A draft amendment to Vietnam’s Law on Road Traffic that seeks to add a new tier of driver's license for road users above 16 years old has met with mixed public reactions.
The draft amendment was uploaded to the e-portal of the Ministry of Transport for public feedback from April 21 to June 21.
Included in this amendment is the addition of A0-tier driver's licenses for road users above 16 years old, which attracted much public discussion, according to a ministry official.
A necessary step
The inclusion of the A0 driver's license in the draft legislation is to comply with the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, which Vietnam acceded to in 2014, said Hoang Hong Hanh, deputy director of the Department of Legislation and Inspection under the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam (DRVN).
The law also seeks to enforce a standard of road protocol knowledge and driving skills on all vehicle operators, Hanh said.
The current law in Vietnam permits people between 16 and 18 years old to ride motorized scooters with an engine capacity of up to 50cm3 and electric scooters that can reach a speed of no more than 50 kilometers per hour without a driver's license.
This is considered a loophole that has given rise to a group of young commuters who ride recklessly on Vietnamese roads with an inadequate knowledge of traffic regulations and driving skills.
On Monday, your correspondent saw many students riding motorbikes and electric scooters with no helmet on, running red lights, failing to use turn signals upon changing direction, and refusing to decelerate upon approaching school entrances — all of which are traffic violations.
Ninety percent of traffic accidents involve students aged 16 to 18, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee.
Among high school students, 52 percent commute to school by motorbike or electric scooter but none have a driver's license as they are underage to sit for a driving test.
This means the demographic lacks sufficient driving skills and an understanding of the road traffic law.
The draft amendment to the Law on Road Traffic aims to tackle this issue by introducing a driver's license requirement for all road users above 16 years of age to operate such low-capacity vehicles.
All driver's licenses issued under this description would fall under tier A0.
The driver's license system in Vietnam is divided into several tiers, from A through F, with each further broken into sub-tiers.
Practical meaning questioned
On top of the supportive voices, there are a considerable number of skeptics when it comes to the initiative.
“Driver's licenses are a mere formality if the children don’t learn the law on road traffic," said L.T.T.T, a parent from the coastal city of Hai Phong.
"Our society is so lenient with the young that they are flocking to the streets without caution, being unruly and all regardless of the consequences.”
Huong Linh from Hoang Mai District of Hanoi is concerned that tests for A0 driver's licenses would be too costly, unnecessary, and time-consuming.
“A person of 16 or 17 years of age will have to study and take a test to earn the A0 license only to use it for one or two years," Linh said.
"They will have to sit for another exam at 18 years old to get the A1 license anyway, which would significantly add up to the time and cost expended."
A1 licenses authorize a road user to operate two-wheeled motorized vehicles with an engine volume of between 50cm3 and 175cm3.
“I think the core issue here is personal awareness since studying and taking exams without awareness means nothing,” Linh added.
V.P.T. from the northern province of Bac Giang cast another doubt on the new bill: without a well-tailored testing system in place, bribes and cheating can easily undermine the licensing process.
On the other side of the discussion, Ngoc Mai, a student from Yen Hoa High School in Hanoi, said she fully endorses the bill.
“I think the A0 driver's license test is necessary. Many of my contemporaries are hitting the road with barely any understanding of road signs or the Law on Road Traffic," Mai said.
"I myself don’t fully understand the road signs and only know which regulation I'd violated when I was fined."
According to Mai, A0 driver's licenses would help curtail traffic accidents while eliminating the mentality among teenage road users that traffic law does not apply to them.
Other students enunciated concerns about time constraints as they would have to juggle between school and driving exams.
Another major worry is the cost of the A0 driving test since many students are still financially dependent on their families.
Addressing these concerns, Hanh from DRVN affirmed that the draft amendment has already weighed, allowing students to complete traffic law courses at school through a cooperation program with the authority.
These students would still have to take the exam to obtain their driver's license.
Relevant agencies would also formulate an elaborate plan to encourage financial contributions from the private sector to appease the demand of organizing A0 driver's license exams, Hanh said.