Tom Tuohy

Dying to get around

Driving in Thailand

(Photo: Mary Thompson and Peter Root)

Many people will have read the sad story of the British couple who were killed in a crash in Chachoengsao, Thailand two weeks ago. The couple had been cycling around the world for two years, and had travelled through Europe, the Middle East, China and 23 other countries without incident before coming to Thailand. A Thai pickup driver, Worapong Sangkawat, 25, crashed into them and the police charged him with reckless driving causing death.

The news prompted a Thai academic, Assistant Prof Thaweesak Taekratok from the Crash Scene Investigation Project at Naresuan University to say, "[Foreign tourists] should know that travelling in Thailand is often different from their countries... A handbook should be distributed to guide [all tourists that visit Thailand]. We have to warn them of the improper or risky behaviour of Thai motorists, risky areas on roads, and how rescue workers and medical officials assist with injuries."

The death of the British couple was not an isolated incident. Thailand has become extremely dangerous for tourists over the years. This is what the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office says about travel in Thailand, "Serious accidents involving other vehicles including cars, coaches and mini-buses also occur. Many accidents are due to poor application of vehicle and driver safety standards.

There have been a number of accidents involving overnight coach travel. In June 2011, 3 British nationals were killed in an accident involving overnight coach travel, on 3 July 2012, 2 British nationals were injured in an overnight coach crash and on 6 February 2013, 3 British nationals were injured in an accident, again involving overnight coach travel. Seek local advice if you are in any doubt about the safety of your transport provider."

What's surprising for me, having lived in Thailand for most of the last 15 years, is that only now are the authorities thinking of giving out travel warning information in a handbook. After all, we get horrific and graphic images of lung cancer patients emblazoned all over cigarette packets in Thailand, so why no warning about the dangers of driving in the country? According to the World Health Organisation, Thailand ranks 11th in the number of road deaths per capita and the website lists Thailand as high as 6th in the world for the number of road deaths which is a shocking statistic.

Getting assistance

When I first touched down in Bangkok one rainy day in 1997, Thailand was just beginning its first Amazing Thailand promotional campaign which has been unbelievably successful over the years. With tourist numbers growing steadily, year on year, one would have assumed that consumer watchdog organizations would have been set up to give advice and guidance to travellers to Thailand as they would in other countries. Personally, I don't know many such organizations that do this in Thailand which is why there are often repeated calls for them to be set up.

Other than the embassies or respective consulates in the various Thai cities which offer their citizens consular assistance, the services for tourists that I know of are the Thai Tourist Police who, in many situations, are about as useful as a tin opener at a fresh seafood restaurant. From what I've heard, in many cases, they merely employ their language skills to help the Thai vendors negotiate a better price from the innocent foreigners when there's a conflict. This may be unfair, but I rarely hear any good stories that come from these encounters with the Thai Tourist Police.

There are also the Volunteer Tourist Police officers in Pattaya who are native English speakers as well as native speakers of other languages e.g. German and French. From what I hear, they do a very good job in often difficult situations and thus make a real difference. Then there's the English speaking Bangkok Free Ambulance Foundation service run by Marko Cunningham, a New Zealander, that operates from Bangkok. No doubt there are other outlets which have a specific mandate to help struggling foreigners, but these are few and far between.

On the road...

Having driven in Thailand myself for many years, I can attest to the difficulties faced by foreign drivers in Thailand. For one thing, the rules of the road, what are called in the UK - The Highway Code - are followed in Thailand in the same way other rules are followed by Thais in general life. In other words, they are not followed at all. There are a number of reasons for this because Thais, as I wrote in my book, Watching the Thais, have considerable scope or freedom to interpret the rules as they see them, on a case by case basis.

For example, when Thais are stopped by the police on the road, many will already have placed a banknote or two inside the plastic cover of their driving licenses just for such an occasion. This corrupt practice allows Thai to do whatever they want on the roads safe in the knowledge that, if they get caught by the police, they have a means of escape.

