In Vietnam, Motorbike Drivers’ Behaviour Matters


If you’ve lived in Vietnam long enough, you’ll know that Vietnamese people would hardly be able to get around town without motorbikes. Motorbikes have become the most popular means of transportation and, at the same time, the main cause for road accidents in the country.

According to the World Health Organization, around 14,000 people die due to road collisions in Vietnam every year. Motorcyclists account for 59 percent of the road traffic collisions in the country. WHO also estimates that road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 29 in Vietnam.

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According to official statistics, there are 42.8 million registered motorbikes in Vietnam, exceeding the 36-million target set for 2020. With a population of around 93 million people, it works out that out of every 1,000 Vietnamese people, 460 own a motorbike.

According to news website Vietnamnet, Vietnam has the second highest motorbike ownership per capita rate in the world, after only Taiwan. Taiwan has around a 24-million population and 15.09 million motorbikes, which means 676 out of every 1,000 Taiwanese own a motorbike.

Putting aside infrastructure and law enforcement issues, the driving behaviour of motorbike drivers plays an important role in ensuring road safety.

Driving Behaviour

Video source: Hải CF4VN

I can list many bad behaviours that invariably lead to road crashes: speeding, crossing lanes unexpectedly, overtaking other motorbikes without warning, running red lights, drunk driving, not wearing helmets, changing direction without signaling, not paying attention, driving against traffic in one-way streets and driving with more than two people on a motorbike, just to name a few reasons.

Other potentially dangerous driving habits include smoking, spitting or using mobile phones while driving, and driving on the sidewalks.

And besides the driving, there are motorbikes that pose risks to other road users, such as “zombie” motorbikes which are very old and poorly equipped with no horn, no light and no mirror. They look like metal frames hitting the roads, speeding, overtaking others and releasing dark, smelly, thick layers of smoke from their old and loud exhausts. These bikes, used mostly by traders to transport ice, vegetables, meat, drinks or gas tanks, threaten road safety and worsen air pollution at the same time.

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There have been many reports that describe motorbike riders attempting unsafe stunts on their motorbikes in recent years. Some drivers have lied flat on the seat of their motorbike and drove with their feet; others have been seen driving with their feet while using a mobile phone; still others have enjoyed standing straight up on the seat of their running motorbike — a stunt trick known as a "christ".

In August 2015, a father was filmed allowing his five-year-old son to drive his motorbike freely on a crowded street at night. Another man let his dog “drive” his motorbike on another street.

Video source: ASIA FILM

On August 21, Da Nang police arrested a 30-year-old man for driving his motorbike while standing on the seat in busy traffic without wearing a crash helmet.

The man admitted to performing the same stunt in the city on August 7, which was captured and shared in an online video, according to VnExpress.

“I watched people do it online and thought it looked like fun,” he was quoted as saying.

Video source: big channel

Those caught attempting motorbike stunts have been fined, but none have faced criminal charges.

What Can Be Done

Talking about traffic madness in Vietnam is like telling an endless story. Some roads and highways can not be expanded any further; it’s only up to people to change the situation.

The government should focus more on traffic enforcement, as the active participation of traffic police could deter traffic rule violators; traffic safety can’t be achieved without strong efforts made by the government. Strict fines and criminal charges should be pressed against motorbike drivers who purposefully practice unsafe driving.

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According to statistics, most traffic accidents occur on national highways as a result of speeding and reckless driving, which shows that many of these collisions could have been avoided with more forethought..

In my opinion, if the government organises more campaigns that raise public awareness of driving etiquette, along with implementing strong law enforcement, things may improve. We all remember the year 2007 when the government issued a resolution that made it mandatory for all motorbike drivers and passengers in Vietnam to wear a helmet on all roads. The decision received backlash from the public at first, but after 10 years of mass media campaigns and strong law enforcement, the result has been positive.

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