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On Thai roads people drive on the left. Strangely enough:

  • Right-side flashing indicator lights tell the vehicle behind that they may pass / overtake.

  • Left-blinking lights indicate that it's not safe for them to pass / overtake.

To me this is extremely dangerous - flashers have more than one meaning:

  1. To indicate to others my intention
  2. To advise others what to do

Sometimes these different meanings are in conflict with each other.

For example, in turning right:

  • If I use with my right flashers, others may take this a a signal to pass me as I'm turning, causing an accident (either with myself turning or with the oncoming traffic)

  • If I indicate left and pull over to the road's left side to allow those behind me to pass, they may not pass me as I'm using the same signal that tells them not to pass.

Motorbikes often drive slower than cars as they don't use full leather gear due to the heat. Cars expect bike riders to drive slower, and to receive signals regarding passing.

I live on Koh Phangan where there are no multi-lane roads. Sometimes there is not enough space for a car to pass to on left side without slowing to about 15km/h if I'm near the middle turning right.

How do I safely turn right if there is no turning lane?

  • I see no contradiction. Normally, you indicate what you are going to do, not what others should. However, if you flash turning right (on left-hand traffic) and go straight, this also means, "don't overtake me, I see an obstacle on your way". OTOH, you flash like you're pulling over to tell, "overtake me, the road is clear". – bytebuster Aug 2 '17 at 10:58
  • @bytebuster What you write contradicts with the statement in the question. – Neusser Aug 2 '17 at 11:38
  • "go straight" for how long? If I signal 200m before the turn that may be considered an overtake. – Tom Hale Aug 2 '17 at 11:38
  • @TomHale, I've never heard of the "flashing right to indicate that it's okay to pass" rule before, can you provide a link to sources that state that it's an actual rule or just something a few drivers do? Been driving quite a bit in Thailand and can't recall ever seeing it. – Magnus W Dec 15 '17 at 10:20
  • The law (section 44) says to flash left to signal that it's safe to overtake. I can only assume it's a Koh Phangan speciality. – Tom Hale Dec 15 '17 at 13:39
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Passing indicators are used primarily in a situation where passing is eminent, such as a slower moving truck or bus that sees the car behind them is attempting to pass and may not be able to see around them. Most drivers use this method on open 2 lane highways, not in cities where numerous turns exist. And a motorcycle would never use this method, as they would simply move to the edge of the lane so faster moving vehicles can safely get around them (90% of scooters in Thailand drive on the edge of bigger highways all the time).

So using the turn signals on your motorcycle would tell the other drivers that you are turning. They would not view it as a passing suggestion and you should not use it as a passing suggestion to them.

How can you tell if the vehicle ahead that is signaling you is turning or suggesting you pass? Are they slowing down, then they are planning to turn. Are they maintaining speed AND you have been following them peeking around to watch oncoming traffic for a bit, then they are suggesting it is OK to pass.

You make your turn same as you would at home, use your turn signal, command the lane, move to the right of the lane as you approach your turn. If you are on a scooter without power on a busy highway, most Thais will pull onto the shoulder and wait for clearing in both directions before crossing, so as not to be sitting in the middle of fast moving vehicles on the highway waiting.

Some other turn signals anomalies you might encounter ...

If a faster moving vehicle unexpectedly has to slow (say a truck moves over to pass an even slower truck in front of them) the faster moving vehicle driver will flick back and forth between his turn signals, turning the left on, then the right, then the left, etc, for just a few seconds. This is the Thai version of warning flashers.

A truck on a divided four lane highway in the right lane going slow with his right turn signal on and there is no obvious turn coming up, usually means he will be using the next U-Turn, which maybe a long ways up the road (but the driver knows it is coming up).

  • I live on Koh Phangan where there are no two lane highways, and motorcycles definitely do use the method. Also, what to do if there is not enough space for cars to go around the left side without slowing right down? – Tom Hale Aug 2 '17 at 15:41
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    @TomHale - In the second scenario you really have no choice but to command your lane and the cars will have to slow down or stop. There is no way on a small road to do a right turn AND allow cars to pass at full speed. If traffic on Koh Phangan is that bad that you don't feel secure waiting to make a right turn in command of the lane, proceed past your turn until oncoming traffic clears then do a right/u-turn and return to the orginal road. – user13044 Aug 2 '17 at 15:58

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