The general tariff is the following: taxis - 40 baht; regular saloon cars - 100 baht; 4X4 or high-end cars like BMWs or Mercedes - 200-300 baht. Obviously, if you are a foreigner, the cop will rely on your ignorance of this system and invariably try to get as much out of you as possible. (I once had an argument with a traffic cop who stopped me at a pedestrian crossing in Rama IV Road and demanded 1000 baht which I negotiated down to 200 baht. I had only stopped because he had walked into the road to usher an old lady onto the pedestrian crossing and, seeing me, ushered me into the kerb for questioning.)

Most Thai people are also very fatalistic and believe in a higher power at work. This leads them to be very slack in matters of personal as well as road safety. Ratanawadee H. Winther, of the Bangkok-based Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF), explained this recently in an article in The Guardian newspaper, "Thai people still lack awareness and take safety very lightly. They're also very superstitious when it comes to death - for example, they believe someone will not die if they're not 'meant' to.

Another problem is that Thais will sometimes ignore red lights, so if you happen to be a foreigner approaching a traffic light or intersection, and you press on the brakes, if there's a Thai behind you, it's quite possible he or she will rear end you as there was never any intention to actually stop at said lights. As reported in The Nation, "He [Assistant Prof Thaweesak Taekratok] said his team found that many foreigners injured in traffic accidents thought all Thai motorists must stop at a red light, but when they did that, they had a collision....So, they need to be informed in regard to accidents," he said."

Pull up to the bumper baby...

Tailgating is another problem. As I wrote in my book, Thais will often drive almost bumper to bumper, so it's a good idea to get out of the fast lane to avoid a potential accident. Here's how I described it: "Tailgating is another of the more pernicious aspects of getting around in Thailand. When at the wheel, I have lost count of the number of times I have had to cross into other lanes to escape the Thai version of Evil Kaneval: Somchai the pick-up driver-cum-fruit-seller-cum-labourer who's on his way to fill in for his cousin, a doctor at Bumrungrad Hospital. It starts with a glance in your wing mirror and there he is - the equivalent of Mr Bean on steroids. I say Mr. Bean because these drivers have about as much gumption and general road savvy as our comical friend in his Austin Mini. In fact it doesn't matter if you are in the fast lane doing 120 kilometres per hour, way over the speed limit. Sooner or later, the Thai Evil Kaneval will be there, approximately 6.7 milimetres from your rear bumper, his lights flashing frantically for you to move into another lane and out of his way" (Watching the Thais, Chapter Three, Thais and Movement, Keep on Walking, Johnny Walker)

Of course, this is something of an exaggeration, but getting around in Thailand can be, and often is, fraught with difficulty. When using public transport you may not fare much better as that too has its own set of rules,

"The psychology and general atmosphere whilst using public transport in Thailand is also interesting to think about. When you happen to find yourself on, for example a regular Thai bus, some general considerations need to be noted. The same driver will invariably drive as if he has a prior appointment (which he's only just remembered about), with some mysterious benefactor who is going to alter his and his family's life radically. It is apparently for this reason that he will proceed to slam hard on the brakes at every juncture. It amazes me how these drivers wait till the last second to do this, instead of gently easing on the brakes when approaching a junction.

What results is a collective surge of passengers moving forward en masse like an unintentional human, as opposed to Mexican Wave. Granny on her weekly visit to feed the ducks in the park gets a new seat on the floor; Somchai, the 7-11 employee gently and apologetically extricates himself from the cleavage of Navaporn, the cute SCB teller; students from nearby colleges hang on for dear life, hoping their hair isn't messed up and make-up isn't smudged when they collide with the stainless steel handrails. The unflappable ticket-collector, almost always a woman, moves slowly down the bus, click-clacks open and shut her klaxon-like metal pencil case full of five and one baht coins, and carries on collecting the money as if nothing ever happened. ‘Mai pen rai!' the elderly gentleman mumbles in the corner. ‘Amen brother' I say quietly to myself as I pick myself up off the floor!" (Watching the Thais, Chapter Three, Thais and Movement, Keep on Walking, Johnny Walker)

What is to be done?

