Motoring lessons overseas learned the hard way by expats

Published:  17 Oct at 6 PM
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Tagged: Australia, Thailand
One of the reasons often quoted by expats when asked why they left their home countries is the expense, difficulty and traffic snarl-ups involved in driving in large cities.

However, the lure of the open road in far-flung, less than first world countries such as Thailand has its distinct and possibly fatal downsides, as many expats have found to their dismay. A perennial expat destination for its great weather and inexpensive lifestyle, Thailand and its driving habits are hitting the news more and more frequently nowadays.

Many new arrivals to this Southeast Asian country decide to reinvent their youth and buy a small motorbike or scooter. It’s easy to get a license as there are no driving schools, nothing remotely resembling a driving test as seen in the West and, although it’s against the law to drive without a helmet, no-one really cares that much.

Motoring laws are hardly observed, including drink-driving laws, and motoring etiquette is simply unheard of by the Thai driving population. Maintenance to safe standards of the millions of pick-up trucks, cars and ancient Honda Dreams is a luxury rather than a necessity, red lights are seen as advisory rather than essential, there’s no such thing as lane discipline and road rage comes as standard.

Expats finally realise they’re on another planet whilst they’re goggling at a small motorbike loaded with Mum, Dad, son, baby daughter and the family dog, and, tragically, the accidents waiting to happen do happen very frequently. Thailand has one of the highest road death and accident rates in the world, and it’s getting worse.

Expats aren’t excepted from death and severe injury here, perhaps because they continue to drive the way they did at home. This, although laudable, simply doesn’t work, as every Thai on the roads drives as if he’s the only vehicle for miles, making side mirrors the most important piece of equipment on your vehicle.
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