NEW DRIVING PENALTIES COME INTO FORCE IN THAILAND
From September 5th last year the penalties for various driving offences in Thailand increased substantially. The authorities decided at the time to give a three month grace period to all road users to give them time to adjust and “improve their road behaviour”. Judging by the figures over the Christmas and new year for road deaths and injuries this has not yet filtered through to the general population but the main point is that the grace period ended on the 5th of January and the new penalties are now in place.
Jumping a red light or not stopping at a zebra crossing now both carry a maximum fine of 4000 Baht, up from 1000 Baht. How this would help if a pedestrian gets knocked twenty feet in the air whilst trying to cross or a truck smashes into the back of your bike because you stopped and they decided not to is unclear at the moment.
Driving against traffic and not wearing a crash helmet on a bike or a safety belt in a car all now carry a maximum 2000 Baht fine, up from 500 Baht. There has also been an addition to this because up until now passengers in the rear seats of cars or trucks were not required by law to wear seat belts, but are now. Failure to do so also carries a 2000 Baht fine.
Driving without care for the safety or lives of others now has a penalty of a fine of between 5000 – 20,000 Baht and a jail sentence of a maximum one year. This is increased from 2000 – 10,000 Baht and a three-month prison sentence. This seems a bit vague and who decides what constitutes “driving without care for the safety or lives of others” is not made clear. It seems to leave lots of room for interpretation and I assume that would be done by the officer that attends the scene, so good luck with that.
Drink driving is the area where the punishment for contravening the law has increased substantially. If you are convicted of drink driving you will now face a fine of up to 20,000 Baht and a prison term of a maximum one year. However, if you repeat the offence within two years of the first one you will face a fine of up to 100,000 Baht and a MANDATORY jail term of up to two years. Whatever your thoughts on these increases, it’s hard to argue with the fact that drink driving has been a curse on Thailand for decades and they have to start somewhere to get the general population to understand that drink driving is a serious offence and needs to be stopped. It will take time because it seems endemic here but as I say, you have to start somewhere.
New offences for road racing and preparing vehicles for same have also been put in place but needn’t concern us here. Of more interest is that the original plan to make child car seats compulsory has been shelved, wisely in my opinion, until more research can be done.
So there we have it. Major increases in fines and possible prison terms for all kinds of offences. For foreign nationals, all you can do really is make sure you have a valid license, buckle up if you’re driving, wear a helmet on a bike and most importantly, don’t drink and drive under any circumstances. If you do drink and drive and are involved in an accident, especially with a Thai national and there are injuries, you are in serious trouble, make no mistake, so avoid.
Drive carefully and stay safe.