Obviously, from the two quotes above, I have made light of getting around Thailand in my book. However, with the number of foreigners dying on Thai roads increasing every year, there is a much darker dynamic at play and there needs to be something done about it. If Assistant Prof Thaweesak Taekratok is serious, and there is a handbook made available for tourists, then it may not solve the problem, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Too many families come to Thailand and find a relaxing and welcoming race of people eager to please. Such people easily unwind and soon forget about the hidden dangers on Thai roads.

Only a few months ago, there was the very sad case of a 30-year old Russian female tourist who died under the wheels of a truck trying to save the life of her one-and-a-half-year-old baby in a road accident. The tragedy happened late on Friday in Pattaya where the tourist was on holiday with her husband and two children. When the family was buying some fruit in a roadside stall, the little girl ran out onto the road. The mother rushed after her when she saw an approaching truck. She did what any mother would have done, but in the process gave up her own life.

While nobody can prevent every accident happening, we should always try to alert tourists to the potential dangers of getting around in a foreign land so that we can prevent at least some parents having to make spur of the moment decisions that can have fatal outcomes.

Tom Tuohy is a teacher and writer. He has written for a number of newspapers, magazines and websites including: The Guardian Weekly, the EL Gazette,, The Bangkok Post, and Tom also has his own blog - Ramblings of an Urban Crazy Man

Out now! - "Watching The Thais" by Tom Tuohy

Available on Amazon

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By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (3rd February 2014)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (8th January 2014)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (29th December 2013)

This is what you're up against: Thai government officials who think the best way to combat road traffic accidents is to pray to monks to cast out the bad spirits. Paalllease!

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (28th December 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (21st November 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (9th November 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (31st October 2013)

Will they ever learn?

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (29th October 2013)

"Thailand has one of the highest road accident rates in Southeast Asia"

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (24th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (20th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (18th October 2013)

Finally, someone is taking notice! About time too as long overdue!

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (11th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (9th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (7th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (7th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (4th October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (1st October 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (30th September 2013)

Particularly gruesome one this time with a headless corpse of a Swede!

By Thomas Tuohy, Riyadh (23rd September 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (21st September 2013)

Very sad.

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (5th September 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (2nd September 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (2nd September 2013)

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (25th August 2013)

A Thai who thought he'd speed up to avoid traffic.

By Tom Tuohy, Amsterdam (10th August 2013)

They just keep coming...

By Tom Tuohy, Amsterdam (10th August 2013)

And another case of bad driving

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (9th August 2013)

Good aricle on road safety in Thailand by a Thai expert: "Thailand's bus operators risk passenger safety for profits: expert" -

This reader comment caught my eye:

"Everyone knows that Thai buses and vans are death traps, but they keep coming. Thais are just now writing news about this. That's preposterous in and of itself. Several letters were written to the Thai editorial press of the two major English newspapers detailing the unsafe conditions of vans from Mo-Chit to Thammasat University in 2008. Not a thing was ever done. Then there were the accidents with the 16 year old driving and there was some brief skirmishing around. Then, as usual, it was dropped as is the Thai custom. Now, again, the academic speaks out as if no one ever knew or was aware of unsafe buses, vans, and trucks, not to speak of motorcycle havoc and Tuk Tuk mayhem in Thailand. Thailand is a moving death trap."


By Tom Tuohy, Bangkok (26th July 2013)

Great piece from CNN on the dangers of Thai roads


By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (23rd July 2013)

More avoidable carnage on Thai roads.

When will it ever end?

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (22nd July 2013)

And another case ofvreckless driving -

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (10th July 2013)

This is a particulary gruesome video so be warned, it's not for the fainthearted!

What's amazing is the old lady who you don't notice till near the end of the video who's been sitting in the passenger seat in total shock but largely unhurt while at least 8-10 others lie mangled and dead around her.

I don't where exactly it took place but I will try to find out. Needless to say, if you're planning a trip in a Thai mini van, and want to see another day on this planet, I suggest you take a taxi or go another way.

I never take Thai mini vans or the blue coaches (rot tooa) any more. They are just too dangerous and the travel far too fast with litle or no care for their passengers.


