along a street and there is a man with twisted legs and disfigured arms holding a tin while he sings badly. The few cents that you might give him make the all the difference in his day. But many people walk by with hearts so hardened by their frequent acts of “not today” that they no longer even see the beggar. He is just an object on the street like a trash can or lump of concrete to be walked around, to be avoided. We do not see him.

Too fast past a construction site

It came to me just recently that, here in the heart of one of the most Buddhist countries on earth, the majority of people, once behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, had no theory of mind whatsoever.

Black pick-up overtook blind to hit U-turning car.

I've tried to figure out what is behind this apparent truth. For example it crossed my mind that it might be to do with the fact that almost every car in Thailand has reflective tinting which makes it impossible to see anyone in the vehicle. This is mostly to do with keeping out the heat (or so I have been told though I've seen no research to back it up). I've also theorised that because most Thais had mobile phones with games on them before they had cars, maybe they drive like they play phone games. Who knows? The bottom line is that Thais quite simply don't seem to realise that all the other cars on the road have living breathing THINKING humans in them.

My sister in law is a fitness freak so recently we went to watch and photograph her at an aerobics competition. When I was parking the car there were cars forced to wait for another car to exit a parking spot. A Thai woman simply saw those cars as obstacles and tried to drive around them. Just like people avoiding the beggar on the street she simply saw the waiting cars as obstacles. That there might have been a reason for them waiting did not cross her mind. She exhibited no theory of mind.She behaved exactly as if she saw the other cars as not human objects.

On the highways oh my God. They are simply insane. They overtake at the most dangerous places and they seem to lack any understanding of driving physics.

at Ta Sala police station - just the ones out front

We recently drove almost 5,000 kilometers around Thailand – from the Malaysian border to the Golden Triangle and back. We lost track of the accidents we witnessed and of the insane behaviour of drivers. It's bad enough that many of the roads are like the surface of the moon but with the Thai drivers it's like threading your way through a mine field of death traps. They are often the silliest drivers I have ever seen anywhere on planet earth. I have driven all over the world including places that left me gob-smacked as to how insane the drivers were (Italy, Mexico) but Thai drivers are so bad it takes your breath away.

So how to resolve the problem?

I've thought of a nutty campaign of my own where I mass produce a poster that I then plaster on the wall above the men's urinals at the PTT service stations (the most popular places for drivers to fill-up) – something along the lines of “hey man, drive careful dude!”

It's a truly bizarre place – it's the “wild wild west” in ever way except of course that it's the “east”.

A rescue vehicle that careered off the road
lucky occupants could have drowned

I really hope that as they all become more middle class they will develop some road sense.



since writing this piece they do as a whole seem to be improving

the pics above are recent though and all were close to where we live


Boy dies, skull fractured in crashWoman killed at railway crossing train crash,

Indian tourists killed in van crash on elevated road to airport