by Hoang Anh
A week before Lunar New Year (Tet), the talk among workers in every office, workshop and factory across the country is about year-end parties. And there are always many to go to, including those with your friends, cousins, colleagues - and of course families.
It is taken for granted that alcohol is an important part of every single one. In fact, it seems that there is not much fun without alcohol. But many would like to disagree.
Viet Duc Hospital director Nguyen Tien Quyet said the facility usually experienced a surge in patients during major holidays, especially Tet. In the first few days of the Western new year, the hospital treated more than 100 road-accident victims a day. Most were youngsters who had consumed alcohol but still insisted on driving. Many were severely injured or permanently maimed.
Thu, 53, rues the day he decided to go to such a party four years ago. He had quite a lot to drink before he jumped on his motorbike and drove home. But he passed out and fell hard on the concrete road. When he woke up in hospital, the first things he saw were the worried faces of his wife and two of his children.
Thu broke his right leg and suffered several dislocated joints and bone factures. Now, he always takes a cab home if he has too much to drink. He said the physical pain he suffered was nothing compared to the thought of how much worse it could have been. "What would my wife and children do without me?" he said.
The National Traffic Safety Committee said traffic accidents killed 104 in the first four days of 2015 despite increased police efforts to reduce drink driving. Ha Noi Traffic Police department said almost 700 drivers were found to be driving under the influence during a 30-days campaign leading up to this Tet.
Drunk drivers face fines of up to VND10 million (US$470) if they are driving a car or VND1 million ($47) if on a motorbike. In addition, they can also have their licences taken away for one to two months. However, it would seem that the threat of punishment is not enough to deter drunk driving in Viet Nam, let alone stopping it.
Most developed countries consider drunk driving to be a very serious offence. Violators not only face jail and having their licence revoked permanently, but are condemned by their peers for failing to look after their own or anyone else's safety.
Happy occasions such as year-end parties should not be excuses to drink and drive. Why should drunk driving be looked at as less significant just because it's the year-end party? The consequences remain the same. It is not Okay to let safety rules slide just because it is Tet.
The spirit of Vietnamese traditional holidays once never highlighted the consumption of large amounts of alcohol and becoming a menace to those around you. Tet is time to be safe with your families and friends.
It is time Vietnamese realised that drunk driving is not something to be frowned upon but something to be despised and feared. A report from the World Health Organisation last October showed that alcoholic beverages are popular among 70 per cent of Vietnamese male population and one out of four consumes six beers per day.
Unless a big shift takes place in the way people see and consume alcohol during holidays, many people will again lose their lives in road accidents this year, taking the smiles off many faces.
Viet Nam News asks its readers to drive safe. Please think of your safety and others first before taking the wheel. — VNS