Making A Drama Out Of A Crisis

Years ago, British insurance company Legal & General aired an advertising campaign on UK TV with the slogan “We won’t make a drama out of a crisis”. The point being, if your house was flooded or your car was wrecked, a nice man from L&G would turn up and settle your insurance claim quickly and efficiently so that you could get on with your life with the least possible disruption. Nice.

I have been driving around in Thailand for a fair few years now and without wishing to tempt providence, have never had an accident. Actually, I dread this should ever happen because from what I’ve seen, in a road accident situation (like many other situations here in Thailand) the Thais seem to specialize in making a drama out of a crisis.

Suppose a pick-up truck shunts a taxi on Sukhumvit Road at six o’clock on a Friday evening. The drivers are required to stay with the vehicles and not move them until either an insurance assessor or a policeman arrives on the scene, presumably to allocate blame. Of course, this adds further chaos to the already choked peak traffic and when the assessor or the policeman eventually arrives, he will paint lines on the road showing the positions of the vehicles after the accident. The assessor will usually take some pictures too. The vehicles involved in the accident are then allowed to proceed. This process can take hours. At peak times in central Bangkok, it can take three or four hours which begs another question. Which is, why do Thais drive like lunatics when they know that should they have even a minor shunt, their progress could be delayed by that amount of time? I have my own theories but that’s a separate issue.

My mate, John, had parked his car quite correctly in a carpark at a military owned golf course. In the middle of the afternoon, some nutter who was drunk and having a fight with his wife accidentally rammed John’s car along with two others. One of the other cars was a very expensive Mercedes. John was called off the golf course to deal with the matter.

Mr Drunk Nutter first claimed that he was not responsible for the accident but as there were too many casual witnesses he eventually relented and offered John and the two other car owners a small financial incentive to forget the whole thing. John declined the offer, preferring to go through the insurance process and have his car repaired properly. The Mercedes owner also declined the offer as the damage to the Merc was considerable. The third victim followed suit.

John called his insurance company and the two other drivers did the same. Mr Drunk Nutter tried to drive away but as this was a military facility, the guard at the exit stopped him and sent him back to the scene of the accident to await the insurance assessors.

Eventually a man from Aviva turned up with his can of spray paint and a camera but the damage to the Merc was more than he was allowed to assess. The police had to be called.

Another hour later, a policeman turns up on a motorcycle but because this was a military facility he was not allowed entry. A senior officer had to be located to permit the policemen access to the military carpark. After much discussion, he was allowed in but only with a military escort.

The policeman surveyed the situation. Made a written report. Informed the car owners that they had to report to the local police station where their claims against Mr Drunk Nutter would be processed further. The military escorted the policeman off the premises and Mr Drunk Nutter, who incidentally was not in the military, was allowed to leave with impunity.

I’m no expert but consider how this would have panned out in the west.

Drunk driver rams three cars in a carpark. Police are called and drunk driver is arrested. Insurance details, names and addresses are exchanged and everyone goes about their business taking their respective cars to be repaired by an authorized body shop on Monday morning. No drama, no crisis.

And on another quite separate occasion, I really felt sorry for the poor farang. Obviously a tourist or a casual visitor, the guy exiting a taxi opposite The Emporium opened the door without checking for motorcycles coming up on the inside. As he swung the door open, the motorcycle, trying to get between the taxi and the curb, crashed into the open door.

The row that ensued involved the cab driver demanding the farang pay for the damage to the taxi door and the motorcycle driver demanding that the farang pay for the damage to the motorbike. Fortunately, no one was injured….yet.

The farang was, of course completely bewildered. Even I, a long term resident wouldn’t really know what to do for the best in this situation Any Westerner would have sympathy for the poor chap. Again, imagine this happening in a Western city.

Taxi pulls up quite legally at the curbside to allow a passenger to alight. Passenger opens the door (curbside) and motorcycle crashes into it. How many of us would think to look for a motorbike coming up on the inside before getting out of a taxi in Farangland? Forget to do this in Thailand at your peril.

