Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers their thoughts on stricter requirements for learner drivers in light of a tragic accident caused by a learner driver in Dak Lak Province.
Here are some of the responses:
John Grist, British, Ha Noi
The questions posed need to be much further reaching. Yes, of course, there needs to be strict standards for learner drivers, however, this is forgetting one of the biggest problems facing Viet Nam – the safety of its roads. So how can this be tackled?
Firstly, my observations: there are a very few decent drivers on the roads. Many think a car can turn them into a F1 driver. Others think the middle of the road is the "side" to drive on. All regard pedestrians as either nuisances or targets.
The starting point would be the introduction of a highway code, as in many countries. This would dictate the rules of the road, including required conduct, understanding of road signs and warnings, road markings and safety codes.
As the standard of driving is so poor, it should be mandatory for all existing licence holders to pass a written examination within 12 months. Failure to do so would result in suspension.
For learner drivers, the passing of the highway code written exam should be compulsory before practical driving lessons are begun. Once they commence, a minimum number of driving hours should be certified before a driving test is allowed. Driving school instructors must confirm in writing that, in their opinion, the applicant is competent to undertake the test.
The test itself should be in the presence of a ministry approved examiner and in a district outside the applicant's home area so that it is not familiar.
Once the test is passed, the new driver should be legally compelled to drive with green learner plates on the car for a period of 12 months and not be permitted to drive on motorways unaccompanied during this period.
The highway code should, like in most countries, prohibit the use of horns in built up areas and except as an emergency warning. Currently, in Viet Nam and much of the Southeast Asia horns are used for many reasons apart from warning other traffic.
Kunishige Kosei, Japanese, Ha Noi
In Japan, driving schools are supervised by police. So driving schools can't teach whatever they want.
At these schools, there are two examinations. The first test is conducted in the driving school area. And then, after practicing outside the school, we take a second test on public roads. If we pass the two tests, we can graduate, but we don't receive a licence.
Finally, we have to take a test by the police, who check our knowledge about the rules of driving. After passing this test, we can finally get a licence.
John Haywood, British, Ha Noi
Trying to attribute blame to driving instructors is absurd, although of course this does raise more questions – was the driver taught in real traffic or quiet roads, how are driving standards tested?
The city roads here just don't have the infrastructure for the volume of motorcycle traffic we already have, and when you add large cars to the already congested traffic, it makes the situation worse.
To compound the problem, when there are sidewalks/pavements, they are usually full of street food vendors or parked motorcycles and that forces foot traffic onto busy roads.
Even if you doubled the width of every road, you would still have to implement and enforce "give way" where side-roads meet major roads, insist on proper lane discipline and stop people using sidewalks/pavements as their own shop space or parking area.
If anyone is to blame, it's the Government's lack of policing, traffic-law enforcement and failing to provide the correct infrastructure.
Eric Bogard, French, Vung Tau
I agree that stricter requirements should be enforced for learner drivers and riders. Most countries enforce probationary driving/riding licences for new drivers/riders with stricter speed limits, heavier fines for driving offences and so on.
Driving schools cannot be held responsible for offensive drivers; however the experience and skills of these instructors should be regularly assessed.
Peter Borchers, Canadian, Canada
There are many reasons for tragic road accidents. Extensive driving hours and pre-tests must be taken before would-be drivers are allowed to take a full test.
The final test should be guaranteed by the instructor who supervised it and that person should be held jointly responsible if an accident occurs due to the new driver's lack of skill.
Did I neglect to say that driver's licences in Viet Nam apparently can presently be obtained with a bribe?
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
Lots of work needs to be done in Viet Nam to make driving safer. For a start, there should be immediate confiscation of motorbikes without mirrors or those driven by riders without proper helmets. On-the-spot fines would be the way to go.
Those caught phoning while driving should have their phones confiscated for at least 24 hours.
Initiate a graduated driving licence, no driving at night for the first month and a secondary "real world" driver's test which simulates a rush hour/accident scenario. If you panic, it's back to basic learner's permit and additional closed-track training.
I am unfamiliar with Vietnamese insurance requirements. There should be a minimum "no fault" clause which automatically protects anyone involved. If you can afford a car, you can afford insurance. — VNS