By Tom Tuohy, Bangkok (2nd July 2013)

This time an American...

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (15th June 2013)

More sad news...

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (14th June 2013)

Like that Irish comedian used to say, "And there's more..."

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (31st May 2013)

And seven minibus passengers killed in Nakhon Pathom yesterday.

Will someone please fucking do something about this!

By philip, (26th May 2013)

They never learn do they? If you run a red light on a regular basis, which many Thais do, you must know that it's akin to playing Russian Roulette - sooner or later you're going to end up dead!

It's a fact like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west or water boils at 100 degrees C.

It amazes me that they can't or won't fathom this simple idea.

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (26th May 2013)

One more for the road?


By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (25th May 2013)

More carnage on Thai roads...

"A 33 year old Russian was killed in a high speed road crash on Jomtien Second Road on Monday Night.

Police and rescue services were called to the scene of the crash just before 8.30pm and were met with a disturbing crash scene. The body of the Russian had been torn into two pieces after he was thrown through the air and hit a street pylon."

Disturbing photo -

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (13th May 2013)

More road madness -

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (21st April 2013)

A good article on getting around in Thailand

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (19th April 2013)

Dear ATha,

thank you very much for taking the time to translate this. I did a Google translate myself before I posted the comment and so I knew a little bit about the story.

It's a very sad story of course and a mother should never have to make that choice between saving the lives of her children or saving herself.

Thanks again.


By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (14th April 2013)

Please excuse my English. Your story in Thai is translated to English as follow:

Venerable monk had once taught:
Saturday February 16th, yesterday, a mother and her two daughters were riding home on a motorcycle after tutoring class. Once they arrived at the front of some shopping center on Tha Pra Rd. the traffic was very congested. They were trying to stay on their lane, but the motorcycle had lost the balance. They all skidded on the road to under a ten wheeler cement truck. They were stopped at the wheel. At that moment, traffic began to move so the ten wheeler hit the accelerator as normal... The witness said that the mother managed to pushed one of her daughter who was the closest to the wheel away, then, she dove herself to embraced the other one who was farther. The ten wheeler crushed on top of the 36 year-old mother and her 1 year-old daughter in her embrace. They both died immediately at the scene.

"Someone has no right to breath
Someone is living but too lazy to acknowledge breath
Someone lets their life just drifting away
Someone has learned and understood the meaning of breath, but then has to die"

May the souls of these mother and daughter rest in peace

I hope I did it justice.

By AThai, BKK (12th April 2013)

Reckless drivers endanger lives as a matter of course

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (11th April 2013)

That's the second bus this week!

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (10th April 2013)

More tales of driving woes from LoS -

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (7th April 2013)

I don't know for sure what this story is about, but my gut and a bad google translation tells me it's not good. I'm hoping a Thai person will read this and tell me.

วันเสาร์ที่16 กุมภาพันธ์ เมื่อวานนี้ มีแม่ลูก 3 คน เรียนพิเศษเสร็จ ขับรถมอเตอร์ไซค์ กำลังกลับบ้าน ผ่านมาถึง หน้าห้างแห่งหนึ่ง บนถนน ท่าพระ รถติดมาก มอเตอร์ไซค์ของแม่ลูก พยายามวิ่งไปตามช่อง แต่พลาดรถเสียหลัก เทลงไปใต้รถ 10 ล้อบรรทุกปูน ทั้ง 3 คน แม่-ลูก ลงไปคาอยู่ใต้ล้อ บังเอิญเป็นจังหวะ ที่รถเคลื่อนตัว พอดี 10 ล้อคันดังกล่าว เร่งเครื่อง เพื่อออกรถตามปกติ... ผู้เห็นเหตุการณ์บอกว่า แม่ ดัน ลูกคนนึงออกจากล้อไปได้ และพุ่งตัวไป กอดลูกอีกคนที่อยู่ไกลกว่าไว้ รถ 10 ล้อทับไปบนร่างแม่ วัย 36 และ ลูกสาววัย 1ขวบ ลูกสาว เสียชีวิต ในอ้อมอก ของแม่ พร้อมกัน ทันที

