If you are coming to Thailand, you might have thought about driving here. This article provides some basic information about traffic regulations in Thailand.
In Thailand, people drive on the left side of the street. The legal age for drivers is 18 years for automobiles and motorbikes over 110cc. For motorbikes under 110cc, the minimum driving age is 15 years old. It is compulsory to wear a helmet if you are riding on a motorbike.
For short term driving in Thailand, an international driver’s license is sufficient. If the driver is planning to reside in Thailand over an extended period of time, it is recommended that they obtain a Thai driver’s license. A Thai driver’s license is issued by the Department of Land Transport. The requirements for issuance are the following:
1. Passport with Visa (and one copy)
2. Present resident address in Thailand, certified by the Thai Embassy or the Immigration Bureau. Alternatively, original work permit (and one copy)
3. Medical certificate from clinic or hospital, valid for at least 1 month
4. International Driving License (and one copy) or alternatively local driving license (translated to English with certificate from Embassy, if not in English)
The initial driver’s license is valid for one year. If the license expires, it is possible to renew the driver’s license for a five year period. The driver needs to carry his driver’s license and the registration document for his vehicle at all times.
The Department of Land Transport in Thailand hands out the tax sticker for vehicles. Every vehicle needs to have a sticker and must be renewed every year.
All drivers must have the Compulsory Motor Insurance (CMI). The CMI is a third party insurance policy. It is required to cover the life and injury of the driver, the passenger and third parties. The minimum amount of coverage is 50,000 THB. If the damage exceeds the insured amount, the driver is responsible for the remaining damage. The driver can apply for a Third Class, Second Class or First Class insurance for increased coverage amounts.
It is not advisable to rely on other people to obey the traffic rules. Drivers should drive carefully and anticipate the movements of other drivers. Traffic in Thailand is very different from traffic in the U.S. or in Europe. Foreigners have to expect people driving in the wrong lane, motorbikes on all sides that wiggle over the lanes and animals on the roads. In Bangkok, most traffic signs are in English but that quickly changes when the driver is outside of Bangkok or other major cities.
Thailand has the second highest rate of fatalities from road crashes, with an average of 44 fatalities from road crashes per 100,000 people. In comparison, the rate is 14 in the U.S. and 6 in Germany. This does not mean that driving in Thailand is life-threatening. Statistics include common accidents with vans, minibuses and pick-up trucks, where more people are involved each accident. Many Thai vehicles carry large numbers of people which can result in a distortion of the statistics.
The statistic also extends to motorbike drivers, who often have their own rules when it comes to traffic like riding their bike against traffic, riding on pedestrian walkways, or making quick turns without signaling.
Another reason for the high number of fatalities is the culture of “mai pen rai” (loosely translated: it will happen anyway) – due to Buddhism. Many people believe their life is predetermined, and that helmets, seat-belts or even child seats are not considered necessary. It is not out of the ordinary to see a family a four on one motorbike without any safety gear.
In the recent times, there had been several accidents caused by drunk driving. Thai Authorities are determined to fight against this rampant problem. In Thailand, the standard alcohol concentration limit is set to 0.05 per cent. For learner drivers, probationary drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, train drivers and all drivers of public service vehicles the alcohol limit is 0.00 per cent. They are not allowed to drink any alcohol prior or while driving a car.
The police has the authority to stop and breathalyze drivers at any time and they are making use of this authority. When driving through Thailand at nighttime, drivers can expect to pass several checkpoints where the police are stopping cars to look for drunken drivers. DUI-related offenses can lead to severe penalties that will be enforced in most cases.
In addition, do not insult other drivers, their reaction is unpredictable. Thais can interpret insults as an attack on their “face”, which can provoke extremely hostile reactions. Long or loud honking or making obscene gestures can trigger strong reactions and result in unpleasant consequences.
Driving in Thailand can be dangerous but it provides a way to explore the country independently. Since traffic laws are different in Thailand than from western countries, it is advisable become knowledgeable with the differences prior to driving. If drivers take some precautionary measures, it is possible to reduce the risks of traffic accidents.
Our licensed Thai lawyers at Siam Legal International in Bangkok have valuable knowledge in dealing with government agencies in Thailand, and this experience is of great importance when dealing with Thai legal cases and investigative service.
Mr. Ulrich Schmitt is currently a legal intern at Siam Legal International in Bangkok. He is a graduate of the University of Trier, Germany with a state examination in German Law. He is currently in the process of completing his second state exam at the Judicial District of the Provincial High Court and Court of Appeals in Koblenz, Germany.