Traffic in Thailand varies from the snarled gridlock of rush-hour Bangkok to the breezy emptiness of its country roads. But one constant is the notion that Thailand’s Highway Code is less a code, and more a set of guidelines. Perhaps the rules of the road do carry legal weight but some drivers often behave as if they do not.
Sometimes there is a reason why drivers in Thailand ignore the rules. While notionally people drive on the left (as in Japan or the UK), if that side of a deserted provincial road is bumpy and uneven enough that it looks like an off-road obstacle course, then it’s quite reasonable that a driver might choose to travel on the right for a while. If the road is straight, visibility good, and the road surface a menace to the car’s suspension, then moving across is perfectly sane. (The variable quality of Thailand’s provincial roads also explains why big Four-Wheel Drive vehicles are so popular here.)
On the other hand, when a small scooter, carrying three people and their luggage (and occasionally, a dog too), hurtles through a red light and across a pedestrian crossing in a busy city, it is hard to see reason or even sanity in this. With crazy u-turns, frequent lane changes, and an arbitrary disregard for stop lights, drivers in Thailand’s towns display considerable creativity in their use of the road – and often, the pedestrian areas off to the sides of the road too.
The key, whether you are a driver or pedestrian in Thailand, is to never assume that anyone will obey the rules. Be aware of what people are actually doing, and don’t think too much about what they should be doing.