Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for their about the proposal to set up "safe drinking venues," where customers can enjoy services like overnight parking services and persons who can take them home if they can't drive. Obviously, this initiative is aimed at reducing the number of drunk drivers on the road, but how would this work out practically? Here are some of our readers' responses.
John Haywood, British, Ha Noi
In principle, I think it is a great idea and similar initiatives have worked very well in other countries but I'm not entirely sure how this would work in Ha Noi.
No one is going to leave their cars or motorcycles parked on the street overnight for fear that it might be stolen or damaged, so finding somewhere that can provide secure, private parking within reasonable walking distance of popular venues is going to be difficult.
Would overnight parking be free? I don't honestly see venues covering the costs involved, though it could be argued that extra sales might mitigate the costs. The temptation to drive/ride home drunk rather than pay money for parking might be too great for some, especially when common sense is impaired by alcohol.
I suppose the Government could pay a fixed amount to designated venues to pay for professional overnight security and recover the cost through fines imposed on drunk drivers but you would need at least two security personnel per venue.
I would assume getting customers home would be done by taxis (drunken people falling off the back of a xe om wouldn't be good). So why don't local venues and taxi services liaise with each other to provide a mutually beneficial service?
The taxis could issue a "one free beer at participating venues" voucher to each person and in turn, those venues could issue vouchers for a reduction on the taxi fee to get them home safely.
I'm sure that most sensible, responsible people would share taxis to and from their chosen venue. The main thing is that doing "something" is better than doing nothing when it comes to trying to reduce accidents/deaths due to drunk driving.
Of course none of this will work if the punishment for drunk driving is a small fine or the loss of your motorbike for a few days. Severe deterrents are needed.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Many months ago, I rode my motorcycle while drunk. I figured if I could walk to my bike, I could ride. I have even been pulled over by Canadian police ‘Checkstops' and have been waved through several times. (Flashing my army ID didn't hurt).
Deciding to have another bia hoi and riding home in Viet Nam is easy to do. No one checks you, or it's too busy or you can do a u-turn and get lost. Like everything in life, it comes down to education, good character and the chance of getting caught.
I applaud any effort to stop drinking & driving. By the time you are drunk, you can't really be legally guilty, because, well, you're drunk. Bars need to say: "Welcome sir, please hand over your keys. Here's your receipt and taxi reservation. Welcome to come back tomorrow for pick up, overnight parking is free." It's that simple.
Colin Watson, Vung Tau
I think this would be a very good Idea. In some countries this is already available to patrons, venues supplying this form of service would see a bigger income boost, because patrons know they can relax even if they do have too many drinks, there bikes will be looked after and they will get home safe.
Ha Mai Anh, Vietnamese, Da Nang
I think it's a great idea and many countries have these kind of services. I used to study in South Korea and I know that it's extremely popular in South Korea. Those who are too drunk can call for designated drivers. This service is offered not just in Seoul but other major cities in South Korea. They have separate firms offering these services and each can employ hundred of drivers. It's very professional.
The demand comes from the heavy drinking culture of the South Koreans. New services are born out of demand. In Viet Nam, the culture of drinking is as heavy, but I'm not quite sure how this can be implemented.
For instance, the authorities could have these services offered by bars and entertainment centers or by separate firms. We should also remember that in South Korea, we are talking only about car services. In Viet Nam, we have to deal with motorbikes as well. And it can be a totally different manner.
Also, what happens if the guests do not admit that they are drunk? Who can force them to use the services?
In South Korea, we know there are many cases where designated drivers often complain of being abused by drunken guests. So protecting those who provide the service will also require some regulations.
Duong Thuy Linh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
A lot of proposals in Viet Nam just stay as good initiatives. They stay on paper for a long time, and then they are hard to carry out. Will the bars or restaurants want to offer these new services? We are talking about thousands of street places that sell beer and alcohol, not just the high-end bars.
I agree with the police officer who noted that many men do not accept that they are drunk. So what if they don't want to be escorted home?
We need long-term measures to reduce the number of drunken drivers, including a heavy punishment regime. The new proposal is a great idea, but it's just a short-term solution. – VNS