Road safety is a worry for us all. Is it really safe on the roads of Bangkok? Can we trust that taking a taxi or a minivan will result in a secure and safe ride? And can we rely on Thai authorities to enforce laws put in place to protect those using the roads?
On 21 March 2017, an unexpected but important announcement was released stating that all drivers and passengers of cars registered since April 1, 2012 and public transport vehicles (taxis, passenger vans and inter-provincial passenger buses) must fasten their seatbelts at all times.
The new seatbelt law comes into effect from 5 April 2017, the start of the Songkran period this year. The bid has been set out to attempt to prevent unnecessary deaths and accidents on the road.
So, what does this mean when we’re travelling on the roads this Songkran?
- Firstly, those caught driving or carrying passengers that are not wearing seatbelts will entail a 500 to 5,000 baht fine; car owners who fail to pay the fines will not be able to renew the annual plate license registration of their vehicles.
- This law applies to private cars, taxis, mini vans and trucks. If you’re taking a taxi and they don’t seem to have belts, take the time to check that they are not hidden under the seat cover or tucked away behind the seat; don’t hesitate to ask your driver about them. Other car hire options like Uber may be a safer choice in this regard as their cars would all have proper seatbelts.
- For families, it should create a little reassurance that travelling around by road at this time will be slightly safer than usual, that combined with the reduction of celebrations due to the continued mourning period in Thailand.
- A standard sedan taxi is only permitted to carry up to four people (it is not clear how children fit into this rule) so plan accordingly for larger parties.
- No passenger is allowed to ride in the back of a pickup truck while travelling. There should be fewer people seen in the back of trucks, meaning less water being thrown from vehicles onto other vehicles.
- Water can only be thrown from trucks if the truck is stationary and in a designated play area.
- Finally, although mandatory seat belt laws have been in place for some time now, there is a new incentive to ensure that this is being upheld, and therefore, hopefully less reports of road accidents and deaths this year.
Many of us leave town over Songkran, or avoid driving around while the celebrations are taking place. However, these new laws are in for the long term and it’s important to be aware of and adhere to them as best as possible. While it’s unclear how they specifically apply to child safety (i.e., there is no mention of car seats or other child-safe restraints), it is ideal to buckle up with optimal safety measures such as car seats and booster seats.