July 20, 2012 00:00
By Pattanadesh Asasappakij
Thailand is developing at a swift pace, especially in the past 30 years, with infrastructure undergoing a large expansion.
Apart from the fast-growing number of homes, many key roads are being constructed, while lanes on existing roads are being increased to accommodate the rising number of automobiles.
Even during the economic crisis, auto sales dropped only for a short period of time before recovering and rising sharply once again.
Take this year, for instance. We all know that the massive flood crisis last year caused severe damage to various industries, agriculture and the retail sector. This may be a year of recuperation for the auto industry and sales in 2012 are expected to reach a record 1.2 million vehicles. But the growth of the auto industry has both positive and negative effects.
Most of the news reports and articles point only to positive impacts, while the negative effects are left to social organisations to point out. However, they are unable to catch up with the developing industry.
The rising number of road accidents is a good example. In many cases, the cause of accidents roots from vehicles that have been used for too long, despite being maintained properly. Many of the vehicles are more than 20 years old and comprise cars, pickup trucks, buses and heavy trucks.
No matter how well maintained they are, technically it is difficult to happily use them along with new vehicles (that are less than five years old) on the road.
However, if a new, stringent law is passed on vehicle inspections in order to eliminate old and poorly maintained vehicles that are unsafe, a large number of people will protest. This would be a perfect scenario for “robbing the poor” of their motoring rights.
There are also other problems that affect other businesses which in turn affect the public, such as the real-estate business. While the auto industry develops, the size of the vehicles is also increasing. Midsized cars and pickup trucks are becoming larger and longer (more than 5 metres), while the width of the vehicles have reached 2 metres.
However, houses are built with the same dimensions, and the parking space, which often is converted illegally into another living room, is no longer than 5.2 metres (with most parking spaces in houses being less than 5 metres). This means that after parking your pickup, you’d have a problem closing the gate!
So people usually park their vehicles outside, which means that they sometimes intrude on the area in their neighbour’s vicinity. Thus, quarrels concerning parking space has become a normal problem for city dwellers these days. The same problem is also witnessed in shopping malls and large buildings, since architects still use old measurements for parking lots. Common problems are easy to guess – vehicles parked so close to each other that you can’t open the doors and very narrow driveways in multi-storey parking lots.
Roads also suffer from problems, especially rural roads that are constructed by the local administration such as the TAO (Tambon Administrative Organisation) or the PAO (Provincial Administrative Organisation). These roads are very common in every region in the country, and are concrete roads measuring approximately 3.75 metres by 4.5 metres. This means it is difficult for two pickup trucks to pass each other in opposite directions: one of them needs to give way because the road is too narrow.
Meanwhile, as pickup trucks are always loaded over the 1-tonne legal limit, the roads don’t last and need repairs, some every year.
Today almost every household in the country has an automobile, and calculating the area for vehicle usage, such as the road width and parking space, is very important.
If this is left unattended, it will grow into a major and never-ending problem. The government and concerned organisations need to quickly get together and find a common measure for the auto industry as well as motorists.