A guide to Thailand’s new rules of the road

Thailand’s new traffic laws took effect on September 5. However, police have decided to be lenient for the first three months to give motorists time to adjust their road behavior. (Photo by Robert Eklund)

The transition to new traffic laws, which list more types of offenses and harsher penalties for offenders, has already begun. Here is what you need to know:

Three-month grace period

Although the new traffic laws took effect on September 5, police have decided to be lenient for the first three months to give Thais time to adjust themselves or improve their road behavior.

“We will fine traffic offenders based on the rates used since 2020 for the first three months,” said Pol General Preecha Charoensahayanont, deputy director of the Royal Thai Police Traffic Management Center. “We will also promote public awareness of the new laws during this period,” he added.

For example, instead of slapping a speeding driver with the new 4,000-baht maximum fine, traffic police will issue fines of 500 baht during the grace period.

Harsher penalties

Jumping a red light or failing to stop for pedestrians at a zebra crossing carries a maximum fine of 4,000 baht under the new laws – up from 1,000 baht. Driving against traffic and not wearing a crash helmet or safety belt, meanwhile, come with a maximum fine of 2,000 baht – a fourfold increase from 500 baht.

Those found guilty of driving without care for the safety or lives of others face a fine of between 5,000 baht and 20,000 baht and/or a maximum of one year in jail. The penalties are raised from a maximum three-month sentence and a fine of 2,000 to 10,000 baht.

Drunk driving is punished especially harshly under the new laws. Convicted drunk drivers face a fine of up to 20,000 baht and/or a jail term of up to one year. If they repeat the same offense in the two years after their first offense, the resulting fine will come with a mandatory jail term. The fine can be as high as 100,000 baht and the jail term as long as two years.

“As for double punishment against repeat offenders, we will recognize the first offense from September 5 this year onward,” Preecha explained.

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New types of offenses

The new traffic law also lists more types of offenses. In the past, passengers in rear seats did not have to wear a safety belt. But under the new law, failure to do so is punishable by a maximum fine of 2,000 baht.

Also, preparing to road-race is now an offense. Gathering on a public road with at least five illegally modified cars or in preparation for a road race carries a penalty of up to three months in jail and/or a fine ranging between 5,000 and 10,000 baht.

Garages caught modifying vehicles for road racing will be considered accomplices. They will receive two-thirds of the penalties for road racing, which is punishable by up to three months in jail and/or a fine of 5,000 to 10,000 baht.

Child car seats not mandatory yet

Thailand has decided to not enforce a child car-seat rule yet, as authorities still need time to draw up guidelines on what can be used to protect young passengers if car seats cannot be installed.

The car-seat rule is expected to come into force later this year.

Pay fine or go to court

At present, motorists may challenge traffic police tickets via subdistrict courts. However, the process is quite complicated.

Pol Maj-General Ekarak Limsangkad, who helped to draft the Traffic Bill, said the process would be simplified once the bill was enacted. The draft law has already been given a green light by the Cabinet and is being reviewed by the Council of State, the government’s legal experts.

“The bill stipulates that a traffic police officer who loses in a court challenge will face disciplinary action. This way, traffic policemen will be more cautious about issuing tickets,” Ekarak said.

Road casualty statistics

This year, road accidents have so far killed 10,186 people and injured 634,680 others. Most accidents involved motorcycles and most of the victims were riders.

By Thai PBS World’s General Desk

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