Driving & Road Sense in Thailand !
- POSTED BY keithatlarge IN Pattaya, Thailand. Places for food and drinks. Places to Visit.
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After reading a Short Article on Pattaya Unplugged called “A Hip Pocket Class on Turn Signals” I realised it was a good starting point to talk about Traffic and Road Sense here in Thailand. Or maybe that should be about the Complete Lack of Road Sense here!
So let’s continue with Indicators on Cars. They are actually on both sides of the steering wheel in different makes of cars, but easy to figure, because you just turn them in the same direction that the steering wheel will go! Also if there is someone in the car who knows how to turn them on in the first place, the car actually turns them off automatically, assuming you did go round a corner.
Ok moving on to Motorbikes, that is with or without an attached Shop, Foodstore, Cafe with Charcoal Bbq or Flatbed (with a plastic patio chair placed in the middle) on the side! The biggest issue is that there is no steering wheel on a bike so there is no auto cancel! I have always thought they should have a loud repeater so it can be heard through a helmet because a small flashing light is pretty useless, even more so in bright sunshine!
Motorbike signals are a big issue because they are either not used or they are switched one way or the other and left running for a good part of the journey, causing all sorts of issues for those following and those coming the other way!
It can be frustrating following a motorbike travelling very slowly on a busy Soi and indicating a right turn when they are just looking left and right and really are simply out shopping, with an adult or two with a couple of children in front of them!
Ok these are all simple things, but of course that is not the end, even if you drive your car and use your indicator, there seems to be a plethora of motorcyclists who will blatantly ignore your signal and will pass by just as you are about to turn, it is as if they have no comprehension of your intentions or they are just trusting to Budda but more probably given up trusting that indicators are actually used for a real turn!
Did I mention trusting to Budda ? There is not much in the way of pavements here, so people just walk along in the road without a worry about vehicles coming along behind them, even where the road is busy and narrow, meandering along without a care, trusting that anyone in a vehicle behind them will stop, slow down or drive round them.
This seems to be similar to their driving style here. Hardly any looking as they enter a road, and when driving, looking forwards only! The onus being placed on the person behind (who also only looks forwards!)
Always look both ways before pulling out on to a road, no I mean Always!! especially a one way street or a dual carriageway. Why? you may ask, well just as you are pulling away onto a dual carriageway someone on a motorbike will be passing in front of you going the wrong way of course!
That goes for crossing the road too! Whether that is a one way or a two way road there might easily be a motorbike going the wrong way! Oh and look behind too ! There are lots of places motorbikes take to the pavement to cut through busy traffic.
Night time has a few issues too, all of the things above are mixed with a few bikes with no lights! Really difficult to see even with street lights! Impossible to see when there are no street lights or in between lights! As are Elephants although they do go a tad slower!
Traffic Lights are a little different here too, well they have the same colours as back home with pretty much the same meaning as back home but here are the differences :-
If you are turning left, and it is safe to do so, then you can. Simple and a good idea. Sadly that is not the only difference here.
Red of course means Stop. But there seems to be other choices here, such as keep going if you think you can get away with it or if there are no police about! So always bear that in mind if you are first away when the light change!
Green means Go. But again there seem to be other choices here! The lights here can take an age to change. There will be rows of motorbikes that have filtered through the cars and arrived at the front, but when the lights go green the front grid will be bored and will be looking about them at pretty much anything except the lights, so they will not notice the change and happily sit there until there is some irate honking from behind! And if they are not busy looking everywhere else they will be on their phones in the world of the internet and too busy to look for green traffic lights!
Main roads, Motorways and Tollways are a bit different too, there will frequently be someone in the middle lane or even the fast lane meandering along without a care in the world, they will not know you are behind them because they only look forwards about twenty feet. In the middle lane you can be overtaken on both sides at the same time! No one wants to use the first lane (slow lane) because it has been broken and damaged by lorries, sometimes it can be so bad that not even the lorries want to use it !
Do you remember the twenty feet I mentioned above? There is no thought or consideration given to the situation in front! Looking ahead you can see a row of cars braking so you know you need to slow down, so just take your foot off the gas and all will be sorted by the time you get to them….no no no that is not how it is done here. Do not look ahead, keep your foot down hard and when you are nineteen feet away jam on the brakes! Simple really!
Then there are the undertakers, they will undertake on your left because there is a car passing you on your right even though you will be overtaking a car on the left in a minute or two yourself, so they go shooting past to try and get in front of you even though there is not enough room and they have to brake hard as you go past them again!
And it is pretty much a waste of time looking in the rear view mirror because it will always be filled with a large truck tailgating you!
Crash Helmets are required here, it is the Law that they are worn. But sadly not many people know that or seem to care! It is lack of education I guess. When asking a Motorbike Taxi for a helmet (having a spare one is as rare as Rocking Horse Teeth) they said it is OK not needed, the Police have finished (they do roadside spot checks) This shows the mentality for helmets, they are not thought of as protection for your head, they are protection from a Police Fine!
Another good idea here in Pattaya is putting pedestrian crossings and traffic lights for them on Beach and Second Roads, sadly they never seemed to tell anyone here what they really were, so nobody would stop for the crossing pedestrians!
Did I mention dogs? They are sometimes owned and wear a collar or sometimes just Soi Dogs. However they all pretty much live outside and do whatever they want, which can be frequently just laying down on a road and snoozing the night or day away! Sometimes safely out of the way but frequently in serious danger and using up some part of the road, causing cars and bikes to swerve round them!
U Turns. It is simple here on dual carriageways, there are no right turns. If you want to turn off to the right you simply drive past to the next U Turn and then go back to your road and turn left. So simple. Well not exactly. They have U Turn bridges which are excellent. You cut left, drive up and over the carriageways in a Right Hand Sweeping Bridge and then just cut back onto the road. So safe and so easy.
Unfortunately most U Turns do not have a nice bridge, just a gap in the middle of the carriageway. So you indicate to turn right and turn into the gap, still easy and safe. But then it gets a bit tricky, you have now turned at ninety degrees to the other carriageway and you are confronted with Cars and Coaches whizzing past at 120 Kmph, about a foot from your bumper. Anyone behind you waiting in turn is also finding traffic appearing behind them at 120 Kmph, that is of course assuming everyone does not exceed the speed limit!
Drains are always a pain for me. Oddly for something below ground it is very noticeable! There seems to be three teams of Drain Installers. Team A fits them flush with the road. Team B fits them an inch or so above the road. Team C fits them an inch or so below the road. So its bump bump bump unless you find one fitted by my favourite The A Team!!