by Khanh Van
Car owners across the country have been hot under the collar the past few days after the government required them to equip their vehicles with fire extinguishers.
Drivers who fail to do so will be fined between VND300,000 and VND500,000 (US$13.30 to $22.20) but those abiding by the rule are worried whether it is safe to put an extinguisher in their cars.
Of course, anyone can see the good intention of the Ministry of Public Security in issuing the regulation starting January 6 which aims at mitigating damage to vehicles in case of a fire.
And the regulation is not new in many other countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Belgium and Poland.
Truong Minh Hoang, who is a friend of mine living in Singapore, said there was no rule that requires drivers to equip their vehicles with fire extinguishers in Singapore but the local Government still advised residents to do so for their safety.
"I already bought one for my car. There were 93 cases of cars going up in flames in 2015 in Singapore, according to local authorities. It is better to prepare for that," he said.
But should the regulation be applied in Viet Nam?
First of all, the cost could keep some car owners from buying an extinguisher. A cheap extinguisher used to cost around VND90,000, but since the rule was announced, prices have jumped to near VND350,000.
Also, the proliferation of low-quality fire extinguishers in the market, coupled with severe weather conditions in Viet Nam, poses a high risk for drivers when putting the equipment in their cars.
I myself will not dare to equip my car with a fire extinguisher. Who can assure me that it will be high quality when they are sold in the market without quality certification and even clear origin?
Who can assure that it won't turn into a bomb when inside the vehicle on a hot day the temperature can reach 60 degree Celsius, and experts say that it must be kept at a temperature of between 10 and 50 degrees Celsius?
Deputy Head of the ministry's Department of Fire Prevention and Control Doan Huu Thang told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that any new policy or legal document usually receives negative feedback when first being put into practice.
"It is more important to look at the real purpose of the regulation, which is to ensure the safety of both life and property. We will find ways to gradually deal with any shortcomings found," he said.
However, this might not be enough to make car owners feel secure.
"I do not think it is safe to put a fire extinguisher in my vehicle. Even if authorised agencies fix shortcomings of the law, how could they ensure that the equipment is safe enough under the weather conditions of the country?" said Le Manh Cuong, a 35-year-old IT engineer from Ha Noi's Thanh Xuan District.
And it is not the first time that an impractical regulation was issued.
Several months ago, the National Traffic Safety Committee suggested it should be mandatory for motorbikes to have headlights permanently on, even during daylight hours.
The committee believes its idea, which requires riders to use headlights at all times would help to reduce the number of traffic accidents and possibly save up to 600 lives a year.
The proposal, however, immediately provoked widespread disbelief.
Bui Danh Lien, chairman of Ha Noi Automobile Association, said the plan was not suitable with Viet Nam's weather and situations. According to him, Viet Nam doesn't have thick fog like other countries such as the UK so people's vision is good.
In the summer, riders may even be blinded by the light and more accidents can occur.
These regulations are all applied in many other countries but they are obviously not suitable for Viet Nam. Learning from the experience of other countries is useful but the point is that they should be carefully studied and adjusted in line with the conditions of each country.
Obviously, the lack of scientific and practical basis has caused these regulations to be treated like jokes.
These are just two among many cases of impractical regulations issued by ministries and agencies.
In 2014, up to 634 or one-sixth of nearly 4,000 regulations issued by ministries and localities were eliminated by the Ministry of Justice for being impractical or illegal.
It once again raises questions about the capacity of a number of authorities who only implement laws based on their own ideas but not on scientific and practical basis.
Many documents were even withdrawn or postponed following public objections due to their impracticality.
Do Van An, former Head of the Government Cipher Commission, told Vietnam Net online newspaper that the problem unveiled the low capacity of a number of government officials.
These impractical regulations that caused great public concern were made by those sitting in "air-conditioned rooms," far away from the real living conditions of local citizens, he said.
"These regulations surely are very "cold," lack practical basis and often resulted in serious consequences that local citizens have to suffer," he said.
He warned that people would gradually loose trust in and make light of the laws if such regulations continued to be made.
Vu Xuan Quang, a lawyer from the Ha Noi-based Minh Viet Law Company, said it was necessary to carefully study the real impact of regulations during the compiling process to avoid counterproductive outcomes.
"Under current regulations, one measure to ensure democracy in law building is to collect public opinion within at least 60 days about regulations which are being drafted," he said.
"However, in fact, many are issued without any regard for public comment or consultation. They suddenly appear, making everyone confused," he said.
"Regulations must be necessary and practical to encourage people to adopt them," he said.
Issuing legal documents is a task of authorised agencies but to make people believe and implement regulations is also an important point that should be taken into consideration during the compiling process.
It's time to make a change and earn the people's trust in regulations. — VNS