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Make Vietnam traffic great again: Don’t turn right at red lights

Thursday, March 09, 2017, 12:33 GMT+7
Make Vietnam traffic great again: Don’t turn right at red lights
Motorcyclists turn right from Pham Van Hai Street into Truong Sa Street in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City when the light is still red, despite a sign saying that is not allowed.

A frustrated reader shares his story of being insulted for not making way for others to turn right at red lights with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s “Make Vietnam traffic great again” forum.

Nguyen Huu Long, a resident of District 3, Ho Chi Minh City weighed in with his comments on an ordeal many have been through while driving motorbikes in the southern city.

Read his story below and leave a comment or write to to join the discussion.

Insulted for obeying traffic laws

If you pay attention at a crossroads, you will notice that the majority of those that turn right at red lights are motorcyclists. On my part, I rarely see cars violating this basic piece of traffic law. Motorbikes in Vietnam tend to disregard red lights completely when it comes to turning right, even when traffic is sparse.

People from all walks of life are guilty of this violation, including gipsy boys with dyed hair, motorbike taxi drivers, young couples in fancy clothes, and parents driving their kids to school.

If you have ever found yourself stopping at the front of the line at traffic lights, you must surely understand the tremendous stress of being honked at by those behind you, urging you to make way for them to turn right on red. Complying with the request means running over the road markings and thereby committing a traffic violation.

I don’t usually give in to such absurd requests, for which I find myself the frequent victim of unapologetic insults hurled at me by angered drivers.

One time while stopping at a red light on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, two youths on a motorbike behind me honked their horn continuously while waiting to turn right onto Pham Ngoc Thach Street. I pretended not to hear anything and stayed where I was. “Please let us through,” the driver said, apparently impatient with my indifference.

“Please wait a little more, I can’t move now!” I objected. The men gave up, appearing discontented nonetheless. When the light turned green and I was finally on the move, the two men overtook me, spat some insults, and turned right.

When I later read on the news that some guy had been stabbed to death for not giving way to others on the street, I couldn’t help but recall my own experience and felt a chill running down my spine.

The habit of turning legally

Some people argue that allowing motorbikes to turn right at red lights helps reduce the number of stopped vehicles, thereby easing traffic congestion. I find this argument single-sided.

Most streets in Ho Chi Minh only have one lane for motorbikes (next to the sidewalk), measuring between two and three meters wide. If we allowed motorbikes to turn rights at red lights, others would have to make way by either making longer lines or illegally occupying car lanes, each of which would make traffic worse.

That is not to mention motorbikes turning right at red lights might conflict with traffic flowing from the perpendicular direction, slowing traffic on the other street. In other words, we are just moving congestion from one street to another without solving any problems.

Therefore, I suggest that traffic police officers elevate the penalization of motorcyclists who illegally turn at red lights to restore order on the street and begin establishing a habit of stopping at red lights amongst Vietnamese drivers.

I believe that after one month of such drastic measures, traffic at intersections would be greatly improved. After the said period, right-turners can be fined through CCTV footage to reduce workload for police officers. The urgent task right now is to make drivers lose their habit of reckless driving and understand that time is not golden when it comes to safety.

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