Vietnamese legal experts are calling on a court in the northern province of Thai Nguyen to revoke a six-year prison sentence it imposed last week on a semi-trailer truck driver involved in a deadly collision with a car that was going in reverse on a high-speed expressway.
On November 19, 2016, a semi-trailer truck collided with a compact minivan on the Hanoi – Thai Nguyen Expressway in northern Vietnam, killing four and injuring two passengers in the car.
Investigation results showed the car was carrying more passengers than allowed and was moving backward in reverse gear on the high-speed road.
A court in Thai Nguyen in May sentenced truck driver Le Ngoc Hoang, 33, to eight years and car driver Ngo Van Son, 40, to ten years behind bars.
Hoang and Son's sentences were last week commuted to six years and nine years in prison, respectively, after the second-instance court considered their appeals.
The two are responsible for paying combined compensation of VND1.2 billion (US$51,000) to families of the victims.
According to the court’s verdict, Hoang failed to maintain a safe trailing distance, only applying his brakes when the two vehicles were a mere ten meters away from collision.
Vietnamese law dictates that a minimum distance of 35 meters must be maintained between vehicles moving at a speed of between 60 and 80 kilometers per hour.
However, legal experts argue that the law by default applies only to vehicles moving in the same direction at relatively similar speed.
In this case, the truck driver could not have thought that the car in front of him was moving backward in order to calculate the appropriate trailing distance until it was already too late, said Pham Van Chung, a legal expert.
|Le Ngoc Hoang, driver of the semi-trailer truck, appears at a court in Thai Nguyen Province in northern Vietnam on November 2, 2018. Photo: otofun.net|
Chung further argues that Vietnam’s Penal Code exempts from legal prosecution those who cause harm to others as a result of unexpected or unforeseeable events.
Therefore, the verdict on Hoang is unconvincing and goes against the spirit of the law, Chung said.
The court also based their judgment on insufficient evidence, as it has not considered the speed at which the car was moving at the time of the collision.
In the verdict, judges found Hoang guilty of crashing into the other car, while it should be considered a collision between two vehicles since the car in question was moving in the opposite direction, said a judge in Ho Chi Minh City.
The car driven by Son, a Toyota Innova compact minivan, was carrying ten passengers who were headed to a wedding at the time of the accident.
It was three people over the passenger limit of seven for the car model, according to investigators.
The car driver said he was driving in reverse to try and reach an expressway exit that he had missed.
He claimed to have checked the rear-view mirror carefully and did not see any vehicle coming from behind.