Wednesday, February 2, 2011

S-A-F-E-T-Y Rant (apologies to Men Without Hats)

Something that's been on my mind for some time now is the attitude towards safety here in Thailand.  And let me say right up front, it's not exclusive to Thais, but seems to just be pervasive, even in the little oasis of quasi-reality that is our neighborhood.

First topic: seatbelts.  This can also be categorized under my being staggered by the emphasis of outward appearance over function and actual performance.  For example, the van we used to go to Chiang Mai looked fantastic, inside and out.  Nice upholstery, awesome sound and video system.  But when I tried to strap in the kids' car seats, we had to do some serious digging to get the seatbelts out. Same with some of the vans that I ride to and from work every day; legally they are required to have seatbelts, but many of them aren't adjustable and are usable only by extremely thin people.  And even though some of the vans are quite clean on the outside and inside, they make some really sketchy noises when we drive over the myriad speed bumps inside of our development and the innumerable potholes around Bangkok.  You know, like something is about to fall off.

At least the vans have seatbelts.  I've been in exactly TWO taxis in Thailand that had seatbelts in the back.  Yeah, I get it--no seatbelts mean passengers can get in and out faster, but if you've ever seen how a Bangkok cabbie hopped up on heaven only knows what kind of stimulants drives, you'd want a seatbelt, too.  And heaven help anyone stuck in the back of one of the pick-up trucks that transport construction workers between their living quarters and the work site.  Sure, the driver and the other people in the cab are wearing seatbelts, because it's required by law.  But the twenty or so people stacked and packed in the bed have nothing at all to protect them.  I count myself lucky to have not seen any accidents involving one of those trucks.

Next topic: motorcycle helmets.  Again, these are required by law, but usually it's only the person driving who wears one.  Very few motorcycle taxis have a helmet for the passenger--not that you'd necessarily want to wear one of those, because you don't know what else might be living in that bucket.

But seriously, last I checked helmets are most effective when they are a) worn correctly (i.e. not on the crown of your head, but pulled down securely, and 2) strapped on.  And it's not just the Thais who are guilty on this one--the kids who live in our neighborhood are notorious at wearing their helmets perched jauntily back on their heads and not buckled up.  Heaven forbid any of them actually get into an accident, because a helmet flying off someone's head, although it makes a nice pretty arc, doesn't do the victim any good.  I'm just sayin'...

Third topic: walking.  I'm okay with people walking in the street--I run along the side of the street all the time, and people have to get where they are going.  What I'm ranting about here are people walking literally in the middle of the street.  Going the same direction as traffic.  At night.  And sometimes wearing headphones.  I won't go off here about what I think about people walking or running while wearing headphones, because some of my friends are guilty of such infractions and some people just can't run without some tunes (you know who you are!).  I see it all the time when I'm out running at night; a couple of people (almost always ladies) walking smack-dab in the middle of the road.  The only thing that can possibly top it, besides having headphones on, is when they're wearing dark clothes.  I wish I was kidding.

Last topic: mobile phones.  Is there anyone who agrees that talking on a mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle is a safety issue?  Of course it is (unless you're using a hands-free set, in which case I'm not talking about you).  Now, what about talking on a mobile phone while driving a motorcycle?  Add on three or four passengers, mostly likely your spouse and children, none of whom are wearing helmets.  And of course because you have your helmet on but you need to talk on the phone, so you've got your helmet perched jauntily on the crown of your noggin.  Yeah, you see that all the time here.

Not necessarily a safety issue, and definitely not exclusive to Thailand, but when will people remember to put their mobile phones on silent/vibrate mode BEFORE they go into a church/seminar/movie theater?  And while I'm at it, what's with people answering their phones in the middle of a seminar or conference?  I'm not just talking about people in the audience, I'm talking about people sitting on the stage in front of the entire conference!  And then SPEAKING without excusing themselves--hate to break it to you, but covering your face with your hand only muffles the sound a little.  And don't get me started on talking while sitting on the john, squat toilet or not...


  1. I love reading your posts! It's unfortunate that people don't make safety a priority UNTIL something happens. I guess you just have to look out for yourself and your family!

    Can't wait until you guys return this summer!!!

  2. I remember seeing motorcyclists in Mexico with their wife perched on the back who had a baby on one hip and a pack of TP in the other arm. I always cringed thinking what would happen if they went over a big bump.

    You're coming home this summer? Any chance you would make it to Wente?

  3. We would love to do Wente again, but it's just too late in the summer this year (I leave open the possibility of doing it in the future, though). Our plan is to be in Utah for the 24th (and a family reunion), and then take a week or so to drive back to Virginia. We want to get everyone settled in before the kids start school the last week of August (can you believe our oldest is starting high school?!!).