Quite often I hear fellow expats moan that they were made the escape goat for accidents on Thai roads, all because they are ‘farang‘. It is actually not true at all, and in fact a misunderstanding of the law of the land in Thailand.
When there is a road traffic accident between two vehicles, the larger the vehicle involved carries the bigger chance of being liable – even if it appeared the fault of the other driver. Most notably this happens when a car and motorbike collide.
Thailand Road Accidents Rates are Sky High
13,000 deaths a year on Thai roads
Each year, about 13,000 people die in road accidents in Thailand, and several hundred thousands are injured (source: ESCAP).
Thailand had the world’s second-highest rate of road fatalities per capita, surpassed only by war-afflicted, lawless Libya, according to a 2015 report from the World Health Organisation (WHO). When it comes to per-capita motorcycle deaths, the country is number one.
Only 12 per cent of Thailand’s road traffic deaths involved occupants of cars or other light vehicles, according to the 2018 WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety. Most of the dead were motorcyclists – or pedestrians.
Why are bigger vehicles most at risk of liability?
The view is that the bigger your vehicle the more careful you need to be on the road as you can cause more dangerous accidents. It may sound odd, as after all shouldn’t every driver be careful regardless, but – for me at least – it has merit.
When I passed my driving test many years ago my dad told me I was now in charge of a loaded weapon and as such should treat driving a car with respect and caution. He is right – a vehicle can cause horrific damage to others.
If you look at like that it helps give credibility to the Thai view. If I were merely a cyclist then the opportunity to cause damage is less than if I was driving a car. Imagine if I was driving a large lorry – as a weapon, it is even more powerful. So it stands to reason to be even more careful.
I have experienced this rule first hand too. I was in my parked car about to do a three point turning, it was dark and the road poorly lit up. I checked my mirror, signaled and begun the maneuver. A bike hit the side of my car and caused the young boy to come off his bike.
His bike was old and had no lights and he was also not wearing a helmet. I just didn’t see him. There was not even a light in place on the front of his bike so there was no disputing he had no lights. The boy hurt himself and regardless of whose fault it was I felt terrible seeing him hurt on the floor.
When we got to the police station, the police called the verdict as both equally at fault. Regardless of the fact I could not see him coming the officer said I had the bigger vehicle and had to be more careful.
At the time I was very angry, but looking back I cannot help but think that if I looked more attentively I would have seen him and averted the accident. I was not hurt yet the boy on the bike was – it was my larger car that done the damage.
It is about protecting our fellow drivers on the road and if you have a bigger car shouldn’t you take just a bit more responsibility given the damage you can cause?
It challenges our own perceptions and outlooks
All too often we think our own countries rules and legislation’s are correct and those that differ are inferior or wrong. This example of road traffic accident liability is such a case where many foreigners just cannot accept the Thai way. For me, it is the perfect opportunity to challenge yourself not to be so rigid from the conditioning you have got from your domestic countries. We are in Thailand and we must live by their rules, but also we must be open minded enough not to think the West always get it right. Of which, they most definitely do not.