Thailand’s Deadliest Killer: Vehicle & Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities

Whether you are a permanent resident, long term visitor, or just on brief holiday to the Kingdom of Thailand, there’s a likely possibility that you have already, or at least are considering to wager with one of Thailand’s deadliest dealers. When the key turns the ignition in the Land of Smiles, the stakes are as high as they get; The non-repayable debt that you’re risking has high potential to snug you down in a deep hole, for an all expenses paid trip to early retirement. Are you ready to die?

Most likely, you answered no. Does that make you safe? The answer to this question all depends on your background respect and knowledge for Thailand’s network of roads that cover some 220,000 kilometers; More importantly, your attitude towards driving in general will play a big role in determining your fate out on the tar and pavement.

For those who have taken formal driving training and actually have recently obtained a valid international drivers license, your chances of staying alive on Thailand’s roads and highways are increased slightly, yet what you learned back at home may not always be applicable in a country, where an at least 20,000 souls die in motor vehicle accidents per annum.

According to official statistics (police), 12,858 people were killed in road crashes in 2005. However the real number might even be higher. According to documentation from the health sector, the real death toll could be 20,000 or more if victims who die after being removed from the crash scene are included.

Adapted from the Global Road Safety page on Thailand

By making the decision to drive, or even be a passenger for that matter, you are taking a high risk to join these numbers. Failing to realize this reality puts you at even higher risk.

No joke, hundreds out of the deaths mentioned above involve foreign nationals–who were over-confident in their chances and abilities, yet took the laws and roads lightly, failing to take all the necessary precautions as to preserve their life–in fact, not different than their Thai compatriots who most likely weren’t planning to die the last time they started up the engine.

To get a clearer reality, just take a look at these bloody and fatal articles involving both Thai and foreigners, complete with on-the-scene pictures. The following examples are all fatal, recent, and happened in Chonburi–reckonably the most, but not the only traffic-dangerous province of Thailand.

Finnish tourist attempts to cross road, t-bones his motorcycle into passing car

Speeding Thai teenager on motorbike has head on collision with truck

Intoxicated Thai teenagers race to their death at sharp curve collision

Avoiding a stray dog, unidentified foreigner motorcyclist falls and is run over

Canadian Harley rider crashes into parked truck, killing himself and injuring Brit

Thai man trying to beat train crossing, clashes with barriers instead

Perhaps such pictures are only images, stories are only tales, and statistics are just numbers to you, and the reality of the situation couldn’t possibly hit home until it happens to someone you knew, or maybe only when your own guts are spread out across the pavement is when you’d take the driving experience serious. Unfortunately by than, an ‘I told you so.’ would be far too late.

If you are like the author, you’re hard headed, and need to learn things yourself. Well, this is one lesson you ought to take another’s word for instead. Some of us have been fortunate to learn the hard way, but that doesn’t mean you will be as fortunate to survive.

The first bike the author owned and learned the roads was back in 2002, on a fifth hand Suzuki Akira 115 cc. The author, like most rookie visitors to Thailand, had no real previous experience on a motorcycle other than a weekend rental excursion on Samed island on a previous holiday. Back in those days, his American drivers license usually sufficed for traffic cops’ routine checks, even though it wasn’t motorbike specific. Fortunately today, Thai laws have started to crack down on enforcing the laws in place to have valid Thai license, or at the least a legit international license.

Unfortunately, no matter what measures, society and authorities take to cut down on traffic accidents and fatalities, there will still be motorists dropping like flies, for the biggest danger is not the roads, it’s not the fast engines and big wheels, nor even the alcohol and stimulants involved, but it’s the drivers themselves who put them self and others in vulnerable, deadly situations.

The author can only thank his stars that his life wasn’t ended when he was illegally, thus recklessly driving as an ESL teacher in Phetchaburi in 2002 and 2003. One of his friends, another ESL teacher from Canada, Dan Storey wasn’t so lucky when he t-boned a car at a late night intersection in Cha Ahm district, January 15, 2002. Dan suffered a painful and slow death at the hospital (though he was long unconscious since impact), implanting a seed of reality in the author and all else who were acquainted, involved, and affected.

