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Thailand can be a wonderful place to live, with good infrastructure, modern comforts and some of the most beautiful sites in Southeast Asia. However it sorely lacks in one area: road safety.
Thailand’s roads have the second-highest fatality rates in the world, according to road accident statistics in a 2015 World Health Organization report.
In a country of about sixty-seven million people, more than 14,000 people died in road traffic accidents in 2012 alone. Of these fatalities, 73% were users of two-or-three-wheeled vehicles and only 13% (combining drivers and passengers) were traveling in cars.
This is particularly chilling for foreigner visitors, who tend to rent scooters and motorbikes more frequently than cars. The rental industry in Thailand makes it easy for foreigners to rent two-wheeled vehicles without proper licenses. And while traffic safety laws technically exist in Thailand, they are not frequently enforced.
This has led to the normalisation of risky behaviour among locals, such as drinking and driving, using phones while driving, speeding and weaving through traffic.
But is it still safe to travel in Thailand? While the above behaviour diminishes the safety of the roads in general, you can be assured that there are things responsible drivers can do to prevent collisions and stay safe.
1. Know the risky habits of local drivers
Thailand highway traffic can move at quite a fast speed, and the prevalence of scooters and motorbikes increases the number of moving factors to watch out for. You’ll find that scooter and motorcycle drivers will pass on both sides, and use unconventional ways of moving through traffic, such as using the sidewalk for short periods. And, although there is a law against using mobile phones while driving, many people both text and talk on the phone, even when driving motorbikes.
Being aware of these risky habits can go a long way in preventing collisions. Always be aware of your surroundings and pay attention to drivers using their phones, who may drift lanes, drive slower than the speed of traffic or are less likely to use their turn signals.
2. Understand Thailand’s highway code
To drive legally in Thailand, you must carry either a Thai driving licence or valid international driving licence for the class of vehicle you wish to operate. Seatbelt laws only apply to the driver and front seat car passengers. All scooter and motorbike drivers are required to wear helmets, though many on the road don’t. The blood- alcohol concentration limit is 50mg per 100ml of blood. Be safe and always wear a helmet, rely on public transport when drinking and buckle up despite lax laws.
3. Know the basics
Thailand is like Britain, where people drive on the left side of the road. But if you’re from one of the majority of other countries in the world that drive on the right, you’ll have to adapt. This is especially relevant when making turns, so you don’t find yourself turning into oncoming traffic.
4. Know the way
Each day, take the time to understand the routes you will take. Don’t let one-way roads and tricky spurs surprise you on the road when you have little time to react.
5. Don’t rush and keep left
While Thai drivers love to zip around, they will not honk or pressure slower drivers to speed up as long as slow drivers keep left and allow traffic to move around them. Use this to your advantage to drive carefully and confidently, giving yourself enough time to anticipate turns, changes in road conditions and the actions of other drivers.
Even the best driver can get into an accident. Make sure you’re adequately insured. To discuss your global health insurance, or find out more about how we can help visit http://globalwellbeing.william-russell.com/.