"คนบางคน ไม่มีสิทธิ์ จะ หายใจ
คนบางคน มีชีวิต อยู่ แต่ ขี้เกียจ รับรู้ ลมหายใจ
คนบางคน ปล่อย ลม ปล่อย ชีวิต ให้ ล่องลอย ไป
คนบางคน เรียนรู้ ลมหายใจ จน เข้าใจ แล้วไซร้ ว่ายังไง ก็ต้อง ตาย"

ขอให้ดวงวิญญาณของ แม่ ลูก คู่นี้ ไปสู่สุขติ

It looks to me in the photo like a woman dies trying to protect her daughter as at least one truck runs them over.

Very sad indeed.


By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (5th April 2013)

Another incident, this time with a Thai teenager:

By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (2nd April 2013)

I just my first bus ride from Chiang Mai to BKK and it was shocking to me how fast the Thai bus driver took the downhill grades. Easily blowing by the other buses of equal size by 15-20 MPH. That's what tipped me to the danger. That and the centrifugal force that was swaying me back and forth in my seat. I have been in many a turbulent airplane flight. And, yes I have been scared a time or two while in the air. But nothing compared to how I felt and how helpless I felt going down that twisting mountain grade. And to make matters worse I appeared to be the only one - and the only farang on board - who was the least bit concerned. Jai yen yen and may pen rai ruled the day. That and Thai amulets and sacred skin tattoos, perhaps.

By Scott, Chiang Mai (27th March 2013)


agreed that inventing apps and giving advice has its limitations, but for me, it's at least a start even if just to remind people or make them aware that there's a problem. Many do not even know that there is one at all.

Thanks for your post.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (27th March 2013)

It's all very well inventing Apps and giving advice but the simple fact if the matter is tourists travel mostly by public transport, taxis, buses and tuk tuks. After arriving in Thailsnd the tourist will be accosted by a taxi driver with no meter and rear seatbelt s disconnected(all most, if no ll taxis are in Thailand). I wonder how they cn avoid this!

By Jamie Waddell, Nangrong Buriram (26th March 2013)

It's a start guess - "App To Reduce Brit Road Crashes Abroad"

"In Thailand - a country with 50,000 British residents and more than 870,000 British visitors every year - there were 68,852 road traffic incidents, resulting in 9,205 deaths involving both Thai residents and tourists in 2011.

In contrast, 1,901 people were killed in road accidents in the UK in 2011."

By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (26th March 2013)

This is from the UK's Daily Mirror newspaper -

Safer driving abroad: Brits urged to take more care on holiday roads

"The initiative is in response to FCO staff based overseas reporting a high number of traffic incidents affecting British tourists and expats in popular destinations such as Thailand, Australia and Spain."

By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (26th March 2013)


it's lucky you are still here to be able to tell your tale. I was almost clocked by a pick up some years ago in Cha Am.

I was waiting at a junction for cars to go and as I just turned into the main part of a road, a pick up came out of nowhere and I just got across before he whizzed by me!

That was a very lucky escape for me!

Thanks for sharing your story!


By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (24th March 2013)

"Roads in Thailand the sixth most dangerous"

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (24th March 2013)

Just nearly got killed on my walk home from work TWICE! The light was yellow and the approaching cars were far enough away that I thought I could make it. The local driving the pick up came out of no where and started blowing his horn when I was in the outside lane (nearly across the street already). I half-turned and pointed at the solid red as he blew through it. Then the older, respectable looking farang with a short haircut had the window down in his gold Honda as he honked his horn mid-way through his LEFT TURN ON RED. In the States, we say "right on red AFTER stop." Don't know the refrain for driving on the wrong side of the road, but I imagine it's true in those countries that you should stop for the pedestrian who's nearly across the road or stop and look right to see if there's any oncoming traffic. (You know who you are, pal.)

By Mario Andretti, Chiang Mai (21st March 2013)


you are right that Thais will often take the easy path to success. That's just part of their cultural and spychological make up I guess.

"From the age of 5 to 25 I don’t think they actually learn anything at all. Things seem a real mess here to be honest."