My driving is not bad, even though I say so myself. What makes me a safe driver in Thailand is my ability to anticipate the actions of the other road users around me. All Western trained drivers have this ability. In Thailand we just use it more. My wife is constantly amazed at my ability to predict what other road users around me are about to do next. You can never tell from their use of indicators or the road markings, it’s just practice.

For example, I know that when approaching any kind of hazard the Thai driver’s instinct is to accelerate. They must be taught to do this at an early age because it is universal. I know that when approaching a hazard, I will be the only driver exercising caution. I put it down to lack of imagination on the part of the Thais but the Thai driver will anticipate nothing and even if he did expect that pick-up truck to pull out in front of him he would rather crash into it than ease off the gas.

I was overtaken one morning by two brand new black Mercedes both roaring down the expressway at about 200 km / hour. I guessed that these were two new cars being delivered to their new owners. They still had red plates and were brand spanking new. The second driver was driving no more than 3 metres behind the lead car and at that speed, that was scary. They disappeared into the distance.

A few miles further down the road both Mercs were wrecked and lying in the central reservation. Both drivers were standing by the wreckage talking on their mobile phones and scratching their heads. I could well imagine that neither had any idea how that could have possibly happened.

This is Thailand where Western traffic rules most definitely do not apply so remember, just be careful out there.

Union Hill

5 thoughts on “Making A Drama Out Of A Crisis

  • August 28, 2007 at 1:08 pm
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    Mostly in full agreement. I paid for the damage
    my body did to the car that I hit while in the
    hospital having my brain and body renovated.
    Soft car – hard body? Mai pen rai.

    One point that is of utmost importance anywhere:

    NEVER open a car door in traffic without looking
    for cyclists and motorcyclists. By the same
    token, it is always the wise bicycle rider who allows 1000mm between his/her path and any parked vehicles, specifically for this reason, but in
    banked up traffic, 1000mm is sometimes all you
    have to ride between the cars. You just pray
    that nobody opens a door on you.

    NEVER open a car door in traffic without looking
    behind you. You may be commit manslaughter.
    NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!

  • August 28, 2007 at 7:03 pm
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    Driving in Thailand is hazardous at the best of times. I’ve been thinking about getting a motorcycle, but then I come to my senses and realize it’s almost suicide.

    On the way back from Mukdahan, we narrowly missed a head on collision. How 2 cars managed to collide with each other on a completely quiet and straight road is beyond me.

  • August 28, 2007 at 7:33 pm
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    I’ve never legally ridden a motorcycle on an
    Australian roads because cars are comparatively
    cheaper than in Thailand, where I was told that
    I must ride a bike for the first year before I
    even got on the plane to make my Thai RSVP.

    I was surprised that while most things in
    Thailand are 30 or 40% of the cost in Australia,
    cars are expensive. In BKK, the traffic
    congestion gives good reason for the higher
    prices, sort of. Financial necessity was how I
    got motorcycling in LOS, and in the end, it
    cost me everything I ever saved for the bills at
    the hospital (and repairs to the car with no
    headlights that I saw too late to do anything
    but jump off the bike to avoid more serious
    damage to the car and occupants), but I can’t go
    back in time now. Time heals all wounds, except
    the bank balance, which is still broke, even if
    the body is almost mended.

    A family of five in Khorat on a Yamaha is most
    likely to be a family saving for a car. While
    motorcyclists get much respect in Australia, it
    seems to be an indication of a lower class in
    LOS, but it beats walking. Actually, around
    Nonthaburi, bikes are safer than walking, in a
    traffic sense. The footpaths succumb to errant
    motorcyclists, so the safest way is to get off
    shank’s pony and buy a bike, if only to get away
    from the dreaded footpaths and mad bikers.

    Amazing Thailand? Yep. I’m amazed still.
    Mai pen rai.

  • August 30, 2007 at 10:05 am
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    Car prices in Thailand are very inflated. Even second hand cars sell for nearly the same you would pay, for a new one, in the States.

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