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Unforgiving Roads

I have been driving in Thailand for a few years now, I had always known and heard horror stories. It would always traditionally spike around Thai New year (Songkran); ironically, Songkran's actual origin is about death, specifically that of Kapila Brahma.

The last significant year, due to covid-19, was 2019 in which 237 souls perished in the 4 day period. It was about a 13% drop from the year before but still a scary number. In total there were 2232 accidents with 2322 injuries. I would put almost all of this down to drunk driving, which is a massive problem in Thailand but definitely one the authorities have been trying to curb. The vast the majority of deaths are using motorbikes who are hit or dragged under cars or trucks.

I am committed to having to venture onto these concrete paths of peril during the working week and indeed, usually during the weekend when I go hiking. For me, the sight of traffic is sometimes a welcoming respite from the concentration needed to negotiate these roads.

I have learnt a lot over the last few years, but, I am still learning something new everyday. From insurance scams, to sudden halts in traffic from high speeds in the fast lane, only to realize that the cause of this was so that drivers could regard an accident on the opposite side of the road, most ridiculous. One trick which I only realized after being rear ended, is that if you are in one of these sporadic sudden halts, you should always break (obviously) and pull to the right in the fast lane and to the left in the slow lane; I guess you are buggered if you're in the middle lanes. This is due to the high frequency of tailgating. If a car is tailgating you and you have to suddenly stop, then the chances are they are coming into the back of you, which is what happened to me.

My own personal experience was pretty typical. I was holding my distance and was able to break to avoid a crash in front of me, the guy behind me wasn't, he clipped my back left trying to avoid me and collided into a car in the middle lane, Koh Chang trip over but luckily and most importantly, nobody was hurt.

Only recently did a car try to ram into the side of me whilst i was changing lanes. luckily i was able to swerve to avoid and we then saw the reason they did it, they already had massive damage to the side of their car, scam!

Driving etiquette in Thailand is poor at best and extremely dangerous at worst. Giving way appears to be some sort of hara-kiri, the loss of losing a position in the line is just too much of a loss of face for some it would appear. Using the hard shoulder as a means to bypass traffic is a norm, and indeed, I must admit, I have found myself doing this one on a few occasions. Using the u turn lane to overtake traffic and then push in at the last minute is a particular hate of mine, I let people know about it but really all I am achieving is angering myself. Motorbikes striking the side of your car and not bothering to stop happens with worryingly normalcy. I once sat in my car in a car park and the carefree attitude of people, their bags and the side of your car is atrocious; how difficult is it to raise your bag to your chest and turn slightly sideways.

Below are a few pointers to help you avoid becoming a victim of a scam, injury or stress.

  1. Buy a front and back video camera. hkvision are a really good brand and I have this myself. This is essential if you do not want to get burnt by a scam or blame game.

  2. Beware of cars with damage. They can be looking for victims to crash into and then claim that you did it or ask for you to help pay 50% of the already damaged area.

  3. Do not push the boundaries of your tires. Due to massive corruption in the 80's and 90's, a lot of the older roads are of bad quality and have little grip, especially when its wet. Having a fresh set of shiny boots on will help you in the numerous emergency stops you will need to do. There is usually a buy 3 get 1 free deal going on somewhere. B-Quik seems to always do this when they open a new garage. Dunlop appears to make solid and long lasting tires, well have they ever not!

  4. If your car doesn't have a rear view mirror with a dimmer, I would advice getting one. Another thing which is common here is to get brighter lights than legally allowed. This has a fairly innocent reason as people tend to black out their windows and this reduces the visibility from your existing standard lights. The other, not so innocent, reason is they just want to be able to blind you into submission if you do not move out of their way.

  5. Unfortunately you will have to seriously consider getting your windows tinted. This will block the sun and its horrendous temperature but it will also diminish your visibility at night. hi-kool are the top selling brand and that is what I have.

  6. Go for a VIP clean or clean your car yourself. I made the fatal mistake of thinking a 160baht clean was expensive enough to not have my car damaged, it wasn't. The number of super fine scratches I have all over my car is deeply annoying. They will not use a proper chamois but usually some cheap 'micro fiber' rag they got from the Shoppe.

  7. Have a quick check of your fuel cap flap after you get gasoline. On a couple of occasions I have been left with a burn like mark which is really hard to get off. I do not know what or how this is caused but it will damage your paintwork. Luckily both times, they seemed to come off eventually but after months, I assume its burnt on gasoline.

  8. If traveling through a junction when it is quiet or late at night, horn! It is quite common for people to ignore red lights if the junction seems quiet. Using your horn or headlights will warn these idiots that you are coming.

  9. When you buy insurance, make sure they will cover you for car rental per day you are without a car. Usually in Bangkok if you have a car, you really need it, so not having it can be disastrous. I use ASIA Insurance who have been really professional, whilst my car was in the garage being repaired I got 500baht a day to hire a new car. Some insurance companies will either just give you the cash per day or they will hire a car for you. My local Toyota Buzz hires cars for 500baht a day so it worked out well. I have now changed to Muang Thai insurance because ASIA Insurance seemed to have lost their English speaking staff. Muang Thai seems to be ok and I got 1000baht worth of free PT fuel as a policy benefit.

  10. Thailand stocks all major tire brands but I have found my first set of Dunlop's ENASAVE lasted me 60000KM and that is with some driving on some pretty rough terrain when I go hiking in the mountains.

Chok dee

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