From politicians to the police, there are so many examples of people buying certificates in order to get an employment advancement.

Only recenlty you maye have heard the story about the former prime-minister, Abhisit, having been stripped of his army title because of some misdemeaneor. Maybe it was politicking and maybe it was genuine. We'll probably never know.

There was also the recent police entrance test where the results were so skewed that it was obvioius that there was wholesale cheating going on and so the results had to be scrapped.

Will it ever change? Frankly I doubt it as the easy way to success is always too alluring for your everage Thai!

Thanks for your post.


By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (15th March 2013)

I told you Saudi was/is worse!

"More killed on Saudi roads than in Iraqi violence in 2011"

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (15th March 2013)

I like that comment James. I think you're spot on there. Fortunately for all English teachers, learning a language is not something that can be bought.

Thais are one of the world's great 'muddlers'. They muddle along doing many things to a third-rate standard but without doing many or enough of them well. If there's a corner to be cut or an expense to be saved, a Thai will invariably find it.

By philip, (13th March 2013)

The main problem is that Thais don't learn how to drive, in fact they don't really learn to do anything. There are no standards to meet in any walk of life here. Thais buy an education as well as everything else. From the age of 5 to 25 I don't think they actually learn anything at all. Things seem a real mess here to be honest.

By james hague, songkhla (13th March 2013)

Probably another case of reckless driving?

By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (12th March 2013)

If you think things are bad on the roads in Thailand, take a look at the stats for Saudi Arabia...

As someone who drives on Saudi roads every day, I would take the opportunity of driving in Thailand any day of the week!


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (12th March 2013)


you make a good point but I think we can safely say that we know the answer.

Whenever there is a problem with tourists, it's always assumed in Thailand (in some cases rightly so) that it is the problem for the tourist to deal with.

Asking or expecting Thais to change their driving habits is like asking a bear not to poo in the forest, so it's certainly not going to happen nor is an attempt to re-educate them e.g. with an awareness advertising campaign.

I would say though that the idea of producing a handbook to warn tourists is akin to a major step for Thailand as things normally work at a snail's pace. In fact, the wheels of industry decision-making in Thailand normally creak into existence like the slow dusty wheels of an old steam train and only gather momentum if enough people keep it in the spotlight for long enough to get people's attention.

Thanks for your post.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (12th March 2013)

Oh please... a handbook for foreigners??!!

Would it not make more sense to propose a change in the way drivers are trained and checked... or is the learned professor so certain that his own countrymen will never change, that he has to resort to warning tourists?

I know it's a long shot to overhaul safety on the roads, but it seems eerily fatalistic to not even talk about it.

By Lucie, Ubon Ratchatani (11th March 2013)


I suspect you are not alone in saying you would never ride a "a bicycle in Thailand unless there were no other drivers around for miles!"

Me neither. It's far too dangerous. Only today I read in the local paper that a small boy had been crushed to death by a cement mixer. RIP.

I always make sure I am alert when using Thai roads.

Thanks for your post.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (9th March 2013)

When I drive in Thailand I assume no one is looking or thinking, this includes not only other drivers but pedestrians to, and 80% of the time I am right. I would not dream of riding a bicycle in Thailand unless there were no other drivers around for miles! The driving situation in Thailand will not get any better due to the corrupt police and most Thais do not have a clue how bad and unsafe their driving is.

By Thomas, Thailand (9th March 2013)

The UK continues to set the standards in road safety with continuing to reduce the RTA's which is about one a day. Thailand does not conform to any form of recognised audit or evaluation so whatever you read regarding RTA'S which is said to be officially, 1,300 per month you can easily add another 20% on to that. It is not deaths that are the problem but injuries and diadbling one's at that. They affect the whole family and are economically draining.

I have leactured on this subject and in particular, this aspect of it in many developing countries. Sadly, Thgailand will not accept help but instead uses car enthusiasts to talk and write about road safety with embarrassing and false statements.

