by Hang Nguyen
Just late last week, the Minister for Transport, Dinh La Thang, asked the National Committee Traffic Safety to draft a decree ordering the confiscation of motorbikes being driven on expressways designed only for cars. He suggested that the seized vehicles be auctioned for charity.
The idea sparked a storm of comment from people throughout Viet Nam.
Do Hoang Minh, 26, an accountant with a construction company in Hai Ba Trung District said that the idea was fine.
"The tougher laws become, the less people tend to break the rules," Minh said.
For example, in Singapore, litterers must pay fines of up to US$1,450, "so the streets are kept very clean," he said.
"That's why Vietnamese people seriously obey rules when they visit foreign countries such as Singapore," he said.
Nguyen Son, 55, a senior electrical engineer, who often goes on weekend drives, said that he applauded the decision to confiscate motorbikes driving in banned areas.
"It can be dangerous to be driving at high speed and suddenly find a motorbike driver in front of you," he said.
However, many people questioned by Viet Nam News were doubtful about the feasibility of the auctions.
"Who will ensure that there are no bribe offers by violators to traffic police if the draft is approved," said a 25-year-old bank worker named Nga.
"Also who will supervise how the money collected from selling the bikes is spent on charity," said Tran Dieu Thuy, an administrative official. "How much of it will actually reach the poor," she added.
Chairman of the Ha Noi Transport Association, Bui Danh Lien, told Viet Nam News that he liked the idea but had doubts about it working.
Lien said that under Government Decree No 171 issued in 2013, a motorbike driver had to pay a fine of VND200,000 - 400,000 (US$9-19) if found driving on banned expressways.
He said vehicles were only confiscated when drivers caused a serious accident, adding that this did not match with current laws.
The minister's move followed reports that many motorbike drivers still travel on banned expressways, such as those running from Phap Van to Cau Gie, Noi Bai to Lao Cai, and Ha Noi to Thai Nguyen.
At a recent meeting, Nguyen Van Huyen, head of the ministry's Directorate for Roads, reported that these expressways only allowed cars travelling at high speed.
Bui Dinh Tuan, director of the Viet Nam Expressway Operation and Maintenance Company, said that motorbike drivers ignored instructions from his staff not to drive on the Noi Bai – Lao Cai Expressway. Some even tried to attack them.
According to the head of the National Committee Traffic Safety, Khuat Viet Hung, the movement also aims to reduce traffic accidents nationwide.
Statistics from the transport ministry show that nearly 9,000 people were killed due to traffic accidents involving motorbike last year. Traffic police seized more than 7,000 for violating traffic rules only during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays.
This writer likes the idea of the motorbike sales, but I also wonder if it will work. Maybe the situation could also be resolved by raising the fines four or five times higher than at present. Anyway, let's wait and see! — VNS