Motorcycle Safety Tips for Riders in Thailand
ATTENTION! The videos on this page contain accidents and human casualties. It is not recommended to watch these videos for pregnant women and impressionable people. But every rider traveling in Thailand must know this.
1. Locals do not respect traffic lights too often. It’s common to see a flow of vehicles ignoring the traffic light, that has already been red for ten seconds. It is necessary to check whether the way is free and safe before you pass through a cross on the green light.
My friend likes to joke about how local people in Thailand act during crossing intersections with traffic lights:
a) The green light means you can drive.
b) The yellow light means you need to drive as fast as you can. In this case, your best shot is to push the gas pedal right to the floor.
c) The red light means you are free to drive beeping and flashing the headlights, or if there is no police officer around.
Well, that’s certainly funny, but still precisely describes the traffic situation in Thailand.
Nevertheless, you need to remember that in Thailand the traffic regulations of crossing intersections are the same as it is elsewhere in the world:
a) The green light means you can drive.
b) The yellow light means you should slow down the speed and stop.
c) The red light means you have to stop and wait for the green light.
2. You can find the road sign “Caution, elephants” in some Thailand provinces. You need to know that this sign is not for curious tourists looking for the elephant to make a selfie. The point is that wild elephant is pretty dangerous and unpredictable. Disturbed wild elephants can be extremely dangerous both for your life and your vehicle.
In addition, you can find these signs in places where elephants usually cross the road or keepers lead them.
Anyway, when you see the “Caution, elephants” sign, slow down and be very careful. Particularly at night, because elephants can be barely seen in the dark, and you can easily hit one of them.
3. In Thailand, people drive on the left. Please always keep to the left side. However, be careful as you can find nails, broken glass, dead leaves, sand, minor gravel. Nails and broken glass are the direct lines to a flat tire. If you are out of town on the motorcycle, the closest repair workshop can be fifteen or twenty kilometers away from the place where you got a flat tire.
It may take you twenty-thirty minutes to get to the workshop with the flat tires. This could lead not only to a faulty tire, which needs to be replaced but also the wheel rim’s geometry might get out of shape and would require replacement. It is very expensive to change both a tire and a wheel rim and could cost from $40 to $150 depending on the model of the motorcycle. If the reason behind the replacement was you ignoring our recommendations, then you need to pay for the damage yourself. As it is the case in all other rentals. So, please be careful on the road and watch out for glasses and nails.
As regard dead leaves, sand and gravel, they may lead to a skid and further falling. Try not to speed up, particularly when turning, where there are many leaves, sand or gravel on the roads.
4. For some mysterious reason, drivers in Thailand believe that the best time for overtaking opportunity is a blind turn where nothing is visible. “It is so easy”, they might say to themselves, “I don’t see any cars around the corner. That means there are no cars! Hurrah! Go!”
That’s why you need to be careful on blind turns. It’s quite possible that there is another Michael “Somchai” Schumacher around the bend.
5. Please don’t turn driving on roads into a boasting and to show off. Sometimes you can see a tourist, who’s been riding a motorbike only for one day and now he’s driving about one hundred kilometers per hour having only one hand on the wheel while keeping the other in the pocket. “A pocket! It’s the place for hands! Why don’t put my free hand in there? Only fools should keep both hands on the wheel,” perhaps this is what they think …
From time to time people find these guys in a roadside ditch. Not always they can be found alive. The other road users, to whom they were showing off, would forget them in a couple of minutes. Their crying relatives will be the only ones who will remember them forever.
So, be careful when riding and keep both your hands on the wheel at all time. The road is not a place for tricks and flossing. Remember that your target is to get from point A to point B safely. It does not matter how fast you’ll get from point A to point B for other drivers.
If you’d like to show off for someone, believe me, the road is not a good place for it. You’d better buy a frozen Haute Chocolate, worth over 25000$, for your girlfriend. It is not so dangerous for your life, and besides, it could provoke a population explosion within a single unit of society.
6. If you are in Thailand, when you see that a driver turned on the left-turn signal, it does not mean that he wants to turn to the left. I mean it. Sometimes drivers turn on the left signal only to turn to the right.
Once I had a close call with death. When I came to Thailand many years ago, I was driving down the road at 80 kilometers per hour. There was a driver ahead of me. After a while, he turned on the LEFT signal showing the road users that he wanted to pull over. “Fantastic!” I thought. “Now I can overtake him”. I put on speed and started overtaking the biker on the RIGHT side.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? He turned on the left signal, which means he was going to turn to the left. I thought it would be possible to overtake him on the right. Sure, it does make sense, but not in Thailand.