By Jamie, Essan (5th March 2013)

"Try asking any Thai the number of road fatalities per annum in Thailand. They won’t know"

To be honest Jeremy, I couldn't tell you what it is in the UK either. I don't think people carry the number of annual road fatalities around in their head unless they're a road safety anorak.

But we do know it's a lot.

By philip, (5th March 2013)

Try asking any Thai the number of road fatalities per annum in Thailand. They won't know. I even asked senior teachers at my school, only a blank look in reply. It is the one fact anyone heading out onto a Thai road should know. 13000. [Conservative estimate]

By Jeremy, Udon Thani (5th March 2013)

Thanks Jamie,

but I didn't actually teach her. She learned in the normal way in Thailand and then took her test.

My students tell me it's only a matter of time now that there are 30 women on the Shoura Council, that women will be allowed to drive here. Amen to that as my wife will have her own independence and can drive herself around!

My S African neighbour's off to Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea soon. I heard it's pretty dangerous and has a high crime rate.

You've certainly had a colourful career with connections to the Gaddafi clan!

Why don't you approach the powers-that-be in Thailand and offer your services as an adviser?


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (4th March 2013)

Tom, well done for teaching her. I've just spent a year in Papua New Guinea but know the Middle East well, had 11 years there. I was the first person to bring uk accredited advanced driving to Oman. I've sent my trainers all over the Gulf and North Africa I also trained a certain young Mr. gaddafi in 4x4 in Libya so I was well prepared for Thailand.

By Jamie Waddell, Nangrong Buriram (4th March 2013)


good for you. My Thai wife is a very safe driver, so I have no worries. I now drive in Riyadh and that is a whole different kettle of fish to have to deal with: it makes driving in Thailand look like a piece of cake! At least Thais are polite behind the wheel.

Good luck with the road safety initiative. It's certainly needed!


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (4th March 2013)

My wife passed her driving test locally (Buriram) but I stiil would not allow her to drive until she reached what I believed is a reasonable standard of defensive driving. Oh she protested but now she realises and glad she did.

I'm working with the UK embassy on a road safety initiative which will be take a few months but will be of help to Thais and expats alike.

By Jamie, Essan (4th March 2013)


thanks for your post. It's mature and has something positive to add to the debate.

I agree that training on how to drive on Thai roads and training about how to behave when among other road users has limited value to your average Thai because, as you rightly pointed out, they have a completely different mindset when it comes to danger and, for me, are quite fatalistic about such things anyway.

It'll be interesting to see whether the government is serious about creating this handbook and what other countries (if any) they will consult before its creation and implementation.

Thanks for your post.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (3rd March 2013)

As one who has provided professional driver training in many countries and has lectured on the subject to governments and governing bodies I have to state this is very simplistic. Training is non-existent if not irrelevant; that is to say, it is not fit for purpose. The testing does not relate to the training and in any case is subjective.

Nothing will happen until these matters are addressed. Giving advice which makes sense to a farang but does not penetrate the Thai doesn't work either. Taling about distance or even a 2-second rule - you may as well talk about rocket science. The Thai culture does not understand risk! This is not an insult, neither is it a flippant remark. Quite simply, the Thai driver emerges from a junction and overtakes with very little understanding of the risk involved.

If Thailand was serious about road safety it would seek help from the countries that lead the world in this matter, the SUN countries; Sweden, UK and Netherlands.

By Jamie, Essan (3rd March 2013)

So, then why do you continue to live in Thailand? If things in Thailand are so bad as all this your article, then England must be really a sad place to live to stay here for 15 years! or maybe you just can't make it in a "real"civilized society.

By Jackson, Phuket (3rd March 2013)

When will it end?

By Thomas Tuohy, Riyadh (2nd March 2013)


I agree that this shouldn't be used as a Thai bashing exercise. No doubt there are lots of reasonable Thai drivers out there who wouldn't dream of cutting anyone up or shooting a red light.

I agree that there should be a sensible debate about the dangers of driving in the LoS.

Thanks for your comments.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (1st March 2013)


I am genuinely sorry to hear about your driving experiences in the Land of Smiles.

You're probably doing the right thing by avoiding main roads when on a motorcycle or in a car. That's probably the best thing to do when faced with a ridiculous and potentially dangerous situation.

