I am a regular passenger on Nakhon Chai Air Company's buses that run between Bangkok and various destinations in Isaan.
On a recent journey from Isaan to Bangkok I noticed that the bus driver kept jamming on the brakes for no apparent reason, only to accelerate energetically the next moment. Eventually, I walked down to the front of the bus to investigate why these tactics were being used by the bus driver on an almost traffic-free road.
I discovered to my horror that the driver was not even looking at the traffic conditions on the road ahead, his eyes instead glued to his mobile phone as he searched, using two hands, for content. He was steering the bus (with 32 passengers) with his elbows, occasionally releasing one elbow as he plucked a skewer of barbecued meat from a plastic bag hanging over the steering wheel.
The “hands-free” driver was jamming on the brakes whenever his gut instinct warned there might be danger ahead, then accelerating again to regain lost speed when he realised the road ahead was empty.
The driver also wore earphones so that he could clearly hear the content of his phone – naturally, he did not want to be distracted by any road or traffic noise.
The possible consequences of this appalling situation are obvious – I do not have to spell them out. However, I would like to recommend that the following be made applicable to ALL buses, taxis and minivans on the roads of Thailand.
1. A ban on employees carrying mobile phones, MP3s, radios, headphones and every other form of personal electronic device on board all buses and other public transportation.
2. Bus, minivan and taxi drivers should not be allowed to eat or drink at all whilst driving.
As the police cannot be relied upon to enforce the above rules, it must fall to the bus company management to ensure that drivers and stewards/stewardesses obey these rulings, which should be implemented without delay.