Such seems to be the case with Pol Maj-Gen Adul Narongsak, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau in charge of traffic, and his outlandish idea to ban cars aged seven-to-ten years or more from Bangkok’s streets, or alternatively to make them pay the same annual registration fees as new cars.
The deputy commissioner is a typical stomach-full man who indulges in fantasy ideas which tend to court trouble. I am not surprised at all that the day that he publicly revealed his proposed measure to get old cars off the city's roads to reduce traffic congestion in the capital, the social media network instantly went wild with negative criticism of both the proposal and the officer himself.
Finally, he backpedalled, with the lame excuse it was not an urgent policy.
Pol Maj-Gen Adul claimed he got the idea from Japan, where it worked well he said, and would like to try it in Bangkok.
He claimed old cars were the cause of traffic congestion, saying they were mostly not properly maintained and tended to break down more often on the streets.
His argument rings so hollow that it is unthinkable how an officer in charge of traffic in Bangkok could come up with such a radical and unpopular idea and fail to back it with any solid evidence at all. At the very least, he should have given us some statistics, such as how many old cars break down on Bangkok streets on a monthly average in each district, causing a traffic jam.
Personally, I drive a seven-year old car on daily basis, to and from work. The broken-down vehicles I see most often are BMTA buses, and many don't bother pull into the curb to pick up or drop passengers. The other major causes of traffic congestion I see are double-parking in front of elite schools during the morning and late afternoon rush hours, and traffic policemen just standing there doing nothing to stop illegal parking in front of some shopping malls.
Japanese motorists can afford to buy new cars every seven or ten years because their per capita income is much higher than in Thailand. How many white-collar office workers and government officials in Bangkok can afford to change cars every seven or ten years on their standard monthly salaries - unless they have under-the-table income?
Then there is the problem of how to deal with the used car dealers if the ban proposed by the deputy commissioner ever comes into effect.
Old cars that are properly maintained still function properly and do not easily break down on the streets. Even new cars break down if they are not properly maintained, or overheat because the driver has the aircon turned up full blast, and maybe TV or music playing, while stalled in traffic for hours.
There is a host of causes contributing to traffic congestion. Let's add reckless and selfish driving, disrespect of traffic rules. I also vote for the government’s vote-catching first-car subsidy, which put about an extra million vehicles on the roads.
It is good to have a man in charge of traffic in Bangkok who is creative and can come up with new ideas to help overcoe the city's never-ending traffic woes. But new ideas - especially unpopular ones - must be carefully studied first and be backed up with good information if they are to win the support of the public.