Thailand's Major Driving Safety Challenge : Driver Vision
Safe Driver Education Co. Ltd., is a Thai company that educates novice drivers in driving responsibly and provides driver training for companies. We are members of the Global Road Safety Partnership. Our goal is to educate drivers to drive more safely and more responsibly.
Safe Driver Education Company Limited believes there is a way to reduce traffic accidents in Thailand by at least 10% and perhaps save the lives of 1,500 people next year.
The method in itself is quite simple and it will cause little inconvenience to motorists. But it requires the interest and commitment of responsible agencies to execute. We call the campaign “Vision for Safety”
Eyesight is the predominant sense used in driving
For many years automotive engineers have worked carefully to design cars that enhance the driver’s view of the road. They have increased the glass area of the cars, buses, and trucks as much as possible without weakening the physical structure of the vehicle. Windscreens are strengthened, curved and slanted. Glass is shatter resistant, tinted, and can be treated to protect occupants from heat. Vehicle glass manufacturers follow rigid quality standards that forbid any flaw or distortion in the glass that would affect the driver’s visibility. “B” pillars on cars are made as thin as possible. Side windows and rear windows are large, strong and clear. Mirrors are made large and strategically placed to assure maximum viewing. The engineer’s goal is to give the driver 360 degrees of unobstructed vision by using glass and mirrors. Any obstruction of a driver’s vision creates a hazard and increases his risk. It is significant that even the smallest flaw or distortion in vehicle glass will not pass quality inspections and can not be used.
A good driver, in good physical condition, driving a vehicle with totally unobstructed vision will generally have a better chance of avoiding an accident than one whose vision is impaired in any way. (Impairment can come from drugs, alcohol, poor eyesight, or placement of opaque materials on the glass areas of the car.)
In most countries it is illegal to place anything on the windshield or other glass areas of the vehicle which will obstruct the driver’s vision.
In Thailand there are no regulations which keep the glass area of the vehicle free of obstruction with opaque materials. In fact, the Thai government mandates covering about 91 square centimeters of the windshield of every vehicle with an annual registration sticker (1% of the area). The third party insurance law requires that another 72 sq. cm. of the windshield be covered with a compulsory insurance sticker. If these were the only obstructions to vision and were placed strategically the mandated obstruction level on the windshield glass would only cover about 2% of the glass but would still be cause for concern. (Keep in mind that the smallest flaw or distortion in any windshield glass is cause for quality rejection.) For vehicles to be driven outside of Thailand the government has mandated a large white oval sticker with the letter “T” be placed on the windshield (another 2% of the glass area is obscured.)
Other entities demand the display of their opaque stickers on the windshield of certain cars and vehicles for identification purposes: parking lots, estates, insurance companies, car companies, private clubs, etc. Each new sticker encroaches on another 1% of the windshield glass.
In addition to these opaque materials, drivers add further visual obstruction in order to block out the sun’s rays (even at night) and add heavy dark film to the top half of the windscreen and possibly highly reflective film around the other glass areas. Plastic sun shades may be placed on side windows with suction cups. Still further obstruction to vision comes in the form of advertising, names, nick names, telephone numbers, or other slogans placed with stickers on the front, rear or side windows.
Motorcyclists routinely remove rear view mirrors and most safety helmets are constructed in such a way as to restrict the cyclist’s vision. One even sees stickers occasionally on the visors of motorcycle helmets.
It is clear that drivers of most vehicles in Thailand have severely restricted and impaired vision due to opaque materials on glass areas resulting in an increased risk of accidental collisions.
Safe Driver Education has suggested that responsible agencies in Thailand should promote a campaign to remove all stickers, paper, and other opaque materials from the glass in all vehicles.
The response from various agencies to this solution is luke-warm. Some consider the solution and the problem “trivial”. And many just respond “the law mandates some of the stickers on the windows”.
In Thailand 15,000 people are killed each year in traffic accidents and hundreds of thousands are injured. (The majority are motorcyclists.) For a country of 65 million people this is a horrible statistic; but then most people are driving blind.
Opaque materials are applied to nearly every windscreen. The government mandates the usage of several opaque materials: vehicle registration licenses, third party insurance stickers, and an International sticker "T" to designate vehicles going abroad. Trucks are required to apply several additional licensing stickers and most drivers tend retain the stickers from previous years! These stickers are placed on windscreens indiscriminately blocking the driver’s vision.
In addition to these materials, which are government mandated, drivers apply other stickers showing memberships in clubs, parking area permits, and housing area permits, etc. to their windscreens. Furthermore many drivers apply advertising or decoration materials further reducing the vision through the wind screen and other vehicle glass areas. Most recently stickers letting others know who they ‘love.’ Trucks and busses paint the tops and bottoms of windscreens with black opaque paint to reduce road reflection and sun glare. Busses cover nearly all windows with sticker advertising. Other materials such as pillows, religious objects, and decorations are hung in front of windows or placed to cover the rear window. Thailand also permits the use of various film on all glazing materials which reduces light passage and is highly reflective. The effect of this is that 95% of all vehicles on the roads have at least 30-40% of the glass areas covered with opaque or nearly opaque material. There is a severe deterioration of night vision in all vehicles and highways (as well as vehicles) are poorly lighted.
We believe that a campaign to remove all opaque materials from glass areas on cars will result in an immediate reduction of risk. Removal of this visual hazard will lower the crash rate on Thailand’s highways.