While overtaking when I was only ten or twelve meters away from the biker with the LEFT-turn signal, unexpectedly he turned to the RIGHT almost perpendicular to the road and blocked my way with his motorcycle. I tried to slow down but the speed was too high. If I had crashed right into this biker, there would have been two more dead bodies in the statistics of road accidents of Thailand that day. All I could do was turning in a ditch. Eventually, I ended up with broken ribs, a broken arm, and a broken collarbone. I was lucky that I had a helmet. However, this *censored* went ahead like nothing’s wrong. He didn’t even bother to look back!
So just to recap, if there is a biker or a driver ahead of you, who has turned on the LEFT-turn signal, it doesn’t necessarily mean he will turn to the LEFT. He can easily turn to the RIGHT! The turn signal for him can be just a toy like a string of Christmas lights. It’s flashing! How beautiful! Turn signal? I’ve never heard of this, what is it for?
7. Thomas Edward Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia was a British officer and traveler who played a great role in the Great Arab Revolt between 1916 and 1918. The author of autobiographical account Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He is considered as a hero both in Britain and in a number of Arab countries in the Middle East. One of the best-known autobiographical movies in the history of cinema is devoted to him.
On 13 May 1935, Lawrence was riding his Brough Superior SS100 motorcycle in Moreton, county Dorset, close to his house. While trying to avoid hitting the boys on their bicycles who suddenly appeared on the road, he lost control and hit a tree. Despite all the efforts that were made by doctors, on 19 May 1935 he died because of head and brain injuries he got in the crash.
This tragedy made a huge impact on one of the doctors who treated Mr. Lawrence. His name was Hugh Cairns. The results of his research were published in British Medical Journal between 1941 and 1946 and led to the use of crash helmets, which nowadays save tens of thousands of lives every year.
8. Remember that motorcycle riding is very dangerous. Thailand is the country with the highest motorcycle accident rate. 39% of road crashes in Thailand involve motorcyclists. So, if you don’t have any riding experience we kindly recommend you to refuse bike renting and use a taxi. Or you can have a prior course at the best training center in Chiang Mai organized by Honda.
9. Do not stop too close to big trucks at the traffic lights. Very often, they can’t see you because the cabin of a vehicle is too high, it could lead you to just being crushed like a bug for no reason at all. Stop at a light only in the farthest to the left side. It would be safer than stopping between the rows.
10. Never start a motorcycle before sitting on it. If you do not ride a motorcycle but stand aside, and you suddenly push the button to start the engine, it could lead to the motorcycle going to an unknown destination. It may result in a crash or even a death and you will be responsible for it.
11. Try to avoid puddles on unknown roads. There could be a construction hole, several meters in depth under the layer of water. Although from outside it seems like an ordinary puddle.
12. Observe the traffic regulations and the speed limit in and out of a town. Remember that in the town the maximum speed is 50 km/h. These limits are in place not because they’re meant to impose fines on drivers but to ensure the safe flow of traffic. Make sure to look around when getting on the road because anything can happen. ALWAYS look to the BOTH sides of the road, because there could always be a very “smart” biker driving on the wrong side of the road.
13. Try to stay away from the trucks loaded up with building materials and other junk. Building materials and other junk have this tendency to fly out of the back of the truck, drop on a biker’s head and take him to the next world.
14. Do not use cap-helmets.
In case of a crash, most likely they will not save your head from injuries, which means there is a risk to spend the rest of your life being a dummy or get fatal head and brain injuries. If you want to save your life, at least you should have a three-quarter helmet.
15. Motorcycle tire pressure is an important part of its readiness for a safe ride that often is forgotten. Don’t forget to pump the tires. According to the instructions of the manufacturer, the tires must be checked once a week. We encourage you to do it once a week or every time you get to the gas station, depending on what happens more often.
If the tire pressure is not correct, then firstly, it is harder to control the motorcycle in this case because you need to put more effort to turn the wheel. Secondly, the tire is warming up more due to deformity of the frame and there is a possibility of the tire overheating and rubber cracking due to excessive deformity. Thirdly, the motorcycle loses its sustainability and starts vibrating and wagging.
Every gas station in Thailand has an air compressor. Recommended tire pressure for most of the scooters is 32-33 PSI (pound per inch). If you don’t know how to use an air compressor, you can ask the staff members at the gas station so that they will help you.
16. Keep to the left side while turning because vehicles you face can drift to your way that can cause a crash. At the same time, please don’t forget about sand and other junk that I have mentioned before.
17. Don’t put bears on the motorcycle!
Maybe you already knew all that. Especially about bears!!
In that case, feel free to pick up a motorcycle you like and enjoy your ride on the roads of Northern Thailand!
We have no doubts that you have enough riding experience in understanding all these situations and responding correctly to them while driving a motorcycle. But we have concerns for people driving toward you. According to Thai Road Foundation and Road Safety Watch Network statistics, 35% of the motorcycle owners do not have a driving license.
So, be careful and attentive on the roads of Thailand. In addition, please do not forget to study the traffic regulations in Thailand.