What is Living in Thailand REALLY Like?

Motor Vehicle Accidents in Thailand

Motor Vehicle Accidents in Thailand

Visitors to Thailand involved in motor vehicle accidents in Thailand can face a couple scenarios. The best one for you might be to offer the other people involved in the accident a few thousand baht to forget it and go your separate ways. You can get your rental vehicle fixed and the rental agency may not notice. You can get MAJOR damage fixed for less than 30,000 baht. Damage which, in the states for instance, would cost you about $5000 usd. (200,000 baht). In the case of a motor vehicle accident in Thailand you, as a foreigner will likely be seen as the cause – or at least responsible for it afterward.

In Thailand, if you are the cause of an accident and you hit someone with your car on a motorbike for instance, you may have to pay damages to that person for the rest of his/her life. This is why you may read stories in The NATION or Bangkok Post about drivers (even bus drivers) attempting to run away from the accidents. They cannot afford to pay someone else the rest of their lives.

You may, if you ask enough Thai people (I have) hear a ‘rumor’ about drivers of trucks and cars that are involved in an accident – maybe they hit a pedestrian… a bicyclist, a motorbike rider… and they realize they are at fault. They MIGHT just back up over top of the injured person once or twice to make sure they are dead and aren’t able to go to court over it. The fear of paying money out the rest of their life for being at fault in a motor vehicle accident in Thailand is enough to really shake up some Thais and make them do crazy things.  It is worth mentioning that if you are the one laying in the road after an accident – get to somewhere safe QUICKLY. Heal your wounds later. :)

Accidents happen anytime. Never planned. Since being in Asia I’ve seen the results of many motorbike accidents… victims laying in the road still… nobody moves them… they are usually bleeding from some orifice, but not always. Sometimes you’d guess they’re sleeping. There is no attempt made by bystanders to revive the person or wake them if they happen to be just unconscious and not dead yet. I’ve not seen any efforts anyway.

After an accident Thai bystanders linger around just standing by the person or persons that are dead or unconscious. They don’t look at the person and often times they are laughing softly.

The Thais’ have a culture that accepts death more easily than we do. They believe it’s karmic fate – a Buddhist concept – and that if it’s time, it’s time. There is no sense worrying about when it will come -it will just come. This attitude is reflected in their driving. Many drive motorcycles or cars and trucks without regard to themselves or others.

In America everything is more dramatic. If we have an accident there we have people screaming, we have 19 police, firemen, ambulance, onlookers… everyone taking pArt in the drama. The Thais’ just wait for a pickup truck to come and pick up the body or the unconscious person and take him/her to the hospital.

I spent a night in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a major hospital in the northeast of Thailand just a couple months ago. I was there from 6 pm until 8 am the next morning. I was there because my American friend had a motorbike accident at 2 in the morning and ran into 3 Thai teenagers on a motorbike. Not sure what happened but witnesses said the 3 teens didn’t have lights on their motorcycle at the time of the accident. My friend went to the ICU unconscious and didn’t wake up for 6 hours. Anyway, this story isn’t about that.

So, sitting in his room in the ICU I keep seeing a dog come into where the patients are. One of the staff brought her dog to work as she usually did. In America even unclean people are not allowed in the ICU… Don’t we have to SCRUB or something? Usually in the US visitors can stay only minutes before being rushed out. Here my friend was in an ICU room with a dog visitor. Incredible. Then I saw a cat. No lie… Anyway – the animals stayed out of his area so I didn’t gripe.

As I sat there that night I watched 4 people die on the tables. PArt icularly disturbing was a child, a girl about 9 years old. When she was brought in she was not breathing. She had a cervical collar on her neck and they were squeezing a plastic balloon to fill her lungs with air. Apparently her heArt was still beating because I could read the heArt rate monitor and see when it changed. The HRM went to zero multiple times during their efforts and they switched from chest compressions and breathing help to just breathing help as her own heArt began to beat.

Then her breathing was OK on her own and her heArt wouldn’t beat… so they did chest compressions. They did this for 30 minutes until the doctor there told them to stop. The heart did not show any signs of improvement. They then used the electrical stimulation to attempt to stArt the heart , and tried multiple times – but nothing worked. The doctor then took out a form and wrote down time of death. They took her pulse in neck and wrist. They checked the monitor. Nothing for heArt rate… but, the girls chest was still going up and down a little bit. The breathing rate monitor said 12 for a while after they stopped chest compressions… then 10…9.. 4… and then finally zeroed after over 30 minutes.

The mom, father and sister arrived just as they were pronouncing the girl dead… and they watched as the breathing slowed down to nothing. The mom was crying – but not sobbing. Just quiet tears and holding onto her husband tightly. The father cried lightly. The sister was in shock and didn’t cry just held onto the parents and looked wide eyed at her sister covered over by the sheet.

Accidents are anytime.

I drove to a waterfall 2 weeks ago. As we were just getting started we saw this house (see photo) with a tree that had fallen through it years ago. We then heard a loud ripping of something through the forest and coming down the hill. Just in back of us – 20 meters was a large roundish boulder that shot out of the woods and flew across the freshly mowed lawn. Had anyone been in the way…

So… wear your helmet. Use your belt. Take your kids to see an ICU ward or a mortuary sometime. Give them a taste of death… the hollowness… the suddenness… the unexplainable taste that will put the fear of caution in them.

Thailand Accident Insurance

Yes, you have insurance on your Thailand vehicle. At least you should. No, it probably won’t protect you much, if at all. There is usually a clause in the insurance paperwork that states that if you are the “cause” of the accident, they are not responsible for damages. There is also a clause in most about driving recklessly. So, even if you are not the cause – you may be deemed to have been driving recklessly and contributing to the accident and not receive money either. Insurance is really a losing proposition here. Have enough free cash in savings to take care of any major accident BEFORE you attempt driving here (150,000 b as a minimum).

Leaving the Scene of an Accident in Thailand

If you try to leave the scene of the motor vehicle accident in Thailand without having paid off the others’ involved or exchanging all relevant information like license info, insurance info, names, phones, etc. you may become the victim of an angry group of Thai people that beat you and hold you until the police come. Strangers will join in for this. You must be very sure that the others involved are OK with the payoff and you can go your separate ways.

Legal Help

If you are in an accident and the police are there, witnesses are involved, the whole nightmare… you should know the number for the tourist police for the area you’re in and dial them. Better to deal with the tourist police than the regular police that may not speak English that well. You want to make sure that your side is at least HEARD and understood, whether or not it does you any good. If you are very persistent and insistent that you are not responsible you may be able to get out of it. It does happen on occasion.

You may want to contact “Sunbelt Legal Advisors” in Bangkok to help you should you need to go to court. They are listed in the classified section of every Bangkok Post and they also run ads on “Thaivisa.com“. I’m not vouching for their legitimacy, just giving you a place to start from…

Emergency Thailand Phone Numbers for Tourists:

1155 – Tourist Police. This is free from any phone. Thailand’s tourist police are remarkably helpful.

678-6800, Also Thai Tourist police – regular charges apply.

191 or 123. Thailand police – may or may not speak English will probably transfer you to tourist police or someone that speaks English.

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