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Long time no drink: Vietnam warns against drunk driving as social distancing eased

Thursday, May 07, 2020, 20:19 GMT+7
Long time no drink: Vietnam warns against drunk driving as social distancing eased
People crowd a beer parlor with their motorbikes parked on the sidewalk of Pham Van Dong Boulevard in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 6, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

People in Vietnam seem to be making light of the country’s drunk driving law that took effect at the beginning of this year, as nearly 2,000 DUI violations were reported nationwide over the recent four-day holiday break post social distancing.

The new law on drunk driving, which entered into force on January 1, stipulates that drivers must be completely sober while operating bicycles, motorbikes, automobiles, and any other vehicles on Vietnam’s roads.

Violators face fines of up to VN40 million (US$1,700), as well as tougher punishments including having their driving license revoked for up to two years.

With the law in effect, it was reported earlier this year that local residents had become increasingly hesitant to drink and drive.

Statistics showed that the number of accidents, deaths, and injuries from traffic accidents caused by DUI violations plummeted by 30 to 50 percent just one month after the law became effective.

But that was before COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, became people’s top concern and social distancing had to be practiced nationwide last month to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Social distancing measures have been eased from April 23 after having apparently helped slow the rate of new infections in Vietnam, with the country having reported no community spread for three weeks.

As people are gradually resuming normal life, they seem to have forgotten about the drunk driving ban.

People crowd beer parlors on Pham Van Dong Street in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 6, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

People crowd beer parlors on Pham Van Dong Boulevard in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 6, 2020. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre

According to statistics from Vietnam's National Committee for Traffic Safety, there were 1,830 cases violating the drunk driving law out of 29,172 infringements on traffic safety nationwide from April 30 to May 3, when the nation enjoyed a break in celebration of Reunification Day (April 30) and International Workers’ Day (May 1).

Seventy-nine people were killed in traffic accidents caused by drunk driving and speeding during the holiday break.

According to Nguyen Vu Hanh Phuc, chief of office of the Ho Chi Minh City Committee for Traffic Safety, many people have become complacent and begun to take the drunk driving ban lightly after the social distancing period.

The behavior is “dangerous,” said Dong Thai Chien, deputy head of the Highway Traffic Patrol and Control Division under the Ministry of Public Security.

Chien called on traffic police forces to beef up warning against drunk driving, increase the frequency of road patrols, and strictly handle DUI violators.

Likewise, the Ho Chi Minh City Committee for Traffic Safety has requested its units to set up traffic checkpoints near beer parlors to handle people found driving after drinking.

Currently, the National Committee for Traffic Safety has asked all police forces to continue strictly implementing the drunk driving law.

The committee believes that hefty fines and tough punishments will raise people’s awareness of the harm of drunk driving.

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