The road to nowhere

The road to nowhere

Since you all faithfully follow my life-changing columns each week, you probably know that it has been a while since I used this space to rant and rave about the horrendous driving habits in Thailand.

And while that topic is about as original as stating that it's perpetually hot here and that we love to eat spicy food, a recent incident has forced me to ease up on the brakes and speed head-on into the issue again. I can only hope that this article will crash straight into some of the misguided "experts" who need a reality check.

Following last week's tragic death of a British couple who were killed by a pickup truck in Chachoengsao province while on a cycling trip around the world, authorities have come out to offer solutions on how to make our roads safer. Rightfully so, as accidents happen every day and measures must be taken to prevent casualties when possible.

What do you think are some of the ideas that have been floated around to improve driving behaviour? Take your time to think about it, I'll wait...

OK, ready? So you probably came up with things like harsher penalties for lawbreaking motorists, increased law enforcement patrolling the streets, regular tests for drivers to keep them alert of road rules, immediate sacking of any bribe-accepting cops, swift deportation of anyone who drives like a douchebag (hey, we can dream)...

Unfortunately, the oh-so-sweet experts in charge of road safety have once again taken a different approach. And once again, their approach leaves me holding my head in my hands with despair, and wondering whether a Furby doll came up with this solution.

What grand idea has been proposed?

Well, according to an interview in The Nation earlier this week, an expert on accident analysis said: "[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."

Let's all go through this quote together, shall we? Firstly, yes, travelling in Thailand is different from other countries; we may drive on the "wrong" side of the road, our licence plates look unusual, our road names are usually unpronounceable. But we have planes, trains and automobiles all for the sole purpose of getting safely from one place to another, and isn't that the universal point of "travelling"?

Secondly, a handbook? Seriously?! Are experts basically saying we should greet all visitors at Suvarnabhumi with a guide that says, "Welcome to Thailand! We drive like crap, have a pleasant (and bumpy) stay!"? What content would this handbook entail anyway? Would it read something like, "Chapter 1: What to do when you see a motorcyclist driving on the sidewalk or coming down the wrong side of the road"? Or perhaps, "Chapter 2: 'Do you know who my daddy is' and other useful phrases on Thai roads"?

Instead of saying that we should warn others about the risks of driving in Thailand, here's a ludicrous idea: Why don't we try to do something about the risks we can control?! I know, I know, I just refilled my prescription of crazy pills.

This expert is suggesting that we tell visitors that they must adapt to our bad driving habits, thereby giving maniacs on the road the green light to do dangerous things like run red lights, speed recklessly, and do whatever they want because there are no consequences.

In reality, there's no excuse. I understand accidents are accidents, but there's nothing different about Thais that should make them feel entitled to drive carelessly. I mean, it's not like we all have webbed toes that force us to push down on the accelerator without control (although that would explain a lot).

Sure, our roads are bumpy, often subject to sinkholes, and more congested than a person suffering from 100 strains of the flu. However it's our job to make visitors feel that travelling here isn't any different from their home country (well, except for those who think we ride elephants everywhere). But the only way we can ensure everyone's safety is to start with some solid solutions. Until then, we'll just be driving through a winding road to nowhere. G

Sumati Sivasiamphai

Former Guru Editor

Our Guru section former editor. She has writen numerous features the metro lifestyle section.

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