There were 77 road accidents reported in Chiang Mai between December 27th and 31st – the highest number across the whole of Thailand. Despite efforts to improve road safety in the city by expanding stretches of highway and putting law enforcement on the roads to catch speeding drivers, the number of motorists being injured on Chiang Mai’s roads is still alarmingly high. It’s, therefore, time for the city’s drivers to take note of these safety measures before taking to the road.
Don’t drink & drive
The Bangkok Post reports that 30.4% of all the crashes that occurred in Thailand in 2019 were due to drinking and driving. For optimum safety, it’s recommended that you don’t consume any alcohol before driving. However, if you do decide to have a drink, it’s important to ensure that you’re below the legal drink driving limit, which is currently 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. If you’re unsure whether you’re within the limit, then you should avoid driving altogether. It’s unlikely that you’ll get away with driving while over the limit as it’s common practice for cops in Chiang Mai to set up checkpoints where they stop and test drivers’ blood alcohol content. If you fail, you’ll face a fine of up to 200,000 baht, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and may have to surrender your driving license.
Presently, carriageways in Chiang Mai and the rest of Thailand typically have an 80 km/hr speed limit imposed on them. However, it was recently revealed that the Transport Ministry wants to increase this to at least 90 km/hr on the outside lane. It’s hoped that this speed increase will prevent slow drivers from hogging the fast lane as it’s also proposed that they will be fined for driving too slow in the outside lane. When a driver does this, it encourages other drivers to speed up and undertake, putting the safety of all road users at risk. Until these proposals are given the green light, you should ensure that you drive sensibly on Chiang Mai’s roads at all times. This includes adhering to the speed limit, being mindful of other drivers, and avoiding the outside lane if you’re not driving close to the maximum speed limit or overtaking another vehicle.
Adjust your driving
Many people are used to driving different types of vehicles in Chiang Mai to make a living. Perhaps you transport vacationers to their hotels by shuttle bus, ride a large motorcycle on weekdays to quickly get to and from work, or drive machinery on one of Chiang Mai’s many construction sites. Driving and operating vehicles these types of vehicles is significantly different from driving a car on Chiang Mai’s roads. Transporting goods in a skid loader on a construction site, for example, takes a lot of skill and precision. In such a vehicle, you’ll be used to using multiple mirrors and backup cameras, you’ll drive backward rather than forward, and you’ll have to travel at a low speed. But in a standard vehicle, you’ll have to drive faster and without these assisted devices. It’s, therefore, crucial that you adjust your driving to suit the type of vehicle you are driving and the type of road you are driving on in Chiang Mai each and every time you take to one of the city’s roads.
Safe travel with kids
Legally, infants and children don’t have to be restrained in a child seat when traveling in a vehicle in Chiang Mai or elsewhere in Thailand. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in car safety seats for your children. Research shows that when child safety seats are used, they reduce fatal injuries by 71% for infants, 54% for tots aged between 1 and 4, and 45% for children between 4 and 8 years of age. There are also significant benefits to you strapping your child into a child car seat to you as a driver. Children are a leading cause of distracted driving across the world, with parents regularly confessing to taking their eyes off the road to talk to their kids, give them food, or to split up a sibling argument. But when a child isn’t restrained by anything more than a seatbelt, there’s a risk that they’ll unbuckle themselves or climb out and start messing around in your vehicle which is sure to make you brake sharply and stop focusing on the road ahead.
Put your phone down
On the subject of distracted driving, Thai drivers are some of the worse for using their phones behind the wheel. 30% of drivers in the country admit to taking selfies while driving and 45% say they use Facebook. Using your phone while driving for any reason is a big no-no and significantly increases the chance of you being involved in a road accident. Studies even show that texting behind the wheel is 6 times more dangerous than drinking and driving. With this in mind, make sure you switch your phone to silent or turn it off when you’re on the road. If you think you may still be tempted to pick it up, then leave your phone at home or lock it in the trunk of your vehicle so you can only use it when you’re safely parked up.
Wear a helmet
56,447 people were charged for not wearing a crash helmet whilst riding a motorbike during 2019’s annual road safety campaign, according to The Thaiger. Unfortunately, many motorcyclists in Chiang Mai opt not to protect themselves by wearing a helmet when they’re riding their bikes. Even kids in the city fail to wear them, with the AIP Foundation reporting that just 7% of kids who travel to school by motorcycle in Thailand wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet is crucial for improving road safety throughout Chiang Mai as they reduce the likelihood of fatal and severe injuries occurring. The good news is that Chiang Mai has the highest rate of helmet wearers among motorcyclists in Thailand, with 45% wearing them. But this figure certainly shows that there’s still significant room for improvement.
Road safety in Chiang Mai is a hotly debated topic. While there are extensive efforts to keep road users as safe as possible, there are still plenty of steps that the city’s road users need to take to better protect themselves on the city’s roads.