No left turn at red?


Dear Editor,

I am sure that every reader could send letters each week bemoaning the drawbacks of being a farang in Thailand but, for the love of the place, we all generally grin and bear it, as the positives generally far outweigh the negatives.

I don’t want to appear to be a constant moaner, as I generally love the place and am happily settled here, but, flushed with the success of seeing my letter of complaint re True Move being published last week, I felt that I must air my views on the subject of road traffic signs.

A few weeks ago someone at City Hall decided to have new traffic signs erected at various junctions, notably the intersections of Third Road with Pattaya Tai, Klang and Nua. Then some bright spark decided to have them written in both Thai and English – which is very commendable, had the instructions not become somewhat ambiguous in the translation.

I was travelling up Pattaya Klang on my motorcycle and reached the crossroads at Third Road, where the lights were on red. As I was heading North, up Third Road, I followed two other motorcycles and filtered left. Just around the corner, at the entrance to TOT, two police officers were stood, waiting to pounce. Inexplicably, they actually waved on the two motorcycles in front of me – ridden by Thais (and one without a helmet) – and pulled me in. They explained that I was no longer allowed to filter left and didn’t I see the new signs? Yes, I said, and went on to explain that I had followed the instructions, as, in English, they clearly state ‘TURN LEFT WAITING LIGHT’. This, to me, suggests that, at a waiting (red) light, one should turn left, giving due care and attention. To further complicate the situation, there is no green light for turning left, only for straight on and turning right. So, does that mean that there is, effectively, no left turn?

Alas, my complaints were in vain and they confiscated my license and sent me with a ticket to the police station along Beach Road. There were several other ‘criminals’ there, having been booked for the same offence, but strangely there appeared to be no Thais, only farangs. One Dutch guy that I met there had been waiting over an hour and couldn’t see what he had done wrong – after all, he said, he’d been turning left on red at that junction for over 15 years. I did make an official complaint, stating that this practice was tantamount to police entrapment, but the officer seemed to be quite amused as he noted my complaint on a very official – looking scrap of paper, which no doubt found the bin as soon as I went out of his office.

So, an hour or so later and relieved of 400 baht, I returned to Third Road to retrieve my license, but not without a few choice words, I can assure you.

If the powers that be want to change traffic systems then shouldn’t they ensure that any instructions given in English are clear to English reading motorists? Shouldn’t the traffic lights also comply with the new rules? And shouldn’t Thais also adhere to the rules, or face the same punishment as farangs? – especially when not wearing a crash helmet.

Subsequently, I have endured a lot of cars hooting their horns at me whilst I have been waiting in my car for the green light (well A green light, as there still is not one for turning left) at these junctions. Obviously, most motorists are either ignoring the instruction, or don’t understand the signage. One thing is for certain, the traffic moved a lot easier when “TURNING LEFT WAITING LIGHT” was allowed!

Phil Barker