Don’t be ignorant, and certainly don’t fear the roads, for this post wasn’t written to scare you into hiding, but to inform and prepare you for what will keep you alive–enjoying the drive and scenery, and confident that you will be able to do so for a long life to come. Learn how to drive and survive Thai roads now.

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5 Responses to “Thailand’s Deadliest Killer: Vehicle & Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities”

  1. How to Survive Thailand Roads & Traffic: Thai Motorcycle and Car driving safety Says:

    [...] Thailand’s Deadliest Killer: Vehicle & Motorcycle Accidents and Fatalities [...]

  2. Theerawood Says:

    It was well known that doctors could not save life from motorcycle head injury and helmet minimize head injury. But most people still neglect this.
    80% of road accident dead in thatland still among no helmet rider. Motorcylcle makers always guilt for the 10000 Thai young men dead every year helplessly.

  3. Jalonen Says:

    Vehicles and motorcycles are convenient but they are also very dangerous. If people realize and respect this, there will be less accidents.

  4. CT Says:

    I am very lucky to have survived and not be paralyzed from a terrible motorcycle crash I had in Thailand. I was speeding without a helmet about 100 kph late one night on a dark road and I braked too hard and swerved to avoid a stray dog that appeared suddenly in front of my bike. I broke my leg and arm/wrist horribly, as well as took a very hard hit to the head and lost my front teeth. I’m glad the Thai docs were able to save my life, but I had to return to US to get the medical care to properly fix my shattered wrist. I have a new outlook on life now and I will never speed on a motorcycle – in Thailand or anywhere else – again. Thailand is a beautiful country and it’s easy to have too much of a good time there only to wake up in a second rate hospital barely alive. Scary stuff. Slow down, please. And wear the helmet. Don’t be like the idiot I was the night I wrecked. Thank God I am still alive.

  5. baz Says:

    Why on earth were you speeding at 100kph on a dark road with no helmet or hand protection? I hate to say i told you so but that was very very stupid and entirely predictable. I have been riding for 30 years and i NEVER EVER ride without my QUALITY full-face helmet and riding gloves, the kind that protect your hands and wrists because when a person falls, they ALWAYS stick their hands out front to protect their face and body and those without gloves either tear apart their hands or break bones or both – and those without a full face helmet usually smash up their face.
    But the speeding is the worst offense. I don’t see a lot of it in Chiang Mai and surrounding area but it is usually stupid Farangs who have rented a powerful Japanese bike so they can show off to girlfriends and in photos and videos, to friends back home. These fools usually have little riding experience because if they did, they’d be smart enough to realize they are in very unfamiliar conditions and don’t know local rules and customs.
    I’m staying in Thailand for the longer term and i have bought a Kawasaki BJ250 Enduro. It’s a retro style on/off road bike (more on than off road). The Big K designed it to look like their 1970′s bike, the F175. But mine is a 2006 with just 8,000kms on the clock and runs beautiful. It even has fuel injection disguised as a carb to look more authentic! Don’t you just love Japanese designers? When they do something, they go all the way but also build in serious reliability for robust everyday use.
    Back in Canada i have a 2002 Suzuki GSXR750 with a 1000cc engine stuffed into it but the big freeways and open roads in that country allow one to have such a powerful machine. In Thailand, a 250 enduro is all you need – unless of course you are some foolish tourist who wants to show off and thinks motorcycles are toys. Many of these people have gone home in a box. So THINK before you ride because there are two kinds of riders – those who have been in an accident and those who will BE in an accident. The goal is to be vigilant and serious about your riding safety and be prepared to minimize the damage. Know how to fall, how to let go of the bike in a fall, how to perform emergency avoidance skids. Most of all, go to a riding school and learn how to protect yourself.

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