Driving in Khon Kaen or actually anywhere in Thailand should come with a government health warning. For good reasons Thailand is now ranked number 1 country in the world for the most road accidents and deaths. Even those figures should be higher. Since, if you are injured in a road accident, but carted off to hospital and die there, then you`re not included in those figures.
I`ve written a previous article in Khon Kaen Times, entitled Wacky Races in Khon Kaen on 28 May about driving in Thailand. I`d like to indulge myself with you a little more, if I may, following my now, daily participation, of a truly unique Thai driving experience.
I work in a small town called Phon, which is the southern most district of Khon Kaen. For those of you that have simply driven past it on Highway 2 bound for different pastures, you`re not missing much. In the middle of the town is a clock tower. More importantly its a roundabout! Alternatively referred to as an island, traffic circle or rotary.
Either way the rules of using a roundabout are universal aren`t they? Traffic approaching the roundabout gives way, before safely joining, whilst indicating when they are exiting and so on. But not in Thailand. When I’m going round the roundabout most other traffic simply stops to allow more traffic on. So we don’t actually continuously go round. Furthermore, bikes, cars trucks, buses simply drive onto the roundabout haphazardly. Basically there are no rules, it’s a free-for-all. The one at Victory Monument in Bangkok is a classic. I was going to post a video but it didn’t pass censorship.
I thought this must be just unique to Thai drivers, but upon doing a little research, discovered they`re not the only folk to have found roundabouts a challenge.The Brits were openly perplexed in the 196os when they were more widely introduced along with the Give Way laws. The 1985 comedy film European Vacation alluded to Americans initial confusion as to how to enter a roundabout. The Simpsons got stuck on a roundabout in England nearly killing The Queen in the process. Surveys done in the late 1990s showed that as drivers gained more experience of roundabouts their opposition to them declined and their knowledge of how to navigate them improved over time.
Sadly that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon in this outpost of Khon Kaen. Anyway I’m gad I`ve got that off my chest and was able to share it with you. I shall now head back to work, via the madness of Phons` roundabout.
For those of you that like your trivia – half of the worlds` roundabouts are in France.