Having a car is a symbol of wealth and success. In 1970, only 3 million cars were registered. But as cars have become an ultimate status symbol and a basic need for many people, the number has increased to 21 millions in year 1990. Most of the cars are Japanese and Korean cars. Foreign cars are very expensive. Only Mercedes cars had success before Asian crisis in 1997. Thailand was the 7th world wide Mercedes importer. Pickup cars are very popular as they allow to carry goods and many passengers.
In Thailand, when a pedestrian crosses the road, driver won't slow down their speed but honk. Cars or motorcycles won't stop. The pedestrian has to run for his life. Crossing the road and force the way without taking care of the cars is dangerous in Thailand.
A convenient way to discover Thailand is to rent a car and to drive it. When renting a car, it is safer to check it before leaving the rental agency. When driving up-country and overtaking a motorcycle, it is safer to horn it. It is useful to warn the driver and allow enough space between the two vehicles. It frequently happens to see a motorcycle, tuk-tuk or even cars driving in the wrong way. In some highways, crossroads can be far from each-other, i.e several kilometers. Some drivers are lazy to drive far away to reach the next crossroad and then go back in the other way to reach their destination. So they prefer to drive in the wrong way in order to reach the closest crossroad.
When renting a car with a driver, it is better to check the driver. Some of these guys are often tired, eat amphetamine pills, don't respect legal hours so could fall asleep while driving.
Thai drivers are not always very careful. Sometimes two basics concepts of Thai society, i.e. "KRENG CHAI" (เกรงใจ) and "CHAI YEN" (ใจเย็น), are forgotten when driving a car. Intimidation is important when driving. Generally the driver who worries most about his car lets the other go before him. Beware many Thai people have no insurance with their car.
Road security is a major issue in Thailand. In bus terminals there are advertisements focusing on clip belt, danger of drugs, amphetamines ("YA BA" - ยาบ้า or "YA MA" - ยาม้า), wear helmet, racing danger. Bloody pictures are shown such as people having accidents, people burnt. Children are taught to cross the roads only if there is a policeman, a traffic light or footbridge.
The bloodiest week-end happens every year during the Songkran period. These accidents show that the road security is still a major concern for Thai government.
In upcountry areas, buses drivers drive fast. They often overtake slow cars and motorcycles. It is common to see cars slowing down and going on the road back side. Here the bigger has the higher priority. Sometimes there are even races between public companies bus driver and private companies bus driver.
- Gas station
Small jobs like filling petrol in car can still be found in Thai petrol stations. In many Western countries car drivers have to help themselves. But even in Thailand some small jobs start to disappear also. In department stores like Big C or Lotus, guardians when entering or exiting the supermarket are replaced by cameras.
On Bangkok Express ways, the security lane is often ignored and is considered as an another lane.