Madness on Thailand’s Roads

The photograph above is an alarming sight and once again shows the danger and madness on Thailand’s roads. It’s the kind of spectacle which is not uncommon on Thailand’s highways but one which you’d probably never see in countries such as America, Germany, France or the United Kingdom. Heaven help the driver of the truck and its high riding passengers if the police caught sight of them in one of the countries afore mentioned.

I took the photograph whilst travelling along the Nong Khai to Udon Thani highway and the truck was moving at a good 75 kilometres an hour. At first glance it looks as if there is a young man and boy led out flat on top of the truck’s trailer but on closer inspection of the blown-up part of the picture below, a very young boy can also be seen. On realisation the photo had three people perched on top I now think the one on the left may in fact be a woman and the wife and mother of the other two. That’s quite an adventurous family day out.

The truck was heading towards Udon Thani city and wasn’t too far away from passing over railway lines which cross the highway and give any vehicle a big bump if they hit them at speed. I didn’t see that outcome of that one as Wonderful Wi hit the gas and we left the truck and its Calamity Family behind us.

In a gesture of goodwill to the irresponsible truck driver I’ve blanked out the vehicle’s registration plate because I wish him and his high riding incumbents no more trouble than what they’re probably heading into some day soon.

If any reader is planning to rent a car and drive on Thailand’s roads for their first time then I hope this post serves as a warning to the kind of madness that’s viewed on Thailand’s roads on a regular basis. Air and train travel are both generally safe and despite regular reports of coach accidents in Thailand the sheer amount of those vehicles travelling the length and breadth of the country means those accident statistics add up to make a very, very low percentage.

My view is it’s best to leave car travel on Thailand’s busy highways to those who have experience of the mentality of the country’s gung-ho drivers and therefore can react quicker to the unexpected.


I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

16 Responses

  1. I’ve been driving here for years and I still dread getting out on the road. It is always very stressful when you need to get off the major roads and onto the narrow side streets. These roads are okay to navigate by motorbike, but they surely weren’t built with cars in mind. Then there is also the blind turns and going over hills, where you are always hoping that a car passing into your own lane coming from the other direction isn’t waiting for you.

  2. Martyn says:

    Lawrence I don’t drive myself, I sit in the passenger seat snapping away with my camera for all its worth (£99 actually).

    I know what you mean about blind turns and hills. Wilai and myself have travelled by car to Loei twice before via the mountain pass highway and that’s scary stuff at times. Especially in a rented car.

  3. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I am also alarmed at the danger Thais put themselves and their oftentimes very young children in. But as much as I try, I can’t seem to get the great shots you do. I don’t think of taking photos until after the event = too late!

  4. Martyn says:

    Catherine I’ve always got my camera primed and ready when travelling on Thailand’s roads. The only times I put it away is if we hit police road blocks. I’d really like to capture the road blocks on film but I don’t know what kind of reaction I’d get from the police. It’s best not to antagonize them.

  5. Kanika says:

    That’s indeed quite risky!
    I can’t believe the driver put these lil kids in danger! Where is the traffic police

  6. Martyn says:

    Kanika I don’t think the driver had too much choice in the matter and probably thought nothing of it either.

  7. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I feel the same as you about police road blocks but I did panic my heart and take a few snaps. I dared myself for a coming scarecrow post… the police road blocks have those fake policemen so I’m thinking that they’re scarecrows for the general public 😀

  8. Martyn says:

    Catherine I’ve been stopped in a few road blocks with Wilai but we’ve always been okay. I’ve been dying to snap a few pictures after being given the all clear but haven’t had the guts to do so. One day I will.

    Scarecrows are much more easier to snap, as long as you don’t have to go in the long grass.

  9. Bodlagz says:

    Nice photo Martyn, you could put together quite shocking photo album if you spent a day at the roadside with a camera. One of my own below.

  10. Martyn says:

    Bodlagz there must be some fantastic Thailand road photos in many peoples photo albums that won’t see the light of day. I had a look at your photo, great shot. Thais certainly make full use of every inch of space.

  11. Snap says:

    Martyn, great photo of a (hopefully not) tragedy waiting to happen. Traffic police? They’re possibly riding around, standing up in the back of a police pick up truck somewhere. Every time I see a baby or child without a helmet on, it makes me shudder.

  12. Martyn says:

    Snap I would hope if the police did see the Calamity Family then they would react accordingly, but I’m not too sure they would.

  13. SiamRick says:

    I have to write this very late comment . . . There’s probably 500,000 dangerous driving incidents a day in Thailand, such as an entire family, mom, dad and 3 kids, motoring on a 125cc scooter, to the market. That’s all they can afford and we really can’t sit here in our western superiority chair and wag our finger. Yes, it’s unsafe and dangerous. They make do with what they got, assuming they even think about that. As far as I’m concerned, they can conduct their lives to survive day to day as they see fit.

    Until education improves, agencies take safety seriously, consumer groups are taken seriously and people gain higher incomes, I imagine life will not change much in Thailand.

  14. Martyn says:

    Rick – Your comment is most welcome and I wouldn’t describe it as late because the post is still prominent in my sidebar.

    The gist of the story was to show a shocking photo of the kind of thing you can see on Thailand’s roads and for it to act as a warning to any farang newbies thinking of renting a car in Thailand. Be prepared and possibly consider other options.

    In my opinion sticking a youngster in a rocket launch position on the top of a fast moving truck on a busy highway is indefensible, but a family of four on one motorbike slowly cruising country roads does have its social necessities.

    I think those shown in the picture (bar the kid) have no defence at all but I did have the decency to X out the truck’s registration plate on the very slim chance Thailand’s censor board might pick it up and pass it on to the police.

  15. Catherine says:

    Rick, there are chairs and there are chairs…

    One subject rolling around the Thai expat forums ever since I’ve been around is the frustration from expat guys on the matter of their half Thai kids and road safety in Thailand.

    The guys don’t want their babies running around on motorcycles because of the obvious. It’s dangerous.

    So the expat guys sit their Thai wives down, educate them about the facts, and the wives nod their heads in agreement.

    Problem solved?

    But the very next day that baby is going up the road on a motorcycle because it’s less of a hassle for the mother than buckling up a baby in the safer truck or family car.

    So pretty please, go waggle that finger elsewhere [wink] [wink] and I’ll continue shaking my head over the continuous carnage on Thai roads.

  16. Martyn says:

    Catherine your comment has reminded me you are a champion for the cause of road safety in Thailand, especially to bring in a law to make it compulsory to wear seat belts in the back of vehicles. Keep up your cause and you just might make a difference.

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