Apparently the Thai government is now considering forcing all farangs to have private medical insurance when full integration for Thailand into ASEAN comes into force in 2015.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (1st March 2013)


thanks for your kind words. Yes, I agree that pedestrians are largely invisible in Thailand. Is it a lack of education do you think, or selfishness plain and simple?


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (1st March 2013)

This accident was a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the family.

Statistics (and personal experience) show the roads in Thailand are very dangerous places.

It is hoped something good will come out of this horrible accident and it will spark some serious discussion and examination within Thai society of the dangers on the roads and how to make everyone’s life safer.

However I don’t think using these deaths and this tragedy to have an excuse to engage in another round of the old word game, “Farang good; Thai bad” is very useful or appropriate.

By Jack, Someplace hot (27th February 2013)

I have been driving my motorcycles, truck and cars around this country for over 15 years. Most of my driving is on highways north of Bangkok. Only one car accident so far (thank God) and that was when a selfish and brainless bus driver, passed a line of cars right at me, with no place for me to go but off the road. Luckily I missed a tree and only hit a cement road marker.
(Damage 30,000 baht). I have now stopped driving big bikes around the country as the Thais took the fun out of that for me. I keep a small bike for the city and driving the peaceful back roads of Ubonratchathani Province. Each time I get in my car I dread an accident- this is a great way to drive! I frequently drive back and forth between Ubon and Khon Kaen and I have now taken to driving on the quietest back roads I can find. Pot holes are preferable to maniacs in vans, Toyota Vigos and inter city buses. I am very vigilant and aware of nearly all possible vehicle affronts, but there is very little joy in driving here anymore and almost no preparation any foreigner can do to combat absolute stupidity. Just my thoughts!

By Stephen Sivell, Ubon Ratchathani (26th February 2013)

Thank you for writing a very informative"survival book." It also boggles my mind that Thai motorists lord it over the road. Pedestrian crossing is almost useless. Pedestrians wait forever to cross even if it's an elderly Thai of whom many I've helped countless times. Otherwise, they are just going to wait forever! "Mai pen rai!." So you do the wai and be ever grateful for being allowed to cross on the pedestrian lane! More than any part of the country I find the motocy drivers in Bangkok the worst. If you are a commuter, the free bus is guaranteed to get you to your destination on time, but with a stiff or sore body part for free when you get off. When traveling upcountry by bus, only get on the buses from reputable bus companies so you can deal with proper authorities when something goes wrong. Avoid private commuter vans for long distance traveling.

By Ron, Bangkok (26th February 2013)

And this is what happens when you jump a red light as reported in today's Pattaya One newspaper - Both occupants of the car died at the scene.

By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (26th February 2013)

Thanks Phil,

the main objective for me is to try to start an awareness campaign so that the message gets around that caution needs to be applied when travelling in Thailand.

Too many tourists come here with blinkers on and are so relaxed and charmed by their friendly hosts that they relax far too much and sometimes take risks they wouldn't normally take.


By Tom Tuohy, Re: Riyadh (25th February 2013)

Great blog Tom! The more people like yourself who get involved in writing about this topic, the better. Because something has to be done fast. It's got to the stage where even though my wife is an excellent driver, I'm petrified of making a journey by car that involves travelling outside of Bangkok.

Bangkok itself is dangerous enough but at least in most parts of the city, the traffic never reaches speeds high enough to make collisions life-threatening. But once you hit that open road in the Thailand rural areas, it's a completely different ball game.

Can Thailand solve this problem? Personally I don't think so. Only a few weeks ago, my wife told me the story of a colleague who drove home completely plastered after a night out with friends. He hadn't driven far when he somehow rammed his car into a street-side foodstall. Fortunately no-one was hurt. The police arrived, assessed the damage to the foodstall, etc and after a few thousand baht notes were handed out - the driver was told to carry on his way - still drunk. And this was a person in a middle-management position. Someone you would perhaps credit with more brain cells.

You hear stories like this and wonder how there can be any hope at all.

By philip, (25